Tuesday 15 August 2023

A Couple Of Days in Piedmont - Visit To Umberto Fracassi

My last visit on this tour to Langhe and the most fascinating one. Two years ago I had tasted the 1962 Barolo and was impressed. Coupled with the fact that this is the only producer of the MGA Mantoetto in Cherasco, I was keen to make a visit.
I mailed and swiftly got an answer. But I had no idea that I would meet Umberto, a 88 year old gentleman, who made this visit the most memorable one.

I offered to bring a 1964 Barolo but Umberto´s reply was - "don´t bring your 1964, we can find old bottles to taste, we can play with old bottles for fun".
The fun we had! 
Upon arrival to a beautiful house in the centre of Cherasco I found myself in a large room with a table full of bottles with different vintages (see picture above). All Baroli.
If it wasn´t for the fact that I had another visit booked later that day I could have stayed for hours (or days).

The estate is 6 ha large with Mantoetto being 2,28 ha. Umberto produces between 15-20.000 bottles per year. 
When I mentioned that I really liked their old school, refined label, Umberto calmly said that it had been the same since 1885...

2019 Barolo Mantoetto
Umberto is justifiably proud of his 2019, saying it is the best wine he has produced. Maybe so in due course but some other vintages, see below, moved me more.
The 2019 opens up in the glass with a cool, refined character and notes of ripening cherries, paint, leather and forest floor. Very old school.
The taste is balanced and delicate with very fine red fruit, silky tannins and a long, elegant finish. 8+ years.
91p   (tasted 2023/07)

1996 Barolo Mantoetto
Umberto then asked me to choose a vintage but I returned by asking which vintage he thought would be great to taste now. He then opened the 1996. A great choice. 
The nose is very deep with fine notes of a moist forest floor, cold coffee, dried strawberries, leather and violets. Very fine.
The taste is focused and fine with some maturity but there still is some tannins in the finish. Lots of dried strawberries, coffee powder and licorice. Lovely.
93p   (tasted 2023/07)

1999 Barolo Mantoetto
Now it was my time to choose and I thought a 1999 would be nice to try. How right I was. :-)
This is a gorgeous wine, just hitting its stride. The nose is broad and concentrated with notes of sweet/sour cherries, tobacco, licorice and iron. Stunning.
The taste is brilliant with fruit, tannins and acidity in harmony. Lots of ripe cherries, leather, dried flowers and minerals. Very, very long. 4+ years. Great wine.
96p   (tasted 2023/07)

1985 Barolo Mantoetto
I had no choice, Umberto made me choose another vintage, and I was happy to oblige. I opted for this.
The nose is very deep and fully mature with notes of mushrooms, old paint, autumn apples and old leather. Soft and fine.
The taste is mature and dry with notes of dried cherries, undergrowth, dry licorice and bakelite. A fine, wilting finish. Maybe better some years ago but still a very fine Mantoetto Barolo.
90p   (tasted 2023/07)

2020 Langhe Nebbiolo
As a finish Umberto wanted me to taste the Langhe Nebbiolo, their first vintage of making a such.
The nose is young and forward with notes of red cherries, ripe flowers, sand and paint. Light and fine.
The taste is nicely structured with a fine balance and lots of ripening cherries, iron and salt licorice. Very, very good. 4+ years.
88p   (tasted 2023/07)


  1. Very nice to see another Swede blogging about Umberto! He’s well worth much more recognition for his wines than he gets. As your blog shows, he is also a fantastic man. Of course, managing a wine estate at 88 years of age is a tremendous achievement, especially since he also has 10 ha of hazelnuts and 30 ha of ordinary crops to take care of. On top of that he is fantastically generous and has a wonderful sense of humor.

    My wife and I first met him in 2014, when we were invited for a fantastic lunch with lots of Piedmontese goodies together with Umbertos younger brother Vittorio, whom I first befriended via a joint interest in photography. Since then, we have the privilege of considering Umberto a personal friend and we never fail to pay him a visit when we are in the vicinity. Latest visit was just a couple of weeks ago, when we were also for the first time given a full tour of the palace at the main square of Cherasco where he lives, being in fact a marquis of Cherasco (although he certainly doesn’t flaunt his nobility). Last year he was also named Cherascian of the year, very well deserved indeed.

    As to his Barolo, I’ve had the privilege of trying (and buying/stocking) it in five different vintages: 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2019. I’ve found them all very convincing already on release and the two vintages we have tried after aging them up to the 10-year mark or thereabout (2010 and 2012) have both developed in an exemplary fashion, becoming a bit rounder and gaining additional aromatic complexity and richness without feeling tired in any way. We opened our second to last bottle of the 2012s just two days ago and I think I will leave the last one alone for a few more years out of curiosity and move on to the 2015s.

    Aside from the Barolo and the Langhe Nebbiolo you mention (and which I have yet to try), Umberto also makes an excellent Barbera d’Alba Superiore named Ciabot Contessa, which we never fail to buy along with the Barolo. Ciabot is Piedmontese for tool shed so the name translates to The Countess’s Tool Shed (Grevinnans Redskapsskjul), which is an ironic twinkle back to the time when the estate was run by a countess from which Umberto descends. She eventually married a commoner, thereby risking to lose her nobility. But the king (who if I recall correctly was still the king of Sardinia-Piedmont rather than the king of Italy) was generous enough to instead elevate the couple to the higher rank of marquis.

  2. Thanks for the comments! I really appriciated this visit to Umberto and the time spent with him. Will be back!