Across Europe, the summer of 2017 was a hot one. By August, the heat wave, which reached 109 degrees Fahrenheit in some regions, had earned an appropriate name: Lucifer. This Barbera, made by the humble but masterful Fantino brothers, bears marks of that dry heat. Unlike in cooler years, when the wine is luscious and exuberant, the 2017 Barbera d’Alba Superiore has a strong tannin and the fruit is feral, suggesting you have found Italy’s Bandol rouge. Notes of cherries, strawberries, iron, and balsamic vinegar are tightly coiled in a soulful, untamed package. Because the Fantinos are so talented, the wine has finesse despite the heat of the vintage. The acidity is as mouthwatering as ever, the alcohol level remains balanced, and the fruit is preserved. Barbera’s bright acidity makes it a champion at table. Open it alongside a wide range of cuisines, from hearty pastas to grilled meats and roasted vegetables. Try it with a chanterelle risotto for a match made in heaven—Lucifer not allowed!
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.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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