1999 Tenimenti Fontanafredda Barolo La Rosa, Feb. 2004
Saved by the Bank
Like Bordeaux and Burgundy, Barolo is a complex patchwork of communes and vineyards where sometimes the space of only a few meters changes the character of the wines produced. In Barolo and Barbaresco these differences were often lost as production was dominated by large producers who bought grapes from throughout the region and labeled them as simply Barolo or Barbaresco.
However, the explosion of estate bottled wines in Alba has been changing this and slowly-but-surely the market is becoming aware that there are differences between nebbiolo grown in Serralunga d’Alba and La Morra - just as there are recognized differences between St. Julien and St. Estephe or Corton and Volnay.
The commune Serralunga d’Alba is on the eastern edge of the Barolo zone and the sandstone soils produce some of the most tannic and structured of Barolo wines. At the northern tip of Serralunga, as it reaches towards Alba, sits the great La Rosa and Gattinera vineyards that surround the historic Fontanafredda estate. This estate is indeed part of Barolo history and some of the earliest Barolo wines produced came from these cellars – a tradition that dates back to 1878.
However, the greatness that was Fontanafredda had gone into hibernation until it was rescued by the bank. That's right the bank – Fontanafredda was acquired by Immobiliari S.p.A, Gruppa Bancario Monte dei Paschi di Siena, who has also invested in two Tuscan wine properties, Poggio Bonelli and Chigi Saracini. This influx of capital and leadership has launched Fontanafredda on the road to reclaiming past greatness.
As one of the largest and oldest estates in the region they had a core of outstanding vineyard holdings - most notably La Rosa and Lazzarito in Serralunga d’Alba and La Villa (a sub-section of Paiagallo) in the Barolo commune to build upon. Under the leadership of Director General Giovanni Minetti and winemaker Danilo Drocco the entire Fontanafredda line has seen marked improvement, but what is most exciting is the introduction of a range of single vineyard wines from their classic vineyards which they have called Tenimenti Fontanafredda. This important range of wines includes offerings from all the important DOC and DOCG zones of the Alba and Asti region. Each is a single vineyard selection and the stars are, of course, the three Barolo selections; La Rosa, Lazzarito La Delizia and Paiagallo La Villa. The Tenimenti Fontanfredda releases make this estate once again a producer that should be considered by anyone who loves Piemontese wines and the 1999 La Rosa is a wine that deserves consideration from serious collectors.
Tasting Notes: 1999 Tenimenti Fontanafredda, Barolo, La Rosa
Bright ruby/scarlet with just the lightest hint of orange. Just translucent. The aromas are an exotic mix of ripe dark fruits and leather with hints of dried porcini mushrooms. Smoky ripe plums show in the nose and on the palate are followed by layers of dusty burnt cherries and bitter oranges that are still held in check by firm, hard tannins that are somehow surprisingly round in their intensity. The finish is restrained by its intense tannins, but the powerful complex fruit flavors are already starting to show through. Tasted over a four day period and the wine was still fresh and showing no oxidation on the forth day. Decidedly a wine for long-term cellaring.