The town of Monforte d'Alba lies at the heart of the Barolo appellation. Just north of town, where the vines produce softer, richer fruit, the brothers Alessandro and Gian Natale Fantino farm 20 acres of perfectly situated south-facing hillsides, where the grapes get their full potential of sun.
To the lay person, the wines of Barolo can often seem like a single bloc, a monolith of big, robust northern Italian wine. But in reality the subtle differences in exposure, soil and tradition of the various farms, and the personalities of those involved, make for significant variation.
Fantino, for instance, works with 60-year-old vines in sandy clay soils with a taste for elegance over force. As opposed to some of the firmer wines from farther south, Fantino boasts silky tannins and approachable fruit.
The big news is that Fantino recently started working with U.S. importer Kermit Lynch, and when the folks at KL signed them on, the brothers Fantino said, "Hey, we also have all this 2001 Barolo that never got picked up. Would you want it?" Um, yes!
So as of last week we have several cases of 2001 Fantino Barolo, aged 14 years at the winery in perfect cellaring conditions. A rare proposition, as most wineries tend to hold their Barolos for about five years, by comparison. And the best part: It's $40!
If you're into Barolo, this is pocket change compared to what you'd spend on average bottles, much less bottles this old. If you're a Barolo newbie, or Barolo-curious, this is an incredible opportunity to wade deeper into the tradition. Fantino has a signature style, lush but with rustic notes, tightly structured but less overtly powerful than the standard.
Alessandro joined his brother Gian Natale in 1988 after 20 years of making wine at the legendary Cantina Bartolo Mascarello. He manages the vineyards much in the same way he learned to at Mascarello, gently. In the intervening 25 years the brothers have carved out a niche of profound respect in the region, for their practices and for their wines. We're lucky to have anything from them. Even luckier to have such an amazingly choice choice—accessibly made, aged to perfection, priced to move.