In 1858, Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy, purchased the Fontanafredda hunting estate for the home of his mistress (and later wife), Rosa Vercellana. They produced a son, Count Emanuele Alberto di Mirafiori, who created the winery at Fontanafredda and made its first Barolo in 1878.
In 1932, economic and political turmoil in Italy sent ownership of the estate to be transferred into the hands of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank, which retained the winery until 2008, when entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti became the principal partner of Fontanafredda. (Farinetti founded the Eataly food and wine emporium in Turin and now has an offshoot in Manhattan).
At the tasting last month, Drocco presented seven Fontanafredda Barolos, including the 2007 Serralunga d’Alba.
Barolo is made from the nebbiolo grape. You can drink chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, riesling, and syrah or shiraz from numerous countries and regions. Nebbiolo is not such a vagabond; its home is Italy’s Piedmont region, and in 1896, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture designated Serralunga d’Alba one of the five prime vineyard sites for nebbiolo.
Planted in the condensed hillsides around the cities of Alba and Asti, nebbiolo thrives in the cool climate and stony soils of the area. Nebbia means fog in Italian, and the vines are often covered by it until late morning. Unlike other grapes, nebbiolo ripens in late autumn, keeping winemakers and viticulturists tensely focused on weather conditions and fearful of autumn rains.
The 2007 vintage was a warm, dry year in Piedmont, and Drocco had ripe, healthy grapes from the Serralunga d’Alba hillside vineyards. After fermenting the grapes in stainless steel tanks, the wine was aged for two years in 2- and 3-year old barrels, and at least another year in bottle, as required by Barolo regulations.
The 2007 Fontanafredda Serralunga d’Alba Barolo has a bright cherry shade with very enticing floral and fruit scents. Its medium-body is the weight of classic Barolo and its pure black cherry flavor is the essence of nebbiolo. Soft tannins and mild acidity allow you to enjoy this well-made wine with only a few years of cellaring, or in lieu of that, an hour in the decanter.
Some wine consumers have the mistaken idea that Barolo is a big, bold, full-bodied wine that needs decades of cellaring.
Actually, it is more akin to a premier or grand cru Burgundy. While Burgundy is made from pinot noir, like Barolo it is translucent, aromatic and delicate on the palate. Both can have mesmerizing scents, seductive flavors that seem to tap dance on your palate, and a finish that only stops when you start another sip.
Enjoy a glass of the 2007 Fontanafredda Serrulunga d’Alba Barolo with Piedmont’s classic mushroom risotto, grilled lamb chops, or pasta with a meat ragout. And remember, it all started with love.
The 2007 Fontanafredda Serrulunga d’Alba Barolo retails for approximately $49.