Giuseppe Mascarello Revisited: 1967 - 2001


2001 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1999 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1998 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1996 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1990 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1989 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1988 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1985 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1982 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato


1978 G. Mascarello Barolo Villero


1967 G. Mascarello Barolo


1997 G. Mascarello Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’ Morissio


1996 G. Mascarello Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’ Morissio



Course 1 – Sirloin carpaccio

Course 2 – Zucchini risotto

Course 3 – Sauteed veal cutlets with shitake mushrooms

Course 4 – Selection of artisan cheeses

At a recent meeting of my local tasting group the focus was on the wines of Giuseppe Mascarello, one of Barolo’s historic producers. For this event we were fortunate to have Mauro Mascarello as our guest. The focus of the evening was Mascarello’s most famous wine, Monprivato, and his new luxury bottling the Riserva Ca’ d’Morissio. Chef Silvano Fiorindo, a veteran of Cipriani in New York, Buenos Aires and his native Venice, prepared an exquisite meal to accompany the wines. Chef Fiorindo’s menu started with a thinly sliced of carpaccio of sirloin. Seared on the outside and cooked perfectly to medium-rare in the center, it was an ideal dish with which to begin the dinner. He then prepared a zucchini risotto that paid homage to his Venetian roots in its style. That was followed by delicious sautéed veal cutlets served with shitake mushrooms, a dish that paired beautifully with our flight of Monprivatos from the 1980s. We finished with a selection of artisan cheesed with which we lingered over the final wines. It was a great evening of wine, food and conversation.

Flight 1: Mascarello’s 2001 Barolo Monprivato opens with a delicate perfumed nose and layers of expressive sweet red fruit on medium-bodied frame, with much length, elegance and finesse, closing with fine, silky tannins. Though deceptively understated today, it is likely to put on weight in the bottle and become more even more complex over the next few years. 95/Anticipated maturity: 2011-2026. The stunning 1999 Barolo Monprivato remains one of my favorite recent vintages of this wine, and my impression is that it will one day be regarded as one of the great Monprivatos of all time. Made in a rich, almost opulent style for this wine, the 1999 displays heady aromas of roses and sweet fruit, along with a more full-bodied profile than the 2001, with generous amounts of ripe fruit, outstanding length, exquisitely well-integrated tannins and a finish that lasts forever. As it sits in the glass, notes of minerals and tobacco gradually emerge to complete this magnificent Barolo. It is not to be missed. 95+/Anticipated maturity: 2009-2024. In previous tastings the 1998 Barolo Monprivato has always conveyed a slightly evolved quality in its color and flavors and I feared it was on a fast aging curve. Then the unthinkable happened. Although I have learned over the years that the evolution of Monprivato is virtually impossible to predict, I was stunned to see how youthful this wine has become with a few years of bottle age, as unlikely as that may sound. It comes across as quite fresh, with a very classic expression of Monprivato in its floral nose, vibrant red fruit and medium bodied, open-knit personality. While the 1998 doesn’t possess the structure or complexity of the very finest vintages it also won’t require years of cellaring before reaching its peak and is an excellent choice for mid-term consumption and for those who want to explore Monprivato without waiting years for a bottle to reach maturity. 92/Anticipated maturity: 2006-2020. The 1996 Barolo Monprivato shows a darker, more brooding side of Monprivato, with suggestions of tobacco, leather, scorched earth, licorice, iron and cocoa on the nose and tightly wound layers of sweet dark fruit with a big, powerful personality. It is a formidably structured, youthful Barolo that will require at least a few more years for the tannins to integrate. This is one of the least evolved bottles of this wine I have had and I imagine it will still be a compelling wine at age 30. Mauro Mascarello believes 1996 to be the best vintage of the last 50 years. Personally I find the tannins of the 1996 to still be quite hard and prefer the greater finesse of the 2001 and especially the 1999, which marries power with elegance. Both the 2001 and 1999 strike me as more elegant and better balanced wines, but ultimately time will tell. The 1996 is unquestionably an attractive wine that will find its greatest admirers among those who love firmly structured, classic Barolos built to age for decades. 94/Anticipated maturity: 2011-2026.

Flight 2: We then moved into a series of great Monprivatos mostly focused on the great vintages of the 1980s. The 1990 Barolo Monprivato showcases the opulent, ripe quality of the vintage in its heady alcoholic nose and deeply expressive notes of ethereal sweet dark fruit, licorice, leather, roasted coffee beans and tobacco that coat the palate with notable expansiveness in a soft yet generous style. It is a great example of a Barolo that has reached the peak of its expression. Although it will continue evolve gracefully there is little upside in cellaring bottles too much longer. 95/Anticipated maturity: 2006-2011. With its intensely perfumed, balsamic nose, delicate layers of sweet dark fruit and notable overall harmony, the 1989 Barolo Monprivato perfectly captures the essence of the vintage. It is a study in contrasts to the more fruit-driven 1990 and comes across fresher and more youthful than that wine in a structured style that recalls the 1996, but with perhaps a touch more elegance and finesse. A persistent sweet note of licorice rounds out the lingering finish of this unforgettable Barolo. Awesome. 95/Anticipated maturity: 2006-2016. Mascarello’s 1988 Monprivato is another gem. It is a classic Monprivato, with a clear red color, and perfumed. ethereal aromas that soar out of the glass. Showing plenty of vibrancy and freshness as well as clean, focused flavors in its suggestions of roses, anise, strawberries and raspberries, it epitomizes elegance and finesse. Although it is perhaps not the most complex or age-worthy Monprivato it nevertheless is a beautiful wine to drink now and over the next 10-12 years. "In 1987 I purchased a plot in the Monprivato vineyard from Violante Sobrero. The vines didn’t respond immediately to my pruning and for two years continued to produce the higher yields to which they had been previosuly accustomed. For that reason I have never been fully satisfied with my 1988," adds Mascarello. 91/Anticipated maturity: 2006-2018.

Unfortunately our bottle of the 1985 Barolo Monprivato was not representative. It displays an evolved nose, and modest sweet perfumed fruit, but its compact, unyielding frame and dryish tannins suggest a less than perfect cork. I have been fortunate to taste this wine on two other occasions within the last 18 months (95+ points 05/05, 96 points 10/05) and sadly this bottle did not live up to our expectations. Well stored bottles of the 1985 Monprivato will offer a great mature-Barolo drinking experience in a similarly ripe, open-knit style as the 1990 tasted in this flight. That disappointment was quickly forgotten with the appearance of the 1982, one my personal favorites. Though not terribly expressive on the nose at first, the stunning 1982 Barolo Monprivato comes to life on the palate, where is displays generous amounts of sweet fruit, tobacco and mineral notes, with excellent concentration and an expansive, profound personality which recalls the ripeness of the 1990 but with the length, finesse and classic structure that defines the 1989. It is one of the most complete and thoroughly enjoyable wines of the evening, competing with the 1989 for honors as the best Monprivato of the 1980s. A great effort. 96/Anticipated maturity: 2006-2012.

Flight 3: Next up were two older gems. Mascarello’s 1978 Barolo Villero displays a balsamic nose with cocoa, leather and licorice overtones along with deeply packed dark fruit on a massive, structured frame of great length, very much in the style of the austere, still youthful vintage. It should continue to drink well for at least another decade. 91/Anticipated maturity: 2006-2016. Nothing we had tasted so far could have prepared us for the wine that would follow. I have only had Mascarello’s 1967 Barolo once before but this bottle was simply off the charts. It opens with a beguiling, complex nose with prominent aromas of chocolate and leather, then flows onto the palate with waves of sweet dark fruit that open with notable concentration and extraordinary finesse. For many in the group, myself included, the 1967 Barolo was the Wine of the Night. It is the kind of wine one so often hopes to drink yet so rarely gets to drink. It was also without question the wine that stimulated the most conversation. The practice of blending fruit from various communes has all but disappeared today, but tasting this wine made me think about how sage that approach may have been and I was not alone in that thought. Although perhaps not as singularly expressive as the best Monprivatos, the 1967 Barolo offered a level of completeness, harmony and sheer drinking pleasure that none of the other wines had. "It used to be common practice to make Barolos from fruit that was sourced from different communes. One vineyard might give you the perfume, while another would provide the concentration of fruit. Grapes from a third site could be used for structure. By blending the fruit from these different sources you could make a wine that had all of the qualities needed to make a great, well-balanced wine," says Mascarello. "The reality is that if you’re going to make a single-vineyard Barolo you need a plot that can give you all three elements - perfume, fruit and structure- and there aren’t too many sites where that is possible." 96/Anticipated maturity: 2006-2011.

Flight 4: The 1967 Barolo would have been a great wine with which to end just about any evening, but not this one. Mascarello continues "In 1970 I wanted to make my first wine using only Monprivato fruit, but my father was opposed to my making a single-vineyard wine. Finally he relented, but he told me that if I absolutely had to go ahead with my idea I should use the fruit from a specific plot within the vineyard that was was planted with a special, low-yielding clone of the Michet variety of nebbiolo." In the mid-1980s when Mascarello decided to produce special Riserva he started an intense research project to isolate the most consistently outstanding plants in the vineyard. Over the course of four years he narrowed down the top-performing plants from 1900 to 160. He then grafted those clones onto low-yielding rootstock in a one hectare plot within the Monprivato vineyard planted to a higher than normal density. The first wines were produced in vintages 1993 and 1995 but it wasn’t until 1996 and 1997 that the true potential of this wine began to emerge. Only bottled in vintages where Mascarello feels the Riserva is significantly higher in quality than his Monprivato, the Ca’ d’Morissio has established itself as one of the region’s most unique and compelling wines.

The 1997 Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’Morissio is an absolutely irresistible wine that balances the opulence of the vintage with a classic sense of proportion. It opens with an exotic nose of roses, minerals, and sweet fruit that melds seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine explodes with masses of super-ripe fruit in a rich, concentrated style. As the wine sits in the glass its underlying structure becomes more apparent, suggesting that despite its ripeness, this wine is built to age. This was every bit as impressive as it has been in previous tastings, and it was also the first bottle to be finished. It will last for decades. 95/Anticipated maturity: 2012-2027. Mascarello’s 1996 Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’Morissio, with its more classic aromas and flavors is the perfect foil to the 1997. It shows a captivating, well-delineated nose that suggests roses, violets and minerals, along with densely packed layers of primary black cherry fruit on a big, structured frame with notable length, purity and imposing tannins. Though not especially expressive today, my sense is that this wine is holding back much of its potential and it will be a fascinating effort to follow, but it will require significant patience. 95+/Anticipated maturity: 2011-2031.

-- Antonio Galloni