WA98: Conterno’s 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino is a legend in the making, or now that it is in bottle, it may be more correct to simply say it is a legend. The late Giovanni Conterno and his son Roberto Conterno created quite a stir when they announced that they would make their Monfortino in 2002, a year in which most of the harvest in Piedmont was severely compromised by a cold summer and devastating hail in early September. But there was more. The Conternos not only announced that they would make their Monfortino in 2002 but no Barolo Cascina Francia for the first time ever in the estate’s history. In a bit of defiance towards the press, the Conternos then announced no one would be allowed to taste the wine from barrel. Over the years, this stance softened. Visitors lucky enough to visit the cellars and sample the wine from cask knew what was in store. Simply put, the 2002 Monfortino is stratospheric. A dark, imposing, but sensual wine, it flows from the glass with a breathtaking array of dried roses, autumn leaves, wild cherries, plums, new leather, espresso, licorice and spices, showing phenomenal depth, richness and balance. The tension between the luxuriousness of the fruit and the austerity of the vintage is truly captivating. I have tasted the 2002 Monfortino multiple times from barrel and bottle. At times it has reminded me of what I imagine the 1971 tasted like upon release, at other times it has seemed more similar to 1978. According to Giovanni Conterno, the 2002 reminded him of the 1971. Either way, the wine is extraordinary. The 2002 Monfortino is the result of the cold vintage that was typical of Piedmont up until the mid 1980s. In many ways, it is a throwback to wines that can’t be made anymore in Piedmont. Roberto Conterno thought so highly of the 2002 Monfortino he gave the wine an extra year in barrrel. And of course, there is one sad footnote. The world lost Giovanni Conterno to cancer in 2004, but he made sure his last Monfortino was at least equal, if not better, than his most monumental wines. There is little doubt the 2002 Monfortino will soon take its place as one of the greatest Monfortinos ever made. It is the most fitting last chapter to the life of one of the world’s greatest winemakers. As always, I suggest readers who have an interest in Monfortino taste the wine as soon as possible, as it will soon head into a period of dormancy, which in this vintage may last several decades. One of my favorite vintages for current drinking is the 1970, which still looks to have another 30 years of fine drinking ahead of it!