Saturday, 2 July 2011

Wine Tasting: Poderi Aldo Conterno

In an issue of the popular Japanese manga about wine, Kami no Shizuku, the protaganist is seen comparing French and Italian wine. "French wine", he declares, "is superior over Italian wines because of the wide variety of flavours and aromas they have". This is due to the wide variety of French cuisine, which requires pairing with different styles of wine. Imagine a dense red Bordeaux, packed with blackcurrant and cedar notes, paired with delicious grass-fed lamb, or a layered, creamy Grand Cru Burgundy with sweet, delicate river crab. Is your mouth watering yet?

Likewise, the range of Italian food (think tomatoes, pork, pasta and pizza) is well suited with Italian wines. While the variety present in French cuisine may be lacking, the pairing of Italian food and wine is simple due to their great affinity for one another. Try tasting an Italian wine by itself, and notice how tart, light bodied and tannic it seems, then try it with some Italian food and notice how the acidity and tannin now complement the olive oil and tomatoes in the dish.

Beam Global Asia organised a wine tasting with famed Italian producer Poderi Aldo Conterno recently, represented by Andrea Carelli. With 20 wine regions and numerous indigenous varietals I was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about Italian wines, especially from a producer that has five generations of winemaking tradition. Aldo Conterno is currently run by three members of the Conterno family; Franco, Giacomo and Stefano. Respectively, they handle the marketing, viticultural and vinification aspects of the business.

The vineyards comprise 25 hectares of land situated in Bussia in the village of Monforte d'Alba within Piedmont in the north west corner of Italy. The land is hilly with layers of sand alternating with calcerous marl. The most prized sites, named Cicala, Colonello and Romarisco are used in the production of long lived and intense Barolos. Aldo Conterno is known for their draconian approach to fruit selection, sometimes discarding as much as 50% of the grapes. This has led to their production gradually declining from as much as 200,000 bottles in 2000 to around 80,000 bottles a year currently. In recent years, they have also introduced the use of rotofermenters and temperature controlled fermentation to produce wines that are more approachable and less tannic. Interestingly, Andrea mentioned that the rotofermenter is an innovation of chocolate maker Ferrero SpA which makes Ferrero Rocher.

Tasting notes:
Aldo Conterno Chardonnay Bussiador Langhe D.O.C. 2006 - Aged in 100% new oak. A fresh, almost modern style of Chardonnay with notes of lemon peel, citrus fruits and fresh vanilla seeds. Slightly creamy. A long finish.

Aldo Conterno Masante Langhe Dolcetto D.O.C. 2009 - The workhorse wine, designed for everday drinking. Deep purple robe. Primary fruit characters of blueberries, red cherries and vanilla. Slightly warm on the finish.

Aldo Conterno Conca tre Pile Barbera d’Alba D.O.C. 2006 - Aged in 100% new oak. Rather closed on the nose, with notes of licorice and wood. Juicy acidity. Palate has notes of sour cherry and dark chocolate. Medium+ length.

Aldo Conterno Bussia Barolo 2004 - 100% Nebbiolo. No tar here,  but an exotic, floral nose with minty notes. Quite enticing. Body has good structure, firm acidity and fine tannins.

Aldo Conterno Romirasco Barolo D.O.C.G. 2004 - 100% Nebbiolo. Opinions around the room were divided. I found the wine slightly closed with tart acidity. Sweet red cherry on the palate.

Aldo Conterno Granbussia Barolo Riserva D.O.C.G. 2001 - 100% Nebbiolo. The flagship wine, consisting of 70% fruit from Romarisco, 15% Cicala and 15% Colonello. The Romarisco fruit provides body and character, while the Cicala and Colonello fruit contribute spice and elegance in that order. The wine was aged Medium ruby appearance with fine sediment. A mélange of scents including roses, black cherry and soy sauce. The tannins have integrated well. Medium length.

One thing I noted about these wines were that even though they were 14% alcohol or higher, they did not taste overtly warm.

Aldo Conterno is distributed in Singapore by Beam Global Asia Pte Ltd.

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