2 min 11 sec read
The year was 2000. I was a Junior Buyer with WaverleyTBS and one of my smaller suppliers, Michael Palij of Winetraders, suggested I tag along on an upcoming trip he was taking to Piedmont in northwestern Italy.
For that reason I ended up on a flight to Milan and then took the train to Turin where Michael picked me up by car and we drove to Barolo country. Michael, fanatical about Italian wines and food, is also perfectionist and always wanted the very best of each region. It clearly served him well and Michael is now an MW and recognised expert on Italian Wines.
To this day, 3 things stick out in my mind about that trip:
1. The magnificence of the architecture at Turin Train Station – at which I arrived close to midnight, after a full, stressful day at work, 2 flights, and a train journey!
2. After driving on winding roads from Turin to Barolo we arrived at a tiny trattoria where Michael suggested we stop for ‘a bowl of pasta’. There was no menu – we simply pitched up and were given a bowl of steaming spaghetti topped with shaved fresh, local white truffle.
To this day, this is by far one of the simplest yet most heavenly dishes I have ever consumed and I’ve been lucky enough to dine at some pretty special restaurants around the world. I have been fascinated by all things truffle ever since.
3. And finally, the sheer beauty of the vineyard regions of Barolo and the majesty of the wines that the mighty Nebbiolo grapes, native to this region, produce.
The following day, Michael introduced me to two Barolo producers he was chasing – Bartolo Mascarello and Giacomo Conterno. Both these domaines already had UK representation but Michael was adamant that he wanted them in his portfolio and that he could do a better job than the current importers.
To taste such magnificent wines in the company of their makers was a real privilege which I cherish to this day.
Fast forward to 2022, when one of my current suppliers to Vino Fandango asked me to have a look at the wines of Franco Conterno, part of the Conterno Dynasty of domaines and wineries. It turns out that the current Franco Conterno winemaker, Daniele, is one of the grandsons of Giacomo Conterno – with whom I had the pleasure of tasting wines with, over 20 years ago!
On a recent tasting of the current range, it seems to me that the family dynasty is still producing amazing wines from the most difficult of grapes – Nebbiolo. Since 2015, production is now certified organic and vegan friendly too. And whilst the wines aren’t cheap, they are magnificent: full bodied, full flavoured and complex and will age for many years to come. Invest in some now and savour over the coming years. I certainly have some tucked away and look forward to enjoying in my later years, reminiscing about Turin, truffles and a fortuitous meeting.