The last mohican of traditionally made Barolos

© Terroir wine bar, New York
Bartolo Mascarello, who left us in 2005, was the guerrilla warfare rebel or as he used to call himself, “the last of the mohicans”, when it came to protecting traditional methods that render honest wines without making any comprises to any international markets. He is most famous for having the special designed label “No barrique, no Berlusconi” on his bottles making it absolutely clear that he hated barriques and was not the least in favour of Berlusconi’s politics. Two great evils in his world. A stubborn man of old school barolos that opposed any unnatural addition to wine making or adaptions in tough vintages. A truly honest estate that with pride celebrates the unique and great expression of the nebbiolo grape from Barolo. Yes, we are absolutely true fans.

Moreover, on Manhattan there is a wine bar that sells t-shirts with a red framing of him that resembles Che Guevara, see the figure. In addition, Bartolo refused to make single vineyard wines when required by the market back in the late 70’s, since he strongly believed that since no vineyard is great every year, blending renders the best and most consistent possible barolo every vintage. Their barolo is a blend of grapes originating from the vineyards; Rocche dell’Annunziata, Cannubi-San Lorenzo and Rue.

Today Bartolo’s daughter Maria-Theresa heads the estate with the help of enologist Alessandro Bovio and everything continues in the same great fashion according to her father’s principles as it always has which means that they still use cement vats for fermentation without any temperature control, traditionally long maceration with sub-merged caps and age their wines only in neutral, big barrels (botte). When we visited them a few years ago, we understood that no old equipment and tools are replaced if unnecessary, but I think the key is that everything is kept clean in the cellar and focus is on the vineyards with quite a hands-off approach in the cellar.

The 2006 vintage is classic and was quite warm during first part of summer, but luckily in late August and September a cooler period emerged that offered the preferable slower ripening for nebbiolo. It is very much on the heavier side with great concentration, powerful structure and with a lot of promising energetic acidity as well as aromatics. It certainly needs considerable time to settle and peak.

Bartolo Mascarello Barolo 2006

Make sure to air this wine for at least three-four hours in a decanter, but follow the wine if you can. The immediate nose puts me in a very fresh and balsamic herbs garden. The typical seductive fragrant roses follows, but here they are very seductive and intense, and of course tar. Moreover, the base offers saline mushrooms, dry oil paint, some glue, licorice, leather jacket, very intense, vibrant minerals, distinct conserved raspberry and complex, fresh fruit of which blackberry is the most prominent. The nose is so complex, seductively fresh and deep that you just want to sit and discover it further for a while.

After giving it 3.5 hours of airing in a decanter, the today somewhat gnarly and energetic acidity calms down tremendously and then you can taste really pure and deep layers of fruit. Furthermore, the mid palate offers grape-peel, shale, dry licorice-root, fennel and very balsamic herbs. Texture is fine sandy, unexpectedly almost silky, and the quality of the tannins are ripe and pleasantly chewy. Concentration is impressive, structure is weightlessly of medium power, body is on the slim side and it is very persistent. The only tiny remark is the little austere tone in the end, but I think this is will go away with time. And again, Mascarello makes it clear that harsh, hard tannins should never be associated with traditionally made barolos. In fact, they are very approachable already at this stage. I am pretty sure that they harvested relatively early this year and still rendered these very ripe tannins, but could explain the approachability somewhat.

After a really impressive and complex nose, the overall impression is that this is a fantastically detailed and balanced wine even though it is still a baby, offering depth and purity of fruit with a rare concentration and elegance. Open 2017.


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