Posts tagged ‘fontanafredda’

The Decade’s Best Producers – Part One

Falanghina Vineyard of Mastroberardino (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


For my final post of 2009, I want to salute some of the finest Italian producers of this decade. Each year in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, I list the year’s best wines and producers. I’ll be working on that shortly, but for now, let’s focus on the most important producers of the decade. There is no way I can do this with a single post, so this is part one. I’m juding not only on the quality of the wines, but also the influence these producers had in the marketplace and media and among their peers.



If Luca Currado at Vietti only made Barolo, this winery would have made the list, but there are also gorgeous bottlings of Barbera, as well as a sleek, delicious offering of Arneis. The wines are beautifully made and sell through in good order.


This family-owned winery makes the list for maintaining its traditional winemaking methods, as the great Barolos are aged in botti grandi – no barriques here. Is there a more graceful and ageworthy Barolo than the Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva?

Roberto Voerzio

Very modern Barolos here, aged in barrique, but amazing concentration and style. You may or may not like this style of winemaking, but you cannot help but admire the class of the offerings here.

Produttori del Barbaresco

Ultratraditional wines that show what the local terroir of Barbaresco is all about. An excellent Barbaresco normale and outstanding (often stunning) cru bottlings from the town’s best sites, including Asili, Rabaja and Montestefano. General manager Aldo Vacca is as classy as his wines!


I am saluting Gian Luigi Orsolani for his outstanding work with the Erbaluce grape, an indigenous white variety from northern PIemonte. Orsolani is the finest producer of this grape type in my opinion, crafting first-rate examples of dry white, sparkling and passito versions.

Braida – Giacomo Bologna

Splendid bottlings of Barbera d’Asti, from the humble to the sublime, especially the Bricco dell’Uccellone and the Bricco della Bigotta. Still one of the finest and most influential producers of Barbara d’Asti. Also a superb Moscato d’Asti (Vigna Senza Nome) and arguably the finest bottling of Brachetto d’Acqui. Raffaella Bologna is continuing her late father’s work in fine fashion.

Raffaella Bologna, Braida (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


This gorgeous estate in the heart of the Barolo zone has been improving dramatically for the past decade, thanks to the efforts of general manager Giovanni Minetti and winemaker Danilo Drocco. A few years ago, Oscar Farinetti, the owner of the gourmet food store, Eataly, became the prinicpal owner of the winery and has already shown his influence by introducing value-priced Barbera and Dolcetto. There are so many excellent wines produced at Fontanafredda; this is an estate that has numerous wines for a wide consumer base and any producer that wants to grow their business in the coming decade should be looking at this model.


Tenuta San Guido/Tenuta dell’Ornellaia

I am putting these two estates in Bolgheri together, as they both produce outstanding examples of local reds that not only are beautiful wines on their own, but are also known around the world. These estates, along with Grattamacco and Le Macchiole continue to be the identity for Bolgheri, Tuscany’s new light.

Bottles of Ornellaia and Masseto, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia

(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Il Poggione

Brunello di Montalcino has been in the news as of late, and not for all the right reasons. So let’s salute Il Poggione for making Brunello the right way – the traditional way. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci has a gentle winemaking hand, as he prefers to let the local terroir shine through in his wines. I’ve tasted examples of Il Poggione Brunello from the 1970s that are still in fine shape. As for the recent controversy about the possible inclusion of grapes other than Sangiovese in Brunello, well, there was never any doubt about that at Il Poggione; so the respect for the land and the wine as seen here (as well as at dozens of other local estates such as Biondi-Santi, Col d’Orcia, Talenti and Sesta di Sopra to name only a few) needs to be saluted.


Federico Carletti has done as much as any producer in Montepulciano to revive the fortunes of its most famous wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The regular bottling is always very good, but it is the Vigna Asinone bottling is the star here. Deeply concentrated with new oak and sleek tannins, this is a modern, but very precise wine that is one of Tuscany’s finest.



Campania’s most historically important winemaking estate, this winery continued to improve after a family split in the 1980s (some of the family members established a new winery in the Avellino province) and the change in leadership from Antonio Mastroberardino to his son Piero. Clonal research became an important factor here, and today, the family is producing the best examples of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina they have ever made. Of course, Taurasi is still the most important wine here, and if today’s bottlings are not as staunchly tradtional as those from the 1960s and early 1970s, they are still first-rate and just as importantly, are not covered up by the vanilla and spice of new oak that other Taurasi producers seem to prefer these days. How nice that this defender of the local winemaking heritage is doing so well these days!

Feudi di San Gregorio

This estate made a splash with its entrance on the scene in the mid 1980s and they are still one of Campania’s most important producers. Rich, deeply concentrated bottlings of Taurasi, but even more impressive white wines, especially Cutizzi Greco di Tufo and Pietracalda Fiano di Avellino. Now there are even beautifully made single variety sparkling wines in the classic method produced from Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. Congratulations to owner Antonio Capaldo on his innovative efforts at this great estate!

Luigi Maffini

Luigi Maffini is making some of the most brilliant white wines in all of Italy as his small estate in the province of Salerno, south of Napoli. While his reds made from Aglianico are nicely done, the whites made from Fiano are routinely outstanding. There is the non-oak aged Kratos and the French oak-aged Pietraincatenata, an age-worthy Fiano. There is also a sumptuous Fiano Passito, which in my opinion, is one of the greatest dessert wines in all of Italy (the 2004 is particularly exceptional).

Cantine Marisa Cuomo

This small estate, located in the town of Furore on the Amalfi Coast, is set in an exceptionally beautiful seting, as the pergola vineyards cling to steep slopes a few hundred feet above the sea. Marisa and her husband, winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, are best known for the exceptional white, Fiorduva, a blend of indigenous varieties (Ripole, Fenile and Ginestra), but I think the Furore Rosso Riserva is also an important wine. This is extreme viticulture at its finest!

Pergola Vineyards in Furore, Cantine Marisa Cuomo

(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

December 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

Fontanafredda – Top 100

Here is another entry in my Top 100 Italian wine producers.

Fontanafredda Estate, Serralunga d’Alba (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Fontanafredda is a remakable story of a very good producer that has become a great one in just over a decade. Owning choice vineyards may help, but it’s the people behind the scene that have elevated Fontanafredda to such heights.

Located in Serralunga d’Alba, one of the most typical of all communes in the Barolo zone, Fontanafredda is one of the area’s most beautiful wine estates, as the La Rosa vineyard (planted to Nebbiolo) is set in a beautiful ampitheater that is a focal point for lovely grounds that were once home to Emmanuele Vittorio ll, the King of Italy.

Fontanafredda owns the largest number of acreage of Nebbiolo reserved for production of Barolo, but quantity of course, does not always insure quality. For decades, the Barolos (and other wines) of Fontanafredda were always good and sometimes very good, but rarely special.

Then a few individuals saw to it that this estate would change. Giovanni Minetti, a former journalist, took over as general manager during the late 1990s and with the help of the Bank of Siena (Monte del Paschi) that owned the company, decided to upgrade equipment in the cellars as well as planting regimes in the vineyards. He then hired Danilo Drocco as winemaker in 1998, after a long stint at Prunotto, where he produced lovely examples of Barolo and Barbera for years. Drocco finished the 1998 Barolos, which received praise from wine writers throoughout Italy, with the 1998 La Rosa Barolo, receiving the coveted Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso, a first for the winery.

Danilo Drocco, Fontanafredda Winemaker (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Today, Drocco produces several cru Barolos as well as a Serralunga bottling, from vineyards owned by the winery as well as from fruit purchased from local growers. The two cru bottlings from Serralunga offer great insight into Drocco’s winemaking skills. For both the La Rosa and the Lazzarito, Drocco ages the wine in barriques for approximately one year and then swtiches the wine to large oak casks (grandi botti) after that. This blending of modern and traditional winemaking methods has its purpose, as Drocco believes the color of Barolo is preserved in the small barrels, while the large caks insure that the wines do not have too high a level of tannins or wood influence from the small barrels. “A little oak is fine for Barolo, but not too much,” Drocco explains.

Both wines are first-rate and are fine examples of local Serralunga terroir. The La Rosa is a more approachable bottling upon release and offers more floral aromatics, while the Lazzarito (La Delizia) bottling is more tannic and is released almost one year later than the La Rosa. Danilo explains this; “As Lazzarito is located at a higher elevation than La Rosa (1300 feet versus 820), the temperatures at night are cooler, which means Lazzarito needs another 7-10 days for proper grape maturity as compared with La Rosa. This extra hangtime also builds up a greater degree of tannins.” While both wines have been exceptional since Drocco took over with the 1998 vintage, the Lazzarito has definitely been the more deeply concentrated wine and the one offers the promise of longer aging potential. The 1998 is drinking beautifully now, while the 1999, 2001 and 2004 are wines that should peak in another 15-25 years.

In 2008, Oscar Farinetti, head of the cutting edge retail store Eataly, located in Torino, became majority share holder of Fontanafredda (the Bank of Siena has maintained a significant percentage of ownership), leading to a new era for the winery. New value-oriented wines, such as Briccotondo (Barbera Piemonte) and Terremora, a Langhe Dolcetto have been introduced. Improvements continue in many aspects of the company and today, the full potential of this estate is being fulfilled.

Drocco, always looking to improve his wines, has become one of Barolo’s most dedicated winemakers and stresses that his wines need to emerge in the bottle instead of being too obvious and forward upon release. “They should be like the great Burgundies that give to you sensations little by little.”

The best wines of Fontanafredda include:


  • Roero Arneis “Pradalupo”
  • Gavi
  • Moscato d’Asti “Montecucco”


  • Asti “Galarej”
  • Contesa Rosa Brut


  • Barolo “La Villa”
  • Barolo “La Rosa”
  • Barolo “Lazzarito La Delizia”
  • Barbaresco “Coste Rubin”
  • Nebbiolo d’Alba “Marne Brune”
  • Diano d’Alba “La Lepre”
  • Barbera d’Alba “Papagena”

November 30, 2009 at 11:49 am Leave a comment

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