Fontanafredda Serralunga d'Alba Barolo 2013
Ideal with big red meat dishes and medium or mature cheeses, it can also make for pleasant after-dinner company.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Since 1878, the Fontanafredda Estate & Winery, located in the heart of Piedmont’s Langhe region, has been a benchmark producer of Barolo and Barbera, crafting wines that deftly balance deep aromas and concentration of fruit with elegance.
The history of Fontanafredda is a noble one. It began in 1858 after the unification of Italy, when the country’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, purchased this beautiful estate in Piedmont’s Langhe region. Here he started producing wine from native varietals, Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo, which later developed into a commercial business under the direction of the King’s son, Count Mirafiori. Fontanafredda released their first Nebbiolo labeled as Barolo with the 1878 vintage.
The 250-acre Fontanafredda Barolo cru property in Serralunga d’Alba is the single largest contiguous wine estate in the Langhe. Additional properties in the communes of Barolo and Diano d’Alba bring the total acreage of estate-owned land to 305. The ability to source fruit from some of the Barolo region’s most prized vineyard sites provides Fontanafredda with grapes of the highest quality. There are two main soil types that cover Barolo: Tortonian in the western region that is heavy in clay and magnesium deposits. Wines grown in this soil tends to be more fragrant, elegant and soft, but with notable richness. In eastern Barolo, the chalky, limestone and mineral rich Helvetian soil produces wines of deeper color, body and tannic structure, making for long-lived wines.
Fontanafredda owners Oscar Farinetti and business partner Luca Baffigo Filangieri - founders of the famous EATALY concepts in Italy, Japan and New York - have provided full support to a series of initiatives that started in 1999 by winemaker Danilo Drocco and viticulturist Alberto Grasso. These initiatives involve changes in both the winery and the vineyards that aim to increase the quality of the wines and ensure greater sustainability measures. Drocco and Grasso guide the winery and estate with a philosophy of ecological responsibility and future sustainability. All estate vineyards are managed to achieve a “zero chemical” program, using only natural methods for fertilization and pest control. The vineyard team is working with their grower partners across the region to transition them to the same eco-friendly farming standards. The Fontanafredda estate operates as a refuge for a wide array of local flora and fauna.
In a sense, “Alba” is a catch-all phrase, and includes the declassified Nebbiolo wines made in Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as the Nebbiolo grown just outside of these regions’ borders. In fact, Nebbiolo d’Alba is a softer, less tannic and more fruit-forward wine ready to drink within just a couple years of bottling. It is a great place to start if you want to begin to understand the grape. Likewise, the even broader category of Langhe Nebbiolo offers approachable and value-driven options as well.
Barbera, planted alongside Nebbiolo in the surrounding hills, and referred to as Barbera d’Alba, takes on a more powerful and concentrated personality compared to its counterparts in Asti.
Dolcetto is ubiquitous here and, known as Dolcetto d'Alba, can be found casually served alongside antipasti on the tables of Alba’s cafes and wine bars.
Not surprisingly, given its location, Alba is recognized as one of Italy’s premiere culinary destinations and is the home of the fall truffle fair, which attracts visitors from worldwide every year.
Responsible for some of the most elegant and age-worthy wines in the world, Nebbiolo, named for the ubiquitous autumnal fog (called nebbia in Italian), is the star variety of northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Grown throughout the area as well as in the neighboring Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina, it reaches its highest potential in the Piemontese villages of Barolo and Barbaresco. This finicky grape needs a very particular soil type and climate in order to thrive. Outside of Italy, growers are still very much in the experimentation stage but some success has been achieved in parts of California. Tiny amounts are produced in Washington, Virginia, Mexico and Australia.
In the Glass
Nebbiolo at its best is an elegant variety with velveteen tannins, mouthwatering acidity and a captivating perfume. Common characteristcs of a well-made Nebbiolo can include roses, violets, licorice, sandalwood, spicebox, smoke, potpourri, black plum, red cherry and orange peel. Light brick in color, Nebbiolo is a more powerful wine than one might expect, and its firm tannins typically need time to mellow.
Nebbiolo’s love affair with food starts in Piedmont, which is home to the Slow Food movement and some of Italy’s best cuisine. The region is famous for its white truffles, wild boar ragu and tajarin pasta, all perfect companions to Nebbiolo.
If you can’t afford to drink Barolo and Barbaresco every night, try the more wallet-friendly, earlier-drinking Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d'Alba. Also search out the fine offerings of the nearby Roero region. North of the Langhe and Roero, find earthy and rustic versions of the variety (known here as “Spanna”) in Ghemme and Gattinara.