See also Walter's final tranche of 133 tasting notes on the surprising 2014 vintage in Barolo, also published today.
3 May 2018 Updated with news of plans for this estate.
1 May 2018 Roberto Conterno, proprietor of the world famous Giacomo Conterno estate in Barolo, has acquired a 90% stake in Nervi, the historic Alto Piemonte producer. News of the acquisition of a majority stake in the 27-ha (67-acre) estate with holdings in some of Gattinara’s prime vineyards at a reported price of €5 million comes at an unexpected time but not as a surprise. (Our picture shows oenocartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti at work on the vineyards of Gattinara.)
Recently, half a hectare in La Morra’s Cerequio cru reportedly switched hands for €2 million, almost certainly making the Nervi acquisition an absolute steal. And before Erling Astrup actually acquired Nervi in 2011 in what was assumed to be a distressed sale, he had asked Conterno to inspect the estate. Conterno confirmed that it would be impossible not to make great wine there. It is thought that Conterno's investment will underwrite a new vinification, bottling and ageing plant for Nervi.
Back in 2014 when I visited Nervi for the first time, Astrup had already expressed his dismay that although Alto Piemonte has a much longer history in cultivating Nebbiolo, called Spanna here, than either Barbaresco and Barolo, at that time not a single Langhe producer had shown any interest in buying the historic Nervi estate. Now, with Langhe land prices spiralling out of control, especially in Barolo, Conterno’s move is bound to be followed by other similar ones.
Conterno was in the news in 2015 when he acquired 9 ha of Arione, considered a top cru and bordering his famous Francia cru. Because of Italy’s law of first right of refusal, Conterno snatched Arione away from the American Krause family, who were, some would say aggressively, buying whole swathes of Barolo, including the Vietti estate. Although Conterno was hailed for rescuing Arione from foreign ownership, the acquisition, costing an estimated €10 million, triggered a frenzy of speculation in land prices in Barolo that since then has only intensified.
Conterno is the first Barolista to invest in Alto Piemonte. Like Astrup, I have always wondered why the younger generation in particular, who are now unable to buy any land of interest in Barolo and Barbaresco, have not yet realised that only 75 miles north of Alba a wealth of Nebbiolo vineyard on some of Italy’s most complex soils is to be had for a fraction of the price currently asked in the Langhe.