Barolo Chinato was once peddled as a cure-all elixir, said to heal miscellaneous daily discomforts. Appropriately, the ingredients in the Fantino brothers’ Chinato read like a potions book: there’s Calissaja Quinine, Genziana, Colombo, and Centaurea. The details are intriguingly vague—Italian legislation insists that the vintage of the wine remain unknown, and herb sources are a guarded family secret. The result is a deliciously aromatized Barolo, fascinating and complex with a long, herbal finish. Though medical claims were long ago dispelled, this can still be honestly touted as the ideal digestivo.
Two brothers, Alessandro and Gian Natale Fantino, run this family estate in Monforte d’Alba. Alessandro managed the vineyards and served as the enologist at Cantina Bartolo Mascarello for 20 years, from 1978 to 1997. The brothers farm eight hectares in the heart of the historic Bussia cru, one of Barolo’s most famous areas for producing wines of great longevity and finesse. The Fantino holdings are concentrated exclusively in the “Dardi” section of Bussia. The brothers also produce a Barbera d’Alba from these ancient vines in Dardi, and a “Rosso dei Dardi” from younger vine Nebbiolo. They are also specialists with several traditional Piemontese wines that are mostly disappearing: Nebbiolo Passito and Barolo Chinato.
Kermit’s love affair with the great reds of Piemonte dates back to the early days of his career: the very first container he imported from Italy, in fact, featured legendary 1971 and 1974 Barolos from Vietti and Aldo Conterno. Regular visits since then have seen our portfolio grow to now nine Piemontesi estates, with a strong focus on the rolling hills of the Langhe.
Nebbiolo rules these majestic, vine-covered marl slopes, giving Italy’s most mystifyingly complex, nuanced, and age-worthy reds. When crafted via traditional production methods—long macerations and extensive aging in enormous oak botti—the powerful, yet incredibly refined Barolos and Barbarescos provide haunting aromatics of tar, raspberry, incense, tea, roses, and more. At times austere in their youth but well worth the wait, they pair beautifully with the hearty local cuisine starring veal in many forms, braised beef, pastas like tajarin and agnolotti, and of course, Alba’s famous white truffles.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Piemonte’s climate is continental, with baking hot summers and cold winters. Nebbiolo is only part of the story here: juicy, fruity Barberas and Dolcettos represent the bread and butter throughout the region, and other native grapes like Freisa, Croatina, and the white Arneis are also noteworthy. Value abounds in the Monferrato, while Alto Piemonte also has its share of thrills to provide.
Every corner of Piemonte is rich with tradition, especially when wine is concerned. It’s no wonder we have been singing the region’s praises for over forty years.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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