The machinations of the wine industry are a curious thing. A winery that may not have reached its potential could suddenly burst into life when a new owner takes over. Of course, that is not to say that the wines produced at that company weren’t great before. It just seems at times that new ownership provides that added spark that is needed to push things onto the next level.
At other times, a new owner may just reinforce the quality of the work that the winery produces. The reputation may already be there, which is what has attracted the new talent in the first place.
Such is the case with the company that we are going to take a look at today. Contratto had a stellar reputation as one of Italy’s leading producers of sparkling white wines before its ownership change. It also had a colourful and interesting history that had led to the development of that reputation.
Contratto came to be in 1867, when Giuseppe Contratto lent his own name to the new venture. Some will argue that the company is now the oldest producer of sparkling white wines in all of Italy, though we are sure that there are some producers who may dispute that particular assertion.
What is for certain is that the company was the first to make a truly vintage sparkling white wine. Its Metodo Classico” 1919 Contratto Extra Brut will forever hold a place in the record books as being one of the best wines to come out of the company. It was the culmination of over 50 years of work, and the perfect foundation from which the company could build its future successes.
Let’s backtrack slightly to the beginning of the 20th century. This is when the company was first starting to develop a name for itself. Its wines were being distributed at an astonishing rate, and were often finding themselves in royal households. In that respect, you could argue that it became a competitor to Barolo for the title of the King of Wines.
Regardless of your opinion on that subject, Contratto’s fame grew to the point where it became one of the chief suppliers to both the Italian royal family and the Vatican, showing just how highly the company’s wines were regarded at the start of the century. Acclaim and awards followed, with the company’s wines managing to sparkle at some of the world’s leading exhibitions. In a very short period of time, Contratto’s wines developed a strong reputation. Any wine that carried the name had a level of prestige that very few wines can attract.
During its 150+ year history, the company has produced so many different products. From red wines and Moscatos, to its more famous sparkling whites, it has dipped its toes into all areas of the Italian wine industry to find out what works best. At one point, the company even produced a line of tonics and syrups.
This history as recognised by UNESCO, who have granted the cathedral cellars that are part of Contratto’s legacy with Heritage Site statues. A true treasure of the industry, these cellars are among the best that you will find in all of Italy, and truly reflect the prestige that the Contratto brand has worked so hard to develop over its existence.
Unfortunately, even the most famous of companies can start to falter. Once the 1990s approached, Contratto went into a decline. It was eventually sold to Carlo Bocchino, the owner of a grape distillery. Bocchino took it upon himself to work on restoring the once impressive name of Contratto. His work led to the restoration of the historic cellars that are the true heart of the winery. However, he added more. His investment resulted in the construction of new buildings and tasting rooms that once again began attracting people to the Contratto name.
His work restored the company to its former levels of prestige, but it now needed somebody to take it forward into the 21st century. Enter the Rivetti family, to whom Bocchino happily sold the company in 2011.
Businesspeople by trade, the Rivetti family made their entry into the sparkling Italian wine industry with the purchase. But don’t for a second think that Contratto will go into decline with them at the helm. They have restored Bocchino to his former role as the head of the company’s distillery, and his experience will help guide the family as the lay the groundwork for the path the company will take in the coming years.
With the Rivetti family behind it, Contratto looks set to broach international markets that it has previously not touched. The family is ambitious, but in Contratto they have a company that can match their ambitions in every aspect of its operations.
Of course, with all of that being said we’re sure you’re almost dying to find out more about one of the company’s best wines. Let’s take a look at a wine that we think that all sparkling white enthusiasts will enjoy.
One of the first things you will notice about the Contratto Extra Brut 2011 is its stunning golden colour. Just the smallest wisps of amber penetrate the dense gold, letting you know that this is a wine to be truly savoured.
The bouquet sets this wine apart from the many other sparkling Italian whites that have attempted to follow Prosecco’s lead in becoming an international phenomenon. You’ll pick up stunning notes of brioche, white flowers, and green apples. However, only those who take their time with the bouquet will pick up on the minerals that represent the land from which Contratto comes.
When you drink the wine, you’ll find these notes starts to give way to other interesting flavours. You’ll taste peach as perhaps the dominant flavour, but there are plenty more subtle notes for you to enjoy. For example, the wine hides hints of honey and hazelnuts, which will peek out when you least expect them.
All of this comes with a superb freshness that will reinvigorate you, no matter the time of day.