The Fantino brothers of Monforte d’Alba know a thing or two about Nebbiolo, having produced decades’ worth of world-class Barolo under their own label and in collaboration with other growers in Piemonte. They are lucky to own a prime parcel within the Bussia cru, a subplot named Dardi that benefits from ideal southern exposure—perfect for crafting sumptuous, powerful reds. However, the Fantinos had other ideas for some of Dardi’s younger vines: why not capture Nebbiolo’s dazzling aromatics in the form of a light, early-drinking red with low alcohol and soft tannins? The resulting Rosso dei Dardi sees gentle treatment in the cellar to avoid excessive extraction, ages in stainless steel, and is bottled young to show off the juicy, playful side of the grape that we rarely get to experience. While their venerable Barolos belong in every collector’s cellar, this everyday rosso is the Fantino bottling I find myself craving the most. Its perfumed Nebbiolo fruit and sweet, tender tannins would make a full-grown Barolo look back longingly at its former self, nostalgic for its sprightly youth. It takes well to a chill, and the price point encourages pulling the cork just for the sake of quenching one’s thirst.
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 twelve 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.
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