They say that good architecture is all about the people and the place - well wine and Fontanafredda is exactly that, a combination of the best things in life that come from this part of Italy. During my time based in the town of Alba, I was not short of culinary sensations to sample, match and enjoy with the vast selection of native grapes and wine styles from the region. Located in the heart of the Langhe Hills in the Piedmont wine-growing region of north-western Italy, is a world of hills dating back to ancient times which has always been a prime growing area for great wines, particularly rich, powerful indigenous reds.
Their vineyards lie at an altitude of between 200 and 400 metres. The texture of the mainly calcareous soils can differ within just a few dozen metres: at times loose, with a sand content approaching 50%; and other firmer soils with a higher proportion of silt, and above-all clay. The climate is continental, with wide seasonal variations in the temperatures, with the rainfall concentrated over the spring and autumn months - is highly variable, which is what produces such extraordinarily different vintages.
Fontanafredda's vineyards stretch out over more than 100 hectares (250 acres) of hilly terrain in the villages of Serralunga d'Alba, Barolo and Diano d'Alba, at the heart of the time-honoured Piedmont that was instrumental in shaping not only the history of Italy itself, but also its most revered winemaking tradition.
Records state that “by order of 17 June 1858" an area of land approx. 54 hectares, was registered to the private estate of Victor Emmanuel II King of Sardinia. The land was subsequently acquired by ‘Count Emmanuel Guerrieri and his sister Maria Victoria’, the children of the King and Rosa Vercellana, who was actually accorded the title of Countess of Mirafiori and Fontanafredda.
The history of Fontanafredda as a wine-producing company did not, however, commence until 1878, when Emmanuel Guerrieri, Count of Mirafiori, dedicated his entrepreneurial skills to wine with passion and far-sightedness. His approach proved to be thoroughly modern, leading to the immediate implementation of innovative criteria focused on producing wines of quality, in particular Barolo.
Testimony to the estate’s noble past remains intact today - the hunting lodge, the extensive cellars, the vineyards - with the new guidance of Danilo Drocco (Technical Director and winemaker) the winery continues to experiment and move with the times in perfecting what nature and history have handed down. They currently export to 30 countries & produce approx 2.5 million bottles.
This unique ‘terrior’ is responsible for Italy's version of Bordeaux reds, the muscular, long-lived wines of Barolo and Barbera that are forged from the Nebbiolo grape. With regular ratings of 90+ points, it is no exaggeration to say that this is one of the greatest producers of one of the world's greatest wine styles.
While imposing nineteenth-century cellars house the reds for ageing, Fontanafredda also has the knowhow to bring out the very best of the white sparkling wines of the area. Their Moscato d'Asti, which is perfect with fruit desserts or Panetone, is intentionally a low alcohol, off-dry wine that turns a sunny afternoon into a relaxed evening. Plus the Dolcetto ‘little sweet one’ and Barbera wines we tasted were also very approachable, appealing wines that support the more serious Barolo’s.