About this WINE
Cascina Mario Fontana, Piedmont
6th generation Mario Fontana, along with his mother Elda, wife Luisa and their two boys Edoardo & Vasco, created Azienda Agricola Cascina Fontana, this tiny 4ha jewel of a Barolo estate in 1995.
Based in the hamlet of Perno they own parcels in three Castiglione Falletto vineyards: Valletti, Villero and Pozzo; in Sinio just beyond Serralunga & also in La Morra’s Gallinotto from vintage 2008. Mario tends the vines as sensitively as possible, makes the wine and, when necessary, also delivers it in his blue van.
He prefers the traditional approach to making Barolo wine: blending all his Nebbiolo vineyards to make one wine; the sum of the parts; a thoroughly consistent wine from one year to the next; a 15-20 day stainless-steel cuvaison; 2 years in large 25 hl slavonian barrels (a 30 year old chestnut barrel!), followed by 1 year in stainless steel and 1 year in bottle pre-release.
His languid Langhe Nebbiolo wine is made in the vineyards: using fruit from Castiglione’s Pozzo & Sinio’s vineyards, macerated for a shorter period than that destined for Barolo, the wine spends a brief invecchiamento (elevage) for twelve months in old french tonneaux. The perfection introduction to Nebbiolo, it can be drunk young or after ten years!
The full but svelte Barbera d’Alba is made from a combination of 60% fresh Sinio & 40% classy Castiglione Falletto fruit, aged for circa 12 months in used barriques; production on average only 500 cases/anno.
His philosophy harks back to the lessons learnt from his grandfather - "I was brought up with the smell of fermentations in my nostrils" – to the extent that he continues to place vats outside during winter to stabilise naturally, and will not move wine nor prune with the new moon.
In addition Mario goes the extra mile in quality control, performing one hundred checks on the wine prior to bottling. Traditional and contemporary winemaking at its best, and best enjoyed with food.
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.