Cascina Fontana Nebbiolo
The top Baroli from producers like Bartolo Mascarello, Giacomo Conterno and G.B. Burlotto have been highly allocated for years now. The solace to us industry types used to be that we could at least grab a few bottles of their “basic” Nebbiolo bottlings. Not so anymore!
A bottle of Langhe Nebbiolo from Mascarello or Conterno is a true unicorn these days. Where can we turn to for great, old school Nebbiolo that doesn’t break the bank?
Cascina Fontana is a natural place to look. After all, Mario Fontana describes his wines as “come una volta” — as in the past. His Cascina has only been around since 1995, but their wines are made like it’s still the 1960s or '70s. This is exactly what we’ve been looking for.
Cascina Fontana is based in the hamlet of Perno. That’s technically in La Morra, but it’s quite close to where his vines are mostly located in Castiglione di Falletto. Castiglione — the smallest of Barolo’s major villages — is special. La Morra, to its west, is known mostly for its elegance and aromas. Serralunga, to its east, is known for power and structure. Castiglione is in the happy middle, and if you needed one word to describe it, it would be “balance.”
Fontana’s traditional techniques accentuate this. Macerations are fairly long — long enough to tame the alcohols — but not as long as some traditionalists, so the wines feel a little fresher and more approachable in youth. The approach with élevage is similar: the Langhe Nebbiolo rests in stainless steel tanks for 8 months before being moved to large, Slavonian oak barrels for an additional 12 months.
The result is a friendly and supple still but doggedly old-fashioned tasting Nebbiolo. Our resident Piedmont expert, Flori Kennedy, said that the 2018 stood out in a recent tasting, showing better than many Barolo that cost 3-4 times as much, “it really tastes exactly of the earth and soil where it came from, it was so similar to the great Bartolo Mascarello wines it was crazy”. We couldn’t agree more, so we secure the very last of the 2018s from their California supplier. Grab some now before it’s gone!