“Wine International” -March 2004
COLLECTING & INVESTING
Italy out of the ordinary
CHARLES METCALFE broadens his mind at vertical tastings frorn two very different wineries: one a century-old Barolo, and the other praised as “the Sassicaia of the south” with just 11 vintages to its name.
“The problem with good Italian wines from regions other than Barolo and the Chianti zones,” announced Michael Palij, “is that they don’t have library stock of older vintages. The exception is Sassicaia”. Palij was introducing the first in what he billed as a series of tastings “to educate consumers and the trade to better things than the generai selection of wines from Italy”.
As an MW and specialist importer of fine ltalian wines, this seemed a fine, mind-broadening purpose, especially as he had persuaded Silvia Imparato, of Montevetrano, to give a vertical tasting of every wine she had ever made!(Since her first vintage was in 1992, this is not quite as daunting as it sounds.) …The second of Palij’s ltalian experiences was a 7 vertical of Mascarello’s Barolo Monprivato. Mauro Mascarello and his son Giuseppe were both there to talk about the wines. We tasted 11 wines, from “little” to “great” vintage. The Monprivato vineyard is a little more than 6ha in the heart of the Barolo region, near the village of Castiglione Falletto. Some of it was bought by Mauro’s grandfather Maurizio, in 1904. He planted part of the vineyard with a specially intense clone of Nebbiolo known as Michét. The Michét vines were replanted by Giuseppe, Mauro’s father in 1963 and by Mauro in 1985. This was also the year when Mauro bought most of the rest of the Monprivato vineyard (the Mascarello family now owns 95%).
Since 1970, Mauro has bottled the Monprivato wines separately when he considers them good enough, and the wine from the Michét vines since 1993 (as “Cà d’Morissio”, in memory of Mauro’s grand-father), but only in the best years. …Mauro emphasises the work in the vineyard with strict controls of quantity, short winter pruning, removaI of bunches in spring and summer, and hand-picking the grapes, discarding any rotten ones in the vineyard. No herbicides are used, and as little pesticides and fertilisers (manure) as possible. this results in yields of 42hl/ha generally, and 3hl/ha to 40hl/ha for Cà d’Morissio. Mauro has developed a particuIar closed stainless steel fermenter to reproduce the traditionaI style of long, gentle fermentation.”The modern way is rotary fermenters, hot fermentations and lots of new oak”, he says wist—fully. “We want to accentuate the character of the grape”. And the Monprivato wines are the epitome of dense but elegant Barolo, gaining fragrance and perfume as they age.
MASCARELLO VERTICAL TASTING
98 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1970
This was the first year Mauro Mascarello bottled wine made from the Monprivato vineyard separately from the rest. And, as the family did not increase their holding of Monprivato till 1985, they were still buying in grapes from other owners. But it’s wonderful wine.1970 was a hot, dry year, and the tannins reflect this ( allied to the less advanced winemaking of 30 years ago). The nose is fine and spicy, with a definite almond note. Acid and tannin are still high, but everything else has fined down to dried cherry fruit and spice, with a long herb and chocolate aftertaste. Great wine! Drink 2004-2024. Not available in the UK
97 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1990
Mascarelio says this was the first “great modern” vintage ot Piemonte. Everything went right, with sunny weather from May onwards. Selection was not so strict, as there was no rot, and there was a big harvest of “lovely” grapes. And it shows. A dark and spicy nose with notes of clove, mint and chocolate. The palate is powerful yet aromatic, with dense, ripe tannins and dark, malty plummy fruit. The lengt opens up the fragrances to come: dried fruit and flowers dominant. Lovely now with a great future. Drink 2004-2024. Not available in the UK
96 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1979
A hot vintage, with little rain in summer and autumn. The weather alternated hot and cold in autumn, but this was a good year. And the wine is ageing beautifully. It is now mature but stili at the height of its powers, with savoury perfune and prune and flower notes. Big, firm tannins are balanced by rich, dried fruit, balsamic and mint. The finish and length are excellent. Dried fruit and flowers give way to mint and savoury power. Drink 2004-2010. Not available in the UK
96 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1989
Snow in April was followed by a heatwave in May. It was sunny and hot in summer and autumn, but perhaps too hot around veraison. Consequently, the tannins are firmer than they might have been. But it is great Barolo, with complex, tarry, minty aromas, hgih acidity and very firm tannins. More on the spicy elegant side than the fruity with great poise, intensity and perfusme, let down only by the sligtly rough tannins. Drink 2004-2020 £ 58,75 @ FWL
95 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1971
This was a hot, sunny year throughout the growing season, with only a little rain. Tomperatures were as high as in 2003, but the grapes kept their acidity, despite a final alcohol level of more than 14%. The nose is very fragrant, with balsamic tones and a fine, fragile oharacter. Tannins are still firm, and there is a Iively, dried fruit flavour, as welI as lots of spice and balsamic fragrances. It’s lovely, elegant, poised Barolo, and still very muchalive. Drink 2004-2012. Not available in the UK.
95 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello, Cà d’Morissio 1995
This is the only exemple of the wine made from the Nebbiolo Miohét vines we tasted, and the second Mauro made. 1995 was a good year, with a cool spring and a hot, breezy summer. Three days of rain at the end of August refreshed the vines, and September was sunny. This spends longer in wooden vats (40 months) than Monprivato, but the intensity of the wine is such that it’s not nearly ready to drink. Tannins are incredibly high, but the wine is the epitome of spicy elegance. Terrific length, great potential. Drink 2010-2030. Not available in the UK.
92 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1998
After a slow, cold start, development picked up in the summer, with higher temperatures than normaI. Three days of rain in early September revived the vines, then the sun shone through autumn and the harvest. This has an uItra-ripe, almost toffeed ocaracter, with dark, rich, pruney fruit. Tannins are ripe and impressive, and there is intense, dried berry fruit length. The wine seems a little reductive; it just needs time. Drink 2006-2026. £ 33.95+ @ BBR, CAV, LAY, WTA
89 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1988
After a cold, wet start, and late flowering, the vines made up time in a hot, breezy summer. Autumn was mixed, and the harvest started in mid-October. This was heralded as a great vintage, but now seems less impressive. It has complexity, starting with mushroomy aromas. The fruit is jammy but lively and made more interesting by the savoury, mushroomy intensity. The length is elegant and prune-scented. Drink 2004-2008. £ 58.75 @ LAL
87 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1992
A hard year, resulting in early drinking 11 years on. Spring was cool and wet. The summer mixed rain, cold and heat. August was hot, but September and Qctober rainy and wet. This has cherry perfume, with a light, slightly jammy character. There is some dried cherry length, but alcohol grins on the finish. Drink 2004-2005. Not available in the UK
86 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1984
Everything was late this year, after a growing season of not much sun or warmth, and lots of rain and cold. By the time the grapes were picked in early November, there was already snow on the ground. This has a jammy aspect to it from the start, with a hint of volatile acidity. Tannins are firm, but the fruit is simple and jammy. Frankly, it’s done well to survive this long in a drinkable condition. Drink 2004. Not available in the UK
84 Barolo Monprivato Mascarello 1981
A hard year, though Mauro rated the end result as “average”. A hot summer with lots of storms, and a changeable autumn. It was sunny at picking time, but the rain had already done its damage. The frit seems good on the nose, and there are aromas of aniseed and licquorice, but the tannins are aggressive, the acid a bit high and the overall result a bit thin. There are spicy notes, but it lacks balance. Drink 2004-2006. Not available in the UK