Ferdinando Principiano is one of the new crop of exciting young winegrowers to farm Piedmont’s Langhe hills. He graduated from Alba’s Scuola Viticole Umberto I in 1993, joining his father Americo at the Monforte D’Alba domaine following an apprenticeship at both Giacomo Conterno & Roberto Voerzio; the best of both worlds you could say. The former drove his determination to produce a pure and balanced style of Barolo, persuading him that nurturing the vineyard soil and rejecting the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides gives the correct conditions for the vine to thrive in. Voerzio taught him tradition for its’ own sake does not necessarily give you the best results.
Initially seduced into making souped-up wines to ‘guarantee’ 100 point scores in America, he changed direction in 2003 when he found these wines undrinkable, falling over with age. Now the yields are not so low, the vineyards rich with wildlife, the roto-fermenters removed, his foot off the gas. Fermentations are shorter and the ripening period extended in his now all-organic vineyards. He keeps sulphur to the bare minimum and has even replaced copper use in the vineyard with algae and aloe treatments - all to enhance the long term health of the vines in their environment. Wines are treated with as minimal intervention as possible - natural yeasts and additions of sulphur at a bare minimum if needed at all.
The precipitous slope of the Ravera di Monforte Cru lies at the southern tip of Barolo. Take one step away from the foot of the slope and you have left DOCG Barolo. This facing hill is where Ferdinando has his inherited Le Coste vineyards in the Langhe DOC. It’s a stretch to call this the wild frontier but it is different from central Barolo where smooth hills are sculpted entirely out of vines. These were Ferdinando’s grandfather’s vines & the house where Ferdinando was born sits here in the valley. Look beyond and the brow of Cascina Francia watches over the curve of its sibling Boscareto. And so Ferdinando is, as many of the greatest Piemontese are, not just rooted in Barolo but in this, his individual area of Barolo. Vines, woods, silence, no main roads, just peace and quiet and wildlife. This is what Barolo means to Ferdinando.