According to Roberto, it is not a function of whether the Monfotino is good enough, but rather whether the difference is large enough. Though it is true in vintages like 2007 and 2011, all the juice went into Francia; while in 2002, all the juice went into Monfortino. OTOH 2002 is the only vintage since they bought Francia where a Monfortino was made but no Francia. Perhaps he was just making a point in what was otherwise considered a very poor vintage.
Are you saying Baudana will go into the BdV instead of staying as a standalone property?
Thanks Bill and Ken for the clarification on the relationship between Monfortino and Cascina Francia.
While true that there are many contingencies regarding the winemaking at Giacosa over fairly recent vintages, it would be interesting to see how the years line up when Riservas were made there and when Monfortino was made at Conterno. There seems to be a diametrically opposite philosophy about what constitutes a strong vintage. I know that I was shocked when 2010 was skipped by Giacosa.
There is so much excellent traditionally made Barolo available for $70 to $90–Vajra Bricco, Cogno Pernice, Cappellano Rupestris, Brovia Rocche, to name a few–there is no way I will spent $200 or $180 on Cascina Francia or any other Barolo. Correction, I would buy older Giacosa red labels or any Monfortino for that price, but they cannot be had for anywhere close to that, so I don’t buy those either.
So long as the wine’s solid, I’ll be happy. I think I paid a mere $60 for it.
Not at all. Just noting that Vajra bought Baudana and added it and a Ravera bottling to its lineup, both of which I think are fruit upgrades for a very good winemaker…
Not really. Conterno is the quirky one, not Giacosa. The best way to think about it is that the 2006-2010 vintages were a time of turmoil in the house of Giacosa. It is possible that both years were Riserva years for the fruit, but that personal issues, Bruno’s health or Bruna’s mishugas, plus the musical chairs with winemakers in the interim, gave us bizarre results. It had nothing at all to do with philosophy or perception of the vintages. It is Conterno that elected to make Monfortino in weak years like 1968, 1987, 1988, 1993, 1995 and 2002, but to pass in one of the all-time great vintages, 1989. None of the off-year Monfortinos are to be found among the best, despite the sentimentality about the stylistically different 2002, so while Conterno is one of the two greatest producers and Monfortino one of the greatest wines, there is nothing magical about making Monfortino in lesser vintages, and for Roberto’s father at least, perhaps the decisions were economically driven rather than quality driven. Otherwise, as you would expect, the best Giacosa Riserve and best Monfortinos have been made in the greatest vintages.
Giacosa’s true quirk years are 2000, 2007 and 2008, it seems to me, the latter two coming in the “turmoil” years. I suspect that the Le Rocche Riserva in 2008 is simply a function of excellent fruit from an exceptional vineyard. To my mind, 2008 is unlikely to go down in Nebbiolo history as a classic vintage, so the wine figures to be an interesting aberration. While the jury is still out, 2000 and 2007 have the potential to be dramatically better vintages than many currently perceive them to be, and that both sport Giacosa red labels in both zones was enough for me to put my money where my brain is. Giacosa said that his 2000s are some of his best ever (in there with 1978, 1989 and 2004, if so, despite stylistic differences), and Gaja has said that 2000 could prove a sleeper 1978, if not with the same longevity. Both of those things suggest that the current hot-year, near-term-drinking rap on the 2000 vintage could prove very wrong, at least in Giacosa’s case. Many 2007 wines are shutting down right and left while the 2008s remain perfumy and drinkable, which leads me to conclude that 2007 is much the better vintage. When the dust settled, after concerns expressed about heat and score inflation, plenty of outstanding wines were made, with Giacosa’s Riserve at the top of the list. It should be intriguing to follow his Riserve in all three vintages…
Bill, I think it’s harder definitively to pick “the quirky one”. First, if you expand your list of weak vintages we find Giacosa Riservas made in years like 74 and 82. Also, if you believe that 88 deserves inclusion among the weak then note that Giacosa made the SSR in that vintage as well. So I think the better formulation is that Monfortino has been made in “more” weak vintages. If you turn your attention to the “strong” then Giacosa’s decision to skip 99–well in advance of the “turmoil years”–might be deemed at least a little quirky, particularly after making the 98 SSR (a wine I like very much, and one of the wines of the vintage, but far from among the best SSRs.) Finally, while I’d agree that none of the Monfortinos made in weak years ranks among the best, they are consistently the wine or among the wines of their respective vintages (no doubt a bar you would consider low.) That includes 88, a weak vintage for the SSR.
Sorry about the reference to 82 among “weak” vintages. It’s still early in the morning for me!
Bill, I’ve seen you say this before, and I’m curious. Would you mind explaining in what way this is not a classic vintage? Tasting the wines young, I was impressed by their purity and elegance, quickly becoming a fan. With all of the talk of 2010 being such a classic vintage (not just from critics, but also from some people who seem to really know what they’re talking about), and me being surprised at how ripe most 2010 Barolo is, I am thinking now that I don’t really know what characteristics make for a classic vintage.
Perhaps. Some good points here, Carl, but we are getting mighty esoteric!
Giacosa made a weak SSR (not bad, mind you, only when compared to stronger SSR vintages that flank it) in 1988, so I might call it a mistake were it anyone but Il Maestro, but since it is Himself, let me say only, “even Homer nods…” I would be tempted to say the same thing about the 1998 SSR, but I do agree with your assessment of the wine. If Giacosa had made multiple Riserve in either vintage, then he would have won the “quirky” contest hands down, but he did not. I agree with your “weak-vintage Monfortino” assessment as well (including the low bar). 1999 is a different story. Despite the obvious quality of Giacosa’s 1999 Le Rocche, he did not see it as Riserva quality, nor did fashion any other Riserve. He did not even make a Rabaja’, and he made a poor (by Giacosa standards) Asili white label and a rather modest SS white label. Who else made great riserva wines in 1999? Conterno. One of the better CFs, and one one the better Monfortinos. Who else? Maybe Mauro Mascarello with his Monprivato, but he made no Morissio Riserva. Gaja made a good Sperss, but not to be compared to the 1996 or 1997. Rinaldi? Nah, not one of his best. Vietti? No Villero Riserva made and a weak Rocche. The real answer is: nobody. 1999 is a seriously overhyped vintage which rides largely upon the shoulders of the Le Rocche Riserva That Wasn’t and the 1999 Monfortino, both overachievers in a good but not great vintage. I do not give “quirk” points for mere overachievement in a decent vinatge. I need more. I need a 1987 Monfortino and a 1988 SSR.
Neither here nor there, but I do not consider either 1974 or 1982 to be a weak vintage. Giacosa made a funky Riserva in 1974 that was not vineyard-designated, a quite excellent Bussia di Monforte Riserva Speciale and an OK SSR, so it was perhaps not one of the top Giacosa years, but not a bad one, and Conterno cranked out a very good Monfortino and a pre-Cascina Francia Barolo Riserva that was about the same overall quality. Both may well have underperformed the overall vintage in 1974. (I note parenthetically that, since I moved here, I have been drinking a lot of Riserve and Riserve Speciale from vintages like 1964, 1967, 1970 and 1974, vintages that have been lost in the shuffle for at least some Nebbiolo fans, and not a one of those vintages deserves “weak vintage” designation when measured by the often stunning riserva efforts of long-gone wineries or wineries like Prunotto whose roots, style and soul have been lost. The 1967 and 1974 Produttori Riserve will blow away more recent efforts. They are babies! Do I like 1971, 1978 or 1989 better? Yes, but except in Giacosa’s case, not by as much as one might think. In particular, 1967 and 1974 are incredibly ageworthy when viewed more broadly.) And 1982? Giacosa gave us an outstanding Collina Rionda Riserva and an outstanding SSR, as well as some damn tasty white labels, while Conterno gave us a strong Monfortino and a CF normale and Riserva. Altare made a Vigneto Arborina that I could actually drink in 1982, and I may have been able to drink Clerico’s 1982 CMG, too, had I had one! All of Aldo Conterno’s wines were very fine. Bartolo did not suck at all. Mauro’s Monprivato was one of his all-time greats. Sensible people should kill for a bottle of Sandrone’s 1982 Barolo. Massolino, Cavallotto’s San Giuseppe both strong. I do not see any basis for including 1982 in the “weak” category. (I can make a much better case for 1985, 1986 and 1988.)
Doug, for my palate, too many of them are drinking well young, some awfully light, some people dragging out the “Burgundian” sobriquet, many highly perfumed. I agree with purity and elegance with the best as well. These are not bad things at all; I own some 2008s. I just do not think that, overall, the wines that I have tasted are exhibiting the structure that one finds in the majority of the wines from the 1978, 1989, 2004 and 2006 vintages. Hell, I think that it is still too soon to be sure that 2010 is one for the ages. The quality is there, but not all 2010s are structured for the long haul. Some are a hair 2008-ish to me…
I agree that there are few barolos in the 200 dollar range and also agree that new release CF is overpriced both to other barolos and also to older versions of itself. I meant the CF price tag at 200 is still a good value when compared to a lot of 200 dollar bottles of wine outside of Barolo.
As with Burgundy, the time to have entered the Piedmont market was at least a decade earlier. Even 5 years ago it was not that bad. The Oldie Goldies will always remember the fabulous deals they have had in the past and bring along old bottles with ridiculous price tags still attached. The unfortunate reality is that we no longer can live in the past and hence if you want a producer now who has become highly desired you need to have deep pockets or move to alternative producers who are yet to achieve the cult status.
As posters have pointed out earlier, there a quite a few who make excellent wines at reasonable ‘release prices’ (if you can them at that). I have a feeling with the next excellent vintage (2013??) there will be further hike. And so on.
There will always be the highly desired ‘first growth’ producers and a widening price chasm between them and the next tier.
Had a bottle of the 2007 Cascina Francia with lunch yesterday. If I could buy it for $200 a bottle I would buy a couple of cases.
In terms of the OP’s question, I agree with Jeremy. CF, for that quality, IMO is good value, if you take a Burgundian (or even a Bordeaux) perspective.
The tank from which Roberto gave us samples of 2010 Monfortino recently was labeled ‘Cascina Francia’. CF can’t be too bad a wine if juice like that makes it back into the blend in a non-Monfortino year.
My experience with the 1988 Giacosa SSR is by far the worst of any Giacosa red label. The very first bottle I had was magical. Every bottle since has been mediocre or sucked. I do think shipping and storage have played a role in this. Then again, I am no fan of 1988 in general. I remember sitting next to Greg dP at a Produttori tasting. I could not believe he liked the 88’s more than the 85’s. But that’s what makes the world go round.
I suddenly became concerned that the Aussies and Kiwis were going to attempt to corner the market on the 2007 CF, a vintage that I was light on, so I picked up 4 online here this morning for $127 each ($1.10/1 euro). I also checked the latest net-to-seller auction results, and the trend is DOWN for CF, other than maybe the 1989 ($485) and 1990 ($366):
2007-$86 (I shoulda waited for an auction, huh? )
2010-no results yet
While you could have doubled your money or better had you bought 2004 and earlier, for me, this is pretty compelling evidence that Francia is not yet a $200 bottle of wine. By comparison, I just picked up 6 each of the 1964 and 1967 Giacomo Conterno Barolo (exceptional provenance) at $211 and 205 each, respectively. I will take my chances with those. They did not have to share a vineyard with Monfortinos!
While we have Br’er Vastola here, and the subject is Conterno, Ken, have you ever tried to find out where pre-Cascina Francia fruit came from for the Baroli and Monfortinos? As I recall, you were able to identify one vineyard which was a source for a while, but is that information otherwise lost to Roberto Conterno, and thus, to us?