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. 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.
The fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for around 6-7 days at a temperature of 23-25°C. During this time, the must is pumped over the cap in order to optimize the extraction of the tannins and colour. As soon as the alcoholic fermentation has ended, the wine is racked into concrete tanks for the malolactic fermentation, which is completed by December. The wine is aged partly in new barrels made of oak from Allier, and partly in large Slavonian oak casks. It stays in wood for some months, and is bottled in late spring following light clearing.
This is a ruby-red wine with purple highlights. The nose is packed with black fruit, especially blackberries and plums, with slight spicy overtones hinting at black pepper and cinnamon. Sweet, soft tannins come together in a closely-woven texture that merges with the fruit, while a crisp fresheness provides a long, tasty finish. This wine is at its best for 3-4 years following the harvest.