TN: 1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia (Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo)

  • 1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (11/19/2013)
    Was hoping for more from this bottle. A little too acidic, flavors a little muddy. Not the classic ‘forest floor’ and ‘rose petals’ and ‘truffles’ scents and flavors I was looking for. Hopefully just bottle variation. (91 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Sorry to hear after a 20 year investment in time. Can only hope it’s an off bottle.

Yep. Stood it upright for days, good decant. Served with 2 courses; Fresh Tagliatelle with White Truffles from Alba, then Roasted Free Range Chicken with Burgundy Truffles and Truffled Crushed Potatoes and Sauteed Spinach. Food was great, other wines great. This one not so much. A shame, should have been perfect with the food…

Bummer. What were the other wines? Sounds like a fabulous meal.

Sad to hear - hope you have more bottles and have more luck next time:-)

a '96 Leflaive ‘Chevalier Mont’ was oxidized, very sad. an '01 Leflaive ‘Bien Batard Mont’ was perfect. '83 Cheval Blanc fantastic. A few other barolos were quite good…

“A shame” just escalated to “full-blown tragedy” after hearing that menu! I have not had the 1990 in years, and have none in my cellar now. Hopefully, some of its afficionados will weigh in and provide you with other data points. I will get abused for saying this, but while I have collected Monfortino and the G. Conterno Barbera for years, I have never been a huge fan of the Cascina Francia Barolo, nor its predecessor when it was known only as “Barolo”. Not saying that this is not a consistently good wine; it is. I have enjoyed the bottles that I have had over the years. I have found, however, that it is rarely a great wine, and that there are often better wines available at or below its price point. (I especially find the auction pricing on older bottles to be riding Monfortino’s coat-tails.) I have also experienced bottle variation that I have not experienced with Monfortino, but in fairness, that is probably more likely a provenance issue than a winery-based one. That said, you deserved better, and the wine should have been able to deliver it for you. Condolences!


I am a big fan of the CF, albeit I have very limited experience. They were excellent hosts on our recent trip (which you also helped immensely with). Which wines do you think are often better and available at or below its price point? I suspect I have purchased some you have in mind, but would certainly love to expand my horizons where I can.


That meal sounds amazing. How were the Alba truffles at this stage?




Unlucky, sounds like an awkward bottle - where was the meal? Sounds superb.

I love Cheval 1983…under the radar for ages just like the wonderful 1985. Hope my meager 98 stash works out as good!


Cascina Francia in my experience is excellent but very rarely great. So your assessment looks accurate to me and not bottle variation. I would add that I especially find the 1990 underwhelming–it’s far too ripe, at least for my taste. I’ve had this bottling six or seven times, with most of them in the past six years.

I too feel like this wine rides the coat tails of the Monfortino–it has nice structure, balance, and fruit but there’s nothing there to make me say “wow!”! At it’s current price point I no longer buy it.


Bill. While a shame, not quite a tragedy (actually the oxidized '96 leflaive ‘Chevvy Mont’ hurt worse! Lots of good wines on the table!

Mikael. Yes a few more bottles, will try again in December. Maybe bottle variation!

John. Truffles were great. Looking forward to 4 or 5 more meals before the season is over!

Joe. At the University Club in NYC. Giant old club on 5th ave and 54th street.

Hey, you had that bottle in one of my best clients kitchens! : ) (cellar tracker pic)

Frankly, it’s too bad you didn’t have the bottle in that picture–because it was amazing.

1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (2/16/2011): The nose was utterly explosive and captivating as earthy tobacco and tar with raspberry wafted up from the glass. With further exploration, musky notes with roses and a hint of black olive tempted the senses. On the palate, this wine showed its rich yet massive structure with dark ripe strawberry, tar, savory broth, graphite and lead fading to a long staying finish. This wine is drinking beautifully yet should continue to improve for many years. It’s absolutely stunning. (96 pts.)

I hate to be one of those “must have been a bad bottle” types, but frankly, I really enjoyed this wine. Then I looked at my recent note for the '90 Monfortino and the score I gave it–It thought it was pretty ironic.

1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (4/30/2013)
This wine was truly born of the earth, showing a classic, dark Serralunga profile. The nose was brooding with floral potpourri, balsamic notes, mint, macerated cherry, and rocky minerals, yet fresh and lifting throughout the entire experience. On the palate, it was perfectly balanced, showing earth-infused, dark red fruits and rocky minerals with rich yet fresh textures that simply wouldn’t relent. A single glass of the 1990 Monfortino is just not enough, as this wine says “drink me, “ while still asking for a number of years forgotten in the cellar. The finish lingered with tannic hints adding complexity to its dark earth and mineral-soil tones mixed with dried red fruit. (96 pts.)

Eric. Hope to have that 96 point experience the next time with this wine, gonna do another white truffle night and give it a whirl…

Just had the same unhappiness with a 1996 Jadot Chevalier Demoiselles. It seemed mildly oxidized rather than premoxed. Still drinkable, but not much fun. Made a good cooking wine, though. For a price…

John, wines bought sometimes in lieu of more CF is, in large measure, a historical phenomenon at this point. For a long time, but not recently, many Giacosa white labels were comparably priced or a little cheaper. As an afterthought, I have backfilled some Cappellanos that I think can certainly be as good or better than CF, for less than CF currently costs. Older G. Rinaldi Brunate-Le Coste is every bit as good as CF, and better in the former wine’s best vintages. Many of the older Aldo Conterno wines, when made by Aldo and when oak did not get in the way (his three 1989s, for example) are, to me, clearly superior to CF. Bartolo’s Barolo, despite bottle variation and other issues, when on, are superior to all or almost all vintages of CF, and indeed, a small handful at the top can be in Monfortino’s league. I enjoy G. Mascarello Monprivato more than CF, but I would not necessarily argue that the two wines are not more or less of the same quality. Arch-traditionalists may spit their coffee out at this one (and in fairness, save some Gaja and Sandrone Cannubi, and maybe a handful of other bottles, I would have to consider myself to be among the arch-traditionalist ranks these days), but there are two wines erroneously tarred with the modernist brush which are capable of eclipsing CF: Gaja’s Sperss and Sandrone’s Cannubi. However, I would emphasize that buying both is a vintage-by-vintage decision. 1996 and 1997 Sperss are top-of-the-heap wines that may have cost more than CF at the time of purchase, but were still cheap by Gaja standards…maybe $75 a bottle. I have a fair amount of old Gaja San Lorenzo and some Tildin from the best vintages, and from them I know that Gaja is no modernist and is capable of delivering Monfortino quality, even if not quite as often as Monfortino does. With Sandrone, there was a lot of experimentation over time, so there are some brilliant wines, but also some very average and/or too oaky wines. His 1982 Barolo (Cannubi fruit, not called Cannubi) easily bests the 1982 CF, and, for me, the 1982 CF is a great one (maybe the greatest CF). The 1982 informs me that Sandrone is more traditionalist than modernist, and I believe that his best wines will bear that out. His fruit is of superior quality. I also like his 1989, 1990 (but less than the 1989), 1996 (less than the 1990!), 2001, 2004 and 2006. (It does not seem to me unfair to cherry-pick Sandrone vintages; I think that CF requires the same thing. It does not consistently hit the mark, either.) Lastly, I have selected bottles of Vietti at this point, having drunk more than I have left. Vietti’s Brunate, Rocche and Villero in certain vintages are all capable of outshining CF.

All of that said, this is a case where the point is not to run down CF, even if my writing style may make it seem that way. Not at all. I give CF its props. (I give the pre-CF Barolo normale and riserva less credit, on average. There are a handful of great ones among a bunch of so-so old Nebbiolo or worse. I have never had a bottle earlier than 1958 that was worth drinking, and not even a good 1958. I have had enjoyable 1961s, 1964s and 1971s, along with less good 1967s and 1978s.) I do, however, view CF as a second wine, even if its distance from the grand vin may be shorter than most Bordeaux second wines. I am simply answering the question, “What did you buy instead, and why?”

Peter, do not blow all of your discretionary income on truffles yet! It is apparently going to be a long season, and if there is no mean, extended cold snap that freezes the ground, it is a year in which we could be seeing tartufi in January. Like last year, the best ones are late and the price will be heading down (unless the benefit is absorbed by middlemen along the way). Here we are at 20 November, and I am still eating the most perfect porcini that I have ever seen. Cold and wet the past couple of days, but I am just turning on the heat for the first time. We have enjoyed many, many sunny days in the 60s and 70s this month…

Bill. Fantastic post, amazingly informative, I’ll refer back to this over time! And also thanks for the truffle thoughts, nothing as good as a long truffle season…

Except long and relatively cheap!

Peter, where are you buying your truffles—a local merchant or mail order? I’ve used Buon Italia (Chelsea Market) in the past, but would love to find a good source on LI.

Peter, if buying in ‘bulk’ so say 1oz or more, I’ve always used Urbani ( a few years back, eataly had a deal where they were selling at their cost, think it was about $140 per oz including tax, great days…
Urbani now is charging about $6.8 - $7 per gram. Maybe the price will come down next month and will drop to $150 per oz!

Bill, just to make me jealous, what’s the price now, in region, for white truffles and what do you think it can drop to in Dec or early Jan? Here’s right now, can find good ones for around $6 per gram, so about Euro 4.5 per gram, or Euro 125 per ounce, or (obviously) about Euro 450 per 1/10 of a Kilo.