A Morning with Mascarello

One of the last sunny days in November this year brought a small group of sommeliers to a house on the cliffs facing Oslo harbour and a tasting with one of the great traditionalists in Langhe – Giuseppe Mascarello.

Mascarello has an unusually long and rich history for a barolo producing winery. The family was producing wines already in the beginning of the 19th century and can show an unbroken line all the way to todays generation. Apart from being an old family Mascarello was actually one of the first to initiate bottlings of single vineyard barolo; their most famous wine being the barolo Monprivato, originating from a 15 acre vineyard facing southwest on a slope in Castiglione di Faletto with predominantly chalky soil.

A display of different wines and vintages at a tasting with Giuseppe Mascarello's wines

The tasting started off with Dolcetto Santo Stefano 2012 The wine had an herbacious, almost harsh nose, with aromas of sour cherries and pine. Soft grip, easy tannins, a bit short and unfocused. The wine was macerated for a week and was stored in concrete. Overall the dolcetto felt a bit over-ripe despite the lack of concentration, something that will hopefully turn our to be just a faze.

Next wine was Barbera Scudetto 2010 from the vineyard Perno in Monforte d’Alba. The wine had a dark, rich color and was a bit tight on the nose, with aromas of asphalt, sour cherries and lead. The dark aromas appeared again in the taste, but apart from that the wine was having an off-day, being quite reductive and unwilling.

Before going over to Nebbiolo we made a detour past Freisa. Freisa is one of Piemonts most underappreciated grapes. Herbacious, with a surprising amount of tannins yet light in color and pleasing on the palate it always offers an interesting experience to the taster. The Toetto Langhe Freisa 2009 comes from Castiglione di Faletto in one of it’s most easily accessible vintages. The nose was very floral with hints of lavender and rose petals. The tannins were well developed if a little uneven in the mouth. The length as well was a bit uneven, with the fruit finishing well before the tannins and leaving a slightly dry and thin aftertaste. Unfortunately this did not seem like a phase but a permanent state. I doubt if the wine well develop very well after 2015.

The first three wines having been a bit of a let down we turned our hopes to nebbiolo. Barolo Villero 2008 showed an elegant light red hue in the glass and an initially fiery yet with air diminuative aroma of rowanberry and goji berries. With a light but still serious structure and juicy acidity it was maybe a bit lacking in fruit concentration , but ended with lovely aromas of sour cherries, almonds and violet.

The following wine – the Monprivato 2009 – started off with an inviting nose exhibiting aromas of rowan berry, dried coriander and fish bone. The tannins were bigger and more tightly knit than in the Villero and despite a quite thin fruit profil the length and aftertaste of rose hip, turnip and rowan berry were quite pleasing.

The last wine – the Monprivato 2010 – was in great want of air. Initial aromas of horse glue and terpentine eventually gave way to blueberries and rose leaves. With quite large tannins and a small, lingering hint of oak it proved to be the best of the lot, ending evenly with a pleasing sensation of dark plums and pencil.

Overall I must say that the tasting was a bit of a disappointment. It seems as if the Mascarello family try to vinify their other grapes just like their nebbiolo, with an unrefined result. The nebbiolos themselves were far better then the rest, but considering that we were tasting three great vintages I still feel that their ”transparent and elegant” style that they are so famous for had still dipped over in a lack of concentration and focus, at least considering the prices that these wines fetch on the international market…

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