Giuseppe Mascarello Vertical Tasting
In May of this year I attended two very special tastings at
Cru in New York. Winemakers Roberto
Conterno and Mauro Mascarello were in town to present extensive verticals of
their Barolos. The first tasting took
place in the afternoon and featured current releases as well as a few older
vintages. Although I generally avoid
trade events because they don’t allow enough time to accurately assess each
wine, this sit-down tasting, which was hosted by importer Doug Polaner, was
extremely well organized. Cru Wine
Director Robert Bohr and his staff did an outstanding job in coordinating the
service of the wines, which was no small feat.
Between the afternoon tasting and the dinner that followed, I don’t
think I have ever tasted so many profound and emotionally moving wines in a
single day! The wines were double
decanted a few hours prior to serving.
Mauro Mascarello led the group though several flights of his
most famous wine, Monprivato, as well as his newer Riserva bottling, Ca’ d’
Morissio. The Giuseppe Mascarello
winery boasts a rich lineage that goes back to 1881 when Giuseppe Mascarello
purchased his first plot of land in Monforte.
His son Maurizio purchased vineyards in Monprivato in 1904 that remain
the core of the family’s holdings.
After having spent many years working at the estate with his
father, Giuseppe II, Mauro Mascarello made his first wines in 1967. In 1970 Mauro began to vinify the grapes from
his various vineyards separately.
Although Mascarello defines the decade between 1968 and 1977 as one in
which he experimented with various vinification techniques, today the wines are
made in a very traditional manner.
“There aren’t many of us traditionalists left,” jokes Mascarello. Mauro has recently been joined in the winery
by his son Giuseppe, ensuring that this estate’s heritage will continue into
The Monprivato vineyard, located in Castiglione Falletto, is
one of the great monopole sites in Piedmont.
The Mascarello family has owned their parcels, which measure just over
six hectares, for over 100 years. Within
Monprivato there had always been a special parcel from which Mascarello hoped
to produce a riserva. In the mid-1980s
Mascarello began a quest that would take him over four years to identify the
best and most suitable clones of the Michet varietal to plant in the
vineyard. The parcel was finally
re-planted in 1988 and Mascarello named the new wine Ca’ d’Morissio (house of
Maurizio) in honor of his grandfather.
Both wines are traditionally made and see a long
fermentation lasting between 18-25 days, depending on the vintage, and extended
aging in Slavonian oak casks of about 36 months for the Monprivato and at least
an additional 12 months for the Ca’ d’Morissio.
The first vintage for Ca’ d’Morissio was 1993, although just
a few bottles were made, while full production began in 1995. Mascarello releases this wine only when he
believes there is a noticeable difference in quality between Monprivato and Ca’
d’Morissio. Other recent vintages
include 1997 and the as yet unreleased 1996.
There is no Ca’ d’Morissio for vintages 1998-2000, although there is a
Barolo Monprivato 1970-1999
We started with Monprivato and two recent vintages, 1999 and
1998, followed by the 1993 which appeared to be in an awkward stage.
Monprivato—Lively medium red. This
elegant and understated Barolo displays plenty of sweet cherry fruit and
mineral flavors with a very pretty, layered quality. A delicate wine of great finesse and
potential. 93 points/drink after 2014,
Monprivato—Dark red. Very floral
nose with notes of tobacco. Deeper,
darker and denser than the 1999, with dark red/almost black fruit flavors,
hints of cherries in liqueur, and a riper lusher personality than the
1999. Like so many 1998s, this is
showing beautifully right now. A
terrific effort. 92 points/drink after
2008, tasted 05/05
Monprivato—Dark ruby. Shows a dense,
classic palate of ripe red fruit, with notes of leather and tar, but the
tannins are overwhelming and the 1993 is not as expressive as the other wines
in the tasting. I am sure there is more
to the wine, but this bottle is tough to assess accurately today. 90+? points/drink after 2008, tasted 05/05
With the second flight we experienced the magic of
Monprivato with four breathtaking wines from the 1970s and 1980s. As the wines got older, they still retained
all of the hallmark aromas and tastes of the younger wines, but the flavors at
once become more integrated yet more delineated at the same time.
Monprivato—Rich ruby. Nose of spices
and fresh cut flowers. Outrageously
massive on the palate and packed with dark fruit, spices, tar and enough
tannins to warrant at least a few more years of cellaring. 94+ points/drink after 2009, tasted 05/05
Monprivato—Medium red. The beautiful
1985 offers an ethereal, multi-dimensional nose of breathtaking complexity and
nuance with notes of roses and minerals, leading to sensations of rich sweet
fruit with a balsamic character. Softer
than the 1989, this profound 1985 is at or near a glorious peak of
expression. 95+ points/drink now-?-,
Monprivato—Medium translucent ruby.
Evolved balsamic nose. This densely structured Barolo shows plenty of
red fruit and mineral character, with superb length and a gorgeous youthful
finish that belies its 26 years of age.
Perhaps not as complex as the previous wines, but this is still highly
enjoyable. 93 points/drink-now-?, tasted
Monprivato—An unexpected treat to taste the very first vintage of
Monprivato, personally hand-carried on the airplane by Mauro Mascarello
himself. The 1970 displays an evolved
ruby color and notes of tobacco, beef broth, minerals and balsam. Despite its mature age, the 1970 comes across
as fresh and youthful, with amazing harmony, elegance, and a wonderful sense of
proportion. 93 points/drink now-?,
Speaking purely objectively, the 1970 and the 1979 don’t
have the depth and expressiveness of the 1985 and the 1989, yet I think
everyone in the room, myself included, was simply floored by the astonishing
performance of the 1970 and 1979 given their age, and especially considering
that these are two vintages that are not considered to be first-rate. This was a memorable flight and a valuable
lesson that confirms the stature of Monprivato.
Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’Morissio 1995-1997
Our last flight explored the first three full-production
vintages of Mascarello’s Riserva Ca’ d’Morissio, a wine that is certain to take
its place among the elite bottlings of the region.
1997 Barolo Riserva
Ca’ d’Morissio—Dark ruby. A stunning
effort, showing generous amounts of deep, dark black fruit, licorice and tar
flavors that explode onto the palate, with tremendous length and
structure. A truly outrageous and
decadent wine that will require patience.
95 points/drink after 2012, tasted 05/05
1996 Barolo Riserva
Ca’ d’Morissio—Lively dark ruby. Very
primary, showing a dense, chewy palate of red fruits in a classic, austere
style. The 1996 is a big wine that
remains reticent, showing great purity of expression, but revealing only hints
of its multi-dimensional character and holding back so much. Mascarello has decided to delay the release
of this wine because he feels it is not yet ready. 93+ points/drink after 2011, tasted 05/05,
(not yet released)
1995 Barolo Riserva
Ca’ d’Morissio—Lively medium ruby. A
huge wine…dense and extracted with generous amounts of rich red fruit and a
distinct element of minerality, with tremendous length and sustain on the
palate. A super effort. 93 points/drink after 2010, tasted 05/05