The historic estate of Fontanafredda conceals one or two little secrets, not least the hunting lodge to which its origins can be traced back to 1878. The property of the first King of Italy, it was not only a base for his hunting of the local game, but also for more, shall we say, earthy pursuits. The king's mistress, stationed at Fontanafredda, gave birth to a son and, while not officially recognised as royal progeny, he was granted the lodge when the King died. The development of Fontanafredda as we know it today ensued, until a bank took it over in lieu of unpaid gambling debts.
Today, thanks to a law prohibiting Italian banks from owning agricultural assets, the estate has passed into the sympathetic hands of Oscar Farinetti, founder of the Eataly chain of Slow Food restaurants and a native of nearby Alba. Fontanafredda's revival under Farinetti looks assured and this sleeping beauty of the Langhe, its vineyards are surely among the finest in the area, is now on a clear upward trajectory. It's a winery that combines this great history, Fontanafredda used to have its own bakery and school, and still preserves a great sense of community, with thoroughly modern production facilities for everything from Asti to Barolo.
This Barolo is named after the village where the vineyards are located - part of which are owned by the company, while the others are of suppliers who traditionally sell their entire grape production to Fontanafredda. With an average production of 45hl per hectare the vineyard features on the medium to upper slopes with south-south-west exposures. Plantings occur on soils of Miocene-Helevatian origin with a content of limestone and grey marl alternating with sand.
In the cellar the fermentation process is traditional, 7-10 days in stainless steel vats with a floating cap at a controlled temperature (30º-31ºC). The must then stays on the skins for a further 15 days to optimise the extraction of the polyphenolic substances and help start the subsequent malolactic fermentation. A long stay in large oak casks (70%) and barriques (30%) precedes bottling, and is followed by a further period of maturation which depends on the vintage, though it never lasts less than 6 months.
Full-bodied, velvety and intense, this Barolo is heady with vanilla, dried roses and woodland undergrowth.
Ideal with big red meat dishes and medium mature cheeses, try a wild boar and mushroom risotto for example.