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Lifting Up A Stone and Finding Magic: 2016 Barolo

Of the five great villages of Barolo — Barolo itself, La Morra, Serralunga, Castiglione and Monforte d’Albe  — Monforte has always been a bit off the beaten track.

Compared to Barolo or La Morra, Monforte is backwater, just a patchwork of small hamlets with no large producers to dominate the scene. Serralunga is a bit like that too, but even they have the large producer of Fontanafredda occupying a huge chunk of the village’s north end.

When we go on wine adventures, we love sleepy backwaters.

Here are the undiscovered gems.

Here is where you can lift up rocks and find something new and wondrous lying beneath.

Yes, even in Barolo, this is still possible….at least in Monforte.

The discovery we are sharing today is Gianfranco Alessandria. We have written about him once before, when offering his excellent value entry-level wine. But today’s article is more about Monforte than him, so we are rolling out his top wine, “San Giovanni”. It is a true monument to the greatness of Monforte.

Monforte is often lumped in with Serralunga as a village of the most powerful of Barolos, but this is not 100% accurate.

The wines are often powerful, but the tannins seem softer and silkier than in Serralunga, allowing the wines to show more elegance in their youth. The wines also tend to show a very distinct, slightly espresso bean-y, and almost chocolaty cherry fruit  that can be quite enchanting.

San Giovanni is named for one of the hamlets dotting the Monforte landscape. Here, Gianfranco  has vines planted over 50 years ago. Monforte has a complex network of hills and valleys and vineyards tend to point in all directions, but these old vines point perfectly southeast – just like many of Barolo DOC’s top vineyards.

The San Giovanni is a gorgeous young Barolo, and in all the ways that make Monforte special. It is indeed powerful, but so elegantly silky and fruit-laced, even lush, that it is explosively pleasurable.

It’s a steakhouse Barolo, you might say, and we definitely recommend it with a grilled porterhouse, but this wine is knit together so well that we are confident of its long-term aging potential.

Gianfranco Alessandria, Barolo San Giovanni, 2016