As close to heaven as it gets; 1971 Conterno Monfortino Riserva Speciale


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What can I say? What can I write? There is no way I can give justice to pure perfection in words, so I’m simply settling with the fact that wine stirs up emotions, some to the extent which is almost like a vision. Yesterday, I saw the Matrix…

Although I normally find it difficult (or perhaps pointless) to talk about the best wine ever had, I now know that the 1971 Monfortino Riserva Speciale from Conterno will subscribe to that epithet for a long, long time.

For a wine geek, the 1971 Monfortino Riserva Speciale is a reference point. A reminder why we got in to this wine thing in the first place – and that after twenty years of passion, we still are far from being more than wine virtuoso apprentices. For me it is even more. Nebbiolo hasn’t been my cup for years, but when it has been on levels like this, I find few contenders. I remember the truly amazing and breath-taking 1971 Pajoré from Enrico Giovannini Moresco a few years ago. A wine defining elegance yet combining it with concentration and an ethereal feel.

The Monfortino moves me even more. Our host has decided to pour this one showing the bottle. Some wines simply deserve it and it is up to the taster to try to not focus on the label, but what’s in the glass.

Age in a wine can be a beautiful thing. For me, few wines beats a mature Nebbiolo or Burgundy Pinot Noir, aesthetically speaking. The ruby transparent color combined with the brownish rim….gorgeous. The Riserva Speciale is no exception.

The nose is to die for. Stupidity to even try to put words on the complexity. What strikes me though, is the wine’s remarkable freshness. Marigold, rose-hips and roses. Sweet-root, mint and fresh pipe tobacco. No sawdust here, just beautifully integrated botti feel. Humus, iron and just a hint of tar. There’s such an intensity and purity on the nose I’m almost afraid of tasting….

….but there’s no need to hesitate. For me, pure perfection is when the taste confirms the nose. Having sniffed this wine I just know, that if it is as good on the palate, it will rock my foundation and produce a tear or two. Add goosebumps to that.

It is as good! Perfectly ripe grapes, tar, sweet-root, the flowers, the integrated botti feel, tons of iron…then comes the fruit and the acidity, backing up a tannin structure out of this world. They’re plenty, the tannins, but so gentle and ripe that it is time for goosebumps again. Swallowing. Can’t believe it; the wine starts the saliva production. I know, for a non-nerd it sounds gross but it is a sign of fruit still left in the wine. Quite a lot actually. The finish is eternal, just keeps on going and leaves me with notes of rose-hips and fresh tobacco.

It doesn’t get much better than this. Only different. You see, even if I had some kind of vinous revelation last night and tasted perfection, it was just as much the great company, the anticipation and the mood in general that contributed. I will taste perfection again, I know that, but it will be different. That’s the beauty and diversity of wine. It never stops!

N.B. Remember; at this age – when a wine has spent nearly 40years in the bottle – there is no perfect wines, only perfect bottles. In that sense, we were extremely lucky last nigh!