2013 Langhe Nebbiolo, Cascina Fontana, Piedmont
About this WINE
Sixth-generation Mario Fontana is among Barolo’s best-loved producers. His wines are undeniably Burgundian in style; his combination of artisanal purity and finesse is as evident in his Dolcetto as his Barolo. Mario follows organic methods but doesn’t seek certification; his philosophy is individual, guided by genuine skills learnt from his father, and his father before him. While many can be blindsided by stoic traditions, Mario is free-minded. His wines are timeless examples of great Barolo, positively charged and yet cutting edge.
From vineyard practices to vinification, Mario keeps his options open at every step. His son Valdo has recently joined him in the cantina, and one can feel the flow of energy and passion ebbing through this generational transition. Although his vineyards and cantina are spread through the region, Fontana’s greatest achievements are rooted in their ancestral hometown of Castiglione Falletto.
Langhe is an all-encompassing zone lying due south of Alba and the River Tanaro in the province of Cuneo. Barolo and Barbaresco both lie within its boundaries.
Langhe is also the name of a regional DOC zone, which is used to classify wines made outside of the traditional Piemontese varietal scheme (Nebbiollo, Barbera, Cortese etc). Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines from the region are, for example, classified as Langhe DOC.
Effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo and Barbarescos, the Langhe Nebbiolo DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style.
Langhe Nebbiolo can be released onto the market as soon as practicably possible either as a fresh, fruity wine made solely in stainless-steel, or later on having been aged in oak. The Langhe Nebbiolo DOC was created in 1994 along with a plethora of other Langhe DOC wines (so diluting their significance).
Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15 percent other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto. Leading, quality producers of Barolo and Barbaresco are more inclined to use 100 percent Nebbiolo, recognising its role as a stepping stone, using the fruit from vines that are either too young or poorly situated.
Larger producers tend to use the Langhe Nebbiolo DOC as a valve, declassifying wines destined for Barolo or Barbaresco when the market is difficult. Confusingly Langhe Nebbiolo can also be the declassified wine of Nebbiolo d’Alba.
Recommended producers: Giovanni Rosso di Davide Rosso , Mario Fontana , Ferdinando Principiano
Nebbiolo is the grape behind the Barolo and Barbaresco wines and is hardly ever seen outside the confines of Piedmont. It takes its name from "nebbia" which is Italian for fog, a frequent phenomenon in the region.
A notoriously pernickety grape, it requires sheltered south-facing sites and performs best on the well-drained calcareous marls to the north and south of Alba in the DOCG zones of Barbaresco and Barolo.
Langhe Nebbiolo is effectively the ‘second wine’ of Piedmont’s great Barolo & Barbarescos. This DOC is the only way Langhe producers can declassify their Barolo or Barbaresco fruit or wines to make an early-drinking style. Unlike Nebbiolo d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo can be cut with 15% other red indigenous varieties, such as Barbera or Dolcetto.
Nebbiolo flowers early and ripens late, so a long hang time, producing high levels of sugar, acidity and tannins; the challenge being to harvest the fruit with these three elements ripe and in balance. The best Barolos and Barbarescos are perfumed with aromas of tar, rose, mint, chocolate, liquorice and truffles. They age brilliantly and the very best need ten years to show at their best.
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Mario is constantly challenging himself to do better. The beautiful 2013 Langhe Nebbiolo is a prime example: gone are the old French barriques, bring out the large Slavonian botti to frame his crystal-clear fruit, blended from the village of Sinio (just beyond Serralunga d'Alba) and of course from his noble Castiglione Falletto vines. It's got a really beady, almost partridge-eye focus, cool poise, a silky thread of roses, kirsch-soaked damson fruit and incisive purity. Utterly fantastic, this could be his finest Langhe Nebbiolo yet.
Sixth-generation Barolo producer Mario Fontana set out on his own in 1995, and since then has been refining his Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo wines with each year that passes. His Barolo is arguably the most Burgundian of our range, with delicacy and gentleness that comes from reasonable yields, traditional vinification, maturation in large Slavonian oak for 24 months and having one’s feet on the ground. He has just planted another hectare in the village of Sinio, taking the total to five hectares (the others being in Castiglione Falletto and La Morra, the latter belonging to his wife Luisa).
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