Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The wines of Poderi Aldo Conterno at the Wine Watch White Truffle Dinner

I visited Poderi Aldo Conterno in Bussia in 2012 as a member of a Decanter Reader Team and was enthralled by its origin story, its holdings and practices, and its wines. The focus of our tasting on that trip was the estate's 2009 vintage. The Wine Watch White Truffle  Dinner, held at the new Wine Watch Wine Bar, offered me an opportunity to relive the tasting portion of my prior experience, this time with a focus on the 2013 vintage, and with Franco Conterno, eldest of the trio of brothers managing the estate, as the headliner, instead of Giacomo. I report on the tasting in this post.

The evening began with copiuos amounts of Lo Sparviere Franciacorta being poured in the bar area for attendees' pleasure. After the passage of some time, Andrew invited us to take our seats at the table set up in the southwestern corner of the bar.

All of the wines had been pre-poured and stationed at each attendee's position. Andrew introduced Franco and then turned the floor over to him. He also advised us to begin tasting the wines.

Franco gave a short presentation that was affected by the noise from the other sections of the bar. I was seated at the far end of the table and could not hear much. After I protested about the noise, Andrew walked over and asked them to tone it down (which, in fairness to them, is not what you expect to hear when you go to a bar. Andrew communicated with me by email as to how he expects to address this issue going forward.).

I began tasting the wines during Franco's presentation. First up was the 2013 Bussiador Chardonnay. I asked Franco about the 2013 vintage for this wine and he characterized it as a classic vintage for Chardonnay. It was cold with a lot of sun in the summer (great for ripeness and polyphenols, he said). There was enough water in the summer and September and October were pretty good. This produced a balanced wine with elegance.

The Chardonnay grapes are grown on 35- to 40-year old vines resident on 2.56 ha of the Chastain vineyard and, while the winery has the capacity for 30,000 bottles, they only vinify 6000 bottles.  The wine is placed in stainless steel tanks until the initiation of alcoholic fermentation when they are transferred to 100% new oak barriques for its completion and for malolactic fermentation.

A nuttiness on the nose. Beautiful feel on the palate. Walnut character and a slight salinity. Beautiful weight on the palate. Balanced and elegant with a lengthy finish. This is an absolutely beautiful representation of Chardonnay.

Two dishes book-ended Franco's presentation: A White Truffle dish done pancake style followed by a Ravioli with Herb Ricotta and Quail Egg. Both of these dishes were of extremely high quality.

The next wine tasted was the 2014 Conca Tre Pile Barbera d'Alba DOC. Grapes for this wine are sourced from Conca Tre Pile, "a hilly area in Bussia Soprano whose main vines are Barbera," said vines being a maximum of 45-years old. The wine is vinified in stainless steel and its first aging period is within those vats. It is transferred into oak casks for the final months of aging.

Red fruit on the nose with bright red fruit on the palate. An easy drinking wine with good concentration. Medium finish.

Next up was the 2013 Langhe Rosso. This is a blend of Freisa, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot sourced from various vineyards in Bussia. Like the Conca Tre Pile, this wine is vinified in stainless steel and then aged in a mix of stainless steel and oak casks.

Easy drinking. Bright, intense red fruit.

At this time the third dish was served, a pleasantly earthy, salty, almost-transparent Veal Carpaccio.

I next tasted the 2011 and 2013 Il Favot Langhe Nebbiolo DOC.  The grapes for this wine are sourced from 20-year-old vines from a number of vineyards in Bussia.  After hand harvesting, the crushed grapes are allowed to stay in contact with the skins in stainless steel tanks in order to increase the color and tannin levels in the finished wine. Vinification occurs in the stainless steel tanks where the wine remains for 6 months post-vinification.  The wines are transferred to 100% new oak barriques at the end of that six month period and will mature therein for another 18 months after which they are bottled.

The 2011 showed violets, tar, olives, earth and baking spices on the nose. Medium body with a definite savoriness on the palate. Medium finish  Similar characteristics on the 2013 though weightier and less developed.

Franco Conterno

The 2013 Barolo Bussia is made with grapes from 15- to 20-year-old vines drawn from a number of vineyards in Bussia. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks and then transferred to oak casks for aging. A bit of a plum note to accompany tar, roses and licorice. Concentrated with a great mouthfeel. Beautiful wine.

The 2012 Colonello Barolo DOCG was made from grapes grown in the highest position in the namesake vineyard.  Bright red fruit, herbs, tar, and spices on the nose. Powerful red fruit. Textured.

The Granbussia Riserva DOCG is the flagship wine of the estate.  The 4950-bottle production is made from grapes drawn from the Cicala (15%), Colonello (15%), and Romirasco (70%) vineyards. These grapes are co-fermented in wood with 60 days of skin contact and spend another 32 months maturing prior to bottling.  The wine is stored for another 12 to 18 months after bottling.  We tasted the 1999 edition of this wine.

On the nose tar, roses, herbs and an earthiness.  Started off slightly tired on the palate but took wing after some time in the glass. Powerful, richness, and tar.  Long finish.

All in all, a pretty good tasting. I had not been to a Wine Watch tasting in a long while so I was excited to revisit as well as to meet one of my New York City tasting pals there. Andrew has been doing these events for a while and, as such, he knows his customer base and the producers that pass through. I privately gave him some of my thoughts on the event and he was gracious enough to respond in a detailed fashion.

Looking forward to future tastings at, and visits to, the brand new Wine Bar.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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