1970 Giacomo Conterno Barolo & Barolo Riserva Monfortino


Giacomo Conterno’s 1970 Barolo Riserva Monfortino is one of my very favorite wines. When Il Professore told me he might bring a bottle to dinner, I didn’t think he actually would, much less show up with a bottle of the 1970 Barolo also in tow. But, so he did! Top flight Barolo has become so coveted that some wines are rarely seen these days, and when they are, it is often part of a larger tasting. It was a real treat to drink rather than just taste these wines with just one other person over a leisurely dinner.

Both of these wines were made by Giovanni Conterno in the days before the family owned Cascina Francia and speak to another era, a time not that long ago when Piedmont was a starkly poor region. Wines from a vintage usually took many years to sell. Barolo was known only to a handful of passionate consumers, and families made do with the bare minimum. Nineteen-seventy has long lived in the shadows of 1971, but the best wines from the older vintage are spectacular, and in many ways, more classically austere than the 1971s, a year in which hot weather (for the time) yielded Barolos that are still marked by their intense concentration.

Neck labels from two fabulous Barolos

Conterno’s 1970 Barolo is just off the charts gorgeous. It is color perfectly translucent, the 1970 soars out of the glass with all that magical perfume that makes older Barolo so alluring. Rose petal, mint, sweet tobacco, espresso, dried cherry and star anise give the 1970 a beguiling exoticism that is hard to fully describe. On the palate, the 1970 is supremely long, persistent and delicate, in the way only fine, aged Barolo can be. What a fabulous bottle! 96/Drink: 2019-2024.

The 1970 Barolo Riserva Monfortino can be a life-changing wine. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of moments like those. Deep and exquisitely layered, the 1970 is gorgeous tonight, if not as profoundly moving as it can be. Sage, menthol, licorice, coffee and leather infuse the 1970 with striking layers of nuance. All of the richness and explosiveness of Monfortino is there, even in a slightly less than perfect bottle. 97/Drink 2019-2029.