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. Fontanafredda’s revival under Farinetti looks assured and this sleeping beauty of the Langhe – its vineyards are surely among the finest in the area – is now on a clear upward trajectory. 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.