After fifteen years of tasting Barolo, I can’t think of any other producer whose wines create both a stir of excitement and a cringe of anxiety as much as the Barolo of Giuseppe Mascarello. There, I said it. The fact is that I can think of no other producer who is as widely loved, yet who also demonstrates such a large degree of variability. The love of Giuseppe Mascarello’s wines, especially Monprivato, runs so deeply that collectors are willing to forgive the high percentage of failed bottles and worries that accompany the decision to open one.
Unfortunately, the reason behind this variability remains unclear to me. Going back over the years, it’s interesting to follow my comments on these wines. If I go back far enough, I would always question why they seemed to never be ready to drink. Then there would be the off bottle, and then another off bottle. However, somewhere in the middle of all of this would be an outstanding performance from one of his wines that would send chills down your spine, hence the reason that we continue to buy Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that the more recent vintages seem much easier to appreciate in their youth. Going back five or more years, I wouldn’t dream of opening a Monprivato before the age of twenty; yet today, we are enjoying the 2004 and 2005 vintages. Without any talk of a change in style or vineyard practices, it’s hard to know what is creating these changes, but as our recent tasting showed, when Giuseppe Mascarello is on–IT’S ON!
Founded in 1881, Giuseppe Mascarello is renowned as one of the classic traditional producers of Barolo. The family started as tenant farmers, who took advantage of the opportunity to purchase a large portion of the Monprivato vineyard in 1904. Over the last century, the Mascarellos have continued to slowly acquire more parcels, and it is thought that they now control over 93% of the vineyard. Today, Monprivato is almost a monopole of the Mascarello family, as no other producer bottles its fruit as a single vineyard. You would need to look all the way back to 1990 for the last Monprivato made by another producer, and that’s the 1990 Brovia Monprivato, which we were lucky enough to have at this tasting.
The Monprivato vineyard is quite unique and visually stands out when surveying the surroundings of Castiglione Falletto. For one thing, the average vine age is 55 years old (quite old for this region), but then there is also its white calcareous soils with a good amount of limestone strewn throughout. The combination of these two attributes makes Monprivato hard to miss.
From Monprivato, Mauro Mascarello (the current owning family member) makes two wines. One is the namesake and iconic Monprivato, which was first produced in 1970 when Mauro realized that the quality of the vineyard justified its own bottling. The other is Ca’ d’Morissio (named for Mauro’s Grandfather), who had the original idea to use clonal selection to begin replanting portions of Monprivato with the rare michet clone. Today, Ca’ d’Morissio (made entirely from the michet clone and from old vines) stands as a towering bottle in both stature and price, yet if you are ever given the chance to taste it, do not hesitate.
This brings us to today and a group of fellow collectors from the Vinous forum, who have been talking about building a Giuseppe Mascarello vertical. As we were short one of the pillars of our group, (we missed you, Ken V.) the lineup was missing the icon ‘89 Monprivato, but with this group, you never have to worry about great vintages being placed on the table. We managed to amass vintages that spanned 45 years’ worth of G. Mascarello Barolo, starting with the ‘61 and ‘64 (which were made with a large portion of Monprivato), then leading into the first Monprivato, the 1970. We finished with the 2006, an amazing wine in the making.
On to the tasting notes:
1961 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Riserva – The nose was sweet and spicy with notes of raisin, dried-spicy citrus rind, and a note of sweet roasted pecan. It gained freshness with air, yet oxidation had taken hold, as this has already seen its best years. On the palate, it was soft and fleshy with notes of dried cherry, dried strawberry, leather and minerals. It finished long on soil tones and minerality. (92 points)
1964 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Riserva – The bouquet was remarkably similar to the ‘61 served before it, adding rosy medicinal cherry and animal musk to the sweetly spiced citrus notes. On the palate, an elevated bump of acidity defined its zesty and persistent performance, yet it lacked the elegance and purity of the best bottles. Dried red berry, leather and minerals lingered on the finish, marred by a slight bitterness. (88 points)
1970 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – In gorgeous form and still with many years of life left, the 1970 Monprivato was a dark, earthy and perfectly mature expression of Barolo. The bouquet was an earthy mix of moist soil, animal musk, parchment, worn leather, and dried strawberry. On the palate, I found an elegant expression with silky textures and a perfect balance of acid and still-lively tannin. Notes of dried cherry, minerals and a hint of tart citrus filled the senses and lasted into the long finish, along with a hint of inner dried florals. I wish I could have spent hours with this wine. (93 points)
1982 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – Here I found a darker and richer expression of Monprivato with notes of dried cherry, undergrowth, dusty earth, hints of mint and dried flowers. On the palate, broad fleshy textures were wonderfully offset by zesty acidity, as black cherry and minerals seemed to saturate the senses. It finished long and mouthwatering, yet perfectly mature. (94 points)
1990 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – And then the 1990 hit the table! It’s been five years since I last tasted the ‘90, and it has certainly improved in that time. Here I found and intensely dark and brooding wine. Masculine to be sure, with a nose of ripe strawberry, dried cherries, tobacco, exotic spice, spiced apple and a hint of orange zest. On the palate, I found silky, pure textures with dark spiced cherry, balsamic tones, earth, leather and zesty acidity. Hints of tannin lingered on the long finish, along with tart red berries. There’s so much energy here. (96 points)
1990 Brovia Barolo Monprivato – The nose showed dusty rosy florals, dried strawberry, mineral-stone, tar and dark earth. On the palate, I found feminine, lifted textures with stimulating acidity, coming across as angular, with a stern minerality and crystalline red berry fruits. It finished structured yet energetic, not showing any heat from the vintage. It’s a very classy wine, with more upside potential that most 1990s. (93 points)
1996 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – The nose showed black cherry, sweet spice, ironborn minerals, tobacco and dried roses. On the palate, it displayed persistent tart cherry fruit that saturated the senses, along with minerals and savory herbs. Both tannins and acidity were in perfect balance, creating a chiseled expression, leading into a tense and structured finish with saturating tart cherry. There’s a perfect symmetry to the ‘96 Monprivato, which placed it as one of my top wines of the night. (94 points)
1999 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – Unfortunately Flawed. (I included a tasting note of a ‘99 opened a year ago; However, it’s important to note that the bottle I had previous to that one was flawed as well. Following is the original note from the previous bottle). Back to form after my last bottle, the 1999 Monprivato was classic and refined, with a nose full of dried cherry, dusty spice, undergrowth, minerals, and rosy floral notes. On the palate, it was angular and austere, yet the potential in this wine lurks right below the surface, with notes of dried cherry, dark chocolate, balsamic tones and minerals hinting at a bright future. Staying red fruit saturated the senses throughout the finish, along with inner floral notes, dried leaves and soil. Wow! (96 points)
2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – As the 2001 Monprivato matures, it’s clear to me that it’s one of the vintage standouts. It doesn’t impress for its power as much as it does for its poise and refinement. The bouquet displays an expression of bright, lifted cherry and strawberry tones, with sweet florals, mint tea and a hint of citrus. On the palate, feminine textures mixed with caking minerality, bright strawberry fruits, and inner floral tones created a very pretty expression, as mild tannin set in and reminded me of its youthful state. It appears that the ‘01 will always be a lighter and prettier version of Monprivato, yet with the persistence to mature with decades. (93 points)
2004 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – Here I found a beautiful expression of mineral-laden cherry (a touch medicinal), dusty florals, dried citrus, and spice. It was lifted and feminine on the palate, showing silky textures with pure red fruits, saline-minerality, inner floral tones and hints of citrus. The finish was refined and soft with remnants of dried cherry and inner floral tones, which gave way to a coating of fine tannin. (94 points)
2006 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – Tasting the 2006 on this night, with the ‘82 and the ‘90 on the table, gave me the impression that it may one day mature into something that would fall somewhere in between these two great wines. The bouquet was dark and rich, but with soaring floral tones and lifting minerality, Black cherry, sweet herbs and hints of undergrowth filled the senses. On the palate, I found a brooding, massive wine that was barely restrained by youthful tannin, with silky broad textures and saturating dark red fruits. It had a way of being powerful and refined all at the same time, finishing of dried cherry and inner floral tones. (95 points)
Article, Tasting Notes and Photos by Eric Guido
When I think back to my exploration of Brunello di Montalcino, the first thing that comes to mind is how quickly I realized that there were wines that I thought were good, ones I thought were very good, and then there was Poggio di Sotto. Literally on another level from all others that I had tasted, Poggio di Sotto had a way of creating Brunello that spoke more to me of Grand Cru Burgundy than it did of Brunello. These ethereal specimens of Brunello thrilled me at every turn and became the wine I bought in every vintage. Because even when they weren’t blockbusters from the top vintages, they still provided me with a level of satisfaction that I couldn’t find anywhere else.
Unfortunately, the owner of Poggio di Sotto, Piero Palmucci, decided to sell the property back in 2011, and suddenly something seemed to be lost. Vintages from 2007 and on lacked that magical thrill that captivated me.
For years, I was searching for another Brunello that could provide me with that same level of satisfaction, and honestly (outside of paying for Soldera), I was beginning to wonder if I would ever find it.
Then the day came that I tasted my first Stella di Campalto.
Stella would tell you that the location of Stella di Campalto chose her, as her passion for the land and culture turned into a love for Sangiovese, and with time, Brunello di Montalcino. Being a neighbor of Poggio di Sotto, she was also fortunate to find a friend and mentor in Piero Palmucci, who she describes as the winemaker who whipped her into shape. This makes a lot of sense when you taste a wine from Stella di Campalto, as they have that same magic that drew me to Poggio di Sotto for so many years.
The property consists of 16 hectares, where Stella tends to olive groves, fruits, vegetables, and of course, Sangiovese. With vineyards that she planted in 1998, Stella produced her first Rosso in 2001. By the 2004 vintage, she began to bottle Brunello. Her approach in the vineyards began as organic, but over time the draw of biodynamic practices captured her attention and continues to this day. Stella farms six different parcels of Sangiovese, which are all tended to and picked according to their natural attributes. In the winery, the wines are fermented with natural yeasts in large upright wooden vessels before being transferred to neutral small French and Austrian oak.
There are no restrictions to the way that Stella makes these wines. In fact, she’ll tell you that the winemaking is instinctual more than anything else. The Brunello typically spends 45 months in oak, but the reality is that it isn’t bottled or released until she believes it is ready. It’s because of this that the release of Stella di Campalto can come a year or more behind the current releases of most producers. Since 2009 Stella has decided to bottle all of her Brunello as Riserva, which she could have done since the start, considering the lengthy aging regimen and late releases of her wine.
What’s even more exciting is that just as Poggio di Sotto had one of the greatest Rosso di Montalcinos (considered better than many producers Brunellos), so does Stella. The Rosso of Stella di Campalto is produced in the same fashion as her Brunello with one difference–it is only aged for 22 months in barrel. Through careful selection, Stella and a group of like-minded producers (some of my favorites by the way) taste through their wines together and decide which barrels will lend the best expression of Brunello or Rosso. The results are amazing. The Rosso di Montalcino of Stella di Campalto is extremely limited and should also be on the short list of any fan of the region.
Recently, I was lucky enough to sit with Stella and taste through a vertical of vintages, starting with the 2004. The tasting was an eye-opening experience. Separately, each of these wines were absolutely spellbinding. Together, they formed a history of this producer’s journey through the production of Brunello. Stella herself is just as charming, if not more so, than the wines she produces, and listening to her speak communicates the passion that she has for the land and the wine.
Simply stated, I can’t recommend these wines highly enough. The term, “buy the producer, not the vintage” is perfectly applied here, as each wine communicated it’s own unique story.
On to the wines: (I also included my most recent tasting note of the 2010, which was not served this day, but completes the picture of Stella’s journey with Brunello)
Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino 2005 – This displayed a stunning and bright mix of dried strawberry, floral undergrowth, fresh herbs and an almost salty-savory minerality. On the palate, it was lifted and feminine with angular textures, yet it never came across as hard or austere; instead the word “interactive” comes to mind. Dried strawberry and minerals lasted throughout its long finish. (93 points)
Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino 2006 – Here I found a dark and imposing bouquet with notes of dried cherry, smoke, crushed stone, charred meat and new leather. On the palate, I found glossy (not polished) textures with dark red persistent fruit, hints of plum, grapefruit and mediterranean herbs. The tension in the glass was impressive, as the ‘06 finished with a long display of minerality, bitter cherry, herbs and youthful tannin. I feel that it’s important to note that Stella refers to the 2006 as her Celine Dion. (95 points)
Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino 2007 – The ‘07 Stella di Campalto takes the ripeness of the vintage and marries it perfectly with the lifted nature of the house style. Here, crushed cherry dominated, yet still with a savory edge, giving way to sweet spice, dried orange peel and floral perfumes. On the palate, I found tart cherry and spice, with masses of sweet inner florals, in a light and feminine expression. The finish displayed tart cherry and savory herbal notes. There was a slight lack of substance here, but it’s a great effort for the vintage. (92 points)
Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino 2008 – The 2008 is the ‘Old Man’ according to Stella. Honestly, I don’t get her meaning, as this was pure class and extremely vibrant in the glass. A dark, rich display of red fruit gave way to wet stone minerality, savory spices, and leather. On the palate, I found silky textures contrasted by vibrant acidity, with persistent red fruits in a tense display that was full of energy and verve. The finish displayed tart red fruits and spice that clung to the senses while mouthwatering acidity worked to wash the palate clean. This is a gorgeous bottle of young Brunello. (94 points) Find it at Morrell
Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2009 – In what is easily one of my top wines of the ’09 Brunello vintage, here I found an amazingly fresh display of ripe strawberry, minerals, fresh herbs and dusty floral tones. On the palate, silky-weighty textures delivered masses of ripe dark red fruit with exotic spices, brisk acidity and a bitter twang, which provided depth. The finish was long and juicy–fresh–with notes of strawberry, inner floral tones and herbs. Wow, especially for the vintage. Stella calls this her ‘young artist’. (94 points) Find it at Morrell
Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 – Where do I start? What defines a Brunello? For the longest time, I would say a classic structure to age would be a point in the corner of a wine this young, yet here I found such a delicate nature and mesmerizing layers, that I’d find it difficult to leave in the cellar for longer than 5-10 years. Coming across more ethereal Burgundy than Brunello, the Stella di Campalto displayed a highly expressive nose, which seemed to continue opening with each tilt of the glass. There was earth, leather, crushed berries, dried flowers—which turned to deep and lively floral tones over time—as well as a savory toastiness, which wasn’t oak but something rich and warming. On the palate, it was soft, caressing, yet brilliantly focused in its ripe red fruits, sweet spice and herbal tones. The most elegant of tannin wrapped around the senses, yet were never drying. It clung to the palate throughout the finish, with saturating dark fruits and fine tannin. (97 points)
And let’s not forget about the Rosso di Montalcino!
Stella di Campalto Rosso di Montalcino 2008 – This is a Rosso? The 2008 Rosso di Montalcino is an outstanding effort with classic bouquet of undergrowth, dusty soil, savory herbs, crushed cherry and exotic floral tones. On the palate, I found weighty-silky textures with ripe cherry, acid infused minerality, and inner floral tones. It finished on red fruits, maybe a bit shorter than desired, yet this is a serious wine deserving of our attention. (92 points)
Article, Photos and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
For the longest time, I saw Burgundy as forbidden fruit. I would delve into a premier cru here or an upper-level village wine there. From time to time, a good friend would share something truly special, and I would swoon. As a lover of all things wine, its history, and with the inclination to learn about how each individual terroir creates such unique expressions, Burgundy was always a source of study. However, to study such a vast topic without the practical experience of tasting broadly only makes such a thing more trivial. And so, like many others out there, Burgundy was somewhat untouchable—until the summer of 2016.
Working as a wine director has its ups and downs. One of the ups is, without a doubt, the ability to travel to a region such as Burgundy, taste with over thirty of its top producers, and do so in the company of some of the most knowledgeable Burgundy lovers I’ve ever met. It didn’t hurt that these lovers of Burgundy were also foodies like myself, but that is a story for another time. For now, I’m here to talk about my journey further down the rabbit hole with some of the best Burgundy I’m sure I’ll ever taste.
The organizer of our trip placed us in the perfect location to access both the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. We made our home for this trip at the L’Hôtel de Beaune, located within the walled portion of the city and surrounded by an extensive mix of restaurants, wine shops and culture. This provided the perfect launching point for each day and the ideal location to unwind at night.
Having arrived only days after a horrible frost and weeks following a mass hail storm, the thing first and foremost on everyone’s minds was how the 2016 vintage would pan out. With each visit, you could see it on their faces as producers would try to make light of these events, but only so they could alleviate their own fears. We tend to think of the prices of Burgundy and assume that producers are well-compensated for their efforts, but the reality is that the majority of them are small houses that wax and wane with each vintage. Often times, the price of land or the rules of inheritance make their livelihoods very difficult. One bad vintage, one short vintage, or one lost vintage can be enough to sink even the most highly regarded Domaines.
2014: The Insiders Vintage
Tasting barrel after barrel, one thing that becomes immediately apparent is that the 2014 vintage created wines that speak to our hearts and minds. With a slight preference for the whites over reds, there’s no denying that 2014 has produced some of the most brilliantly sculpted and refined examples that we are sure to ever see. The reds will impress early with medium-term cellaring, and may even not make old bones, as they absolutely thrilled us with their purity and chiseled personalities. As for the whites, they are off the charts and are sure to please a broad audience. The 2014 White Burgundies are all about balance, with a noticeable density of fruit contrasted by stunning minerality and backbone. I for one will be stocking up, as this is one of the most exciting young vintages that I’ve ever tasted.
Looking Forward to 2015
What’s sure to be a critic’s vintage, the 2015s seem to explode from the glass. Their unbridled power and broad-shouldered fruit is sure to settle more as they continue to age in barrel, but clearly 2015 will be a bigger and more fruit-focused vintage. This is a not a bad thing, as the wines possess the focus necessary to impress both upon release and with medium-term cellaring. In fact, we will probably find 2015 to have a long drinking window and to be a vintage that will provide a lot of pleasure for a lot people.
Top Visits, Top Wines
With over thirty visits in seven days, it would be impossible to list them all, yet I’ve done my best to recount the visits that resonated with me the most, without waxing poetic about DRC for the next 2000 words. (And, yes, DRC was the experience of a lifetime.)
Tasting with Pierre Duroche was something of a revelation. Pierre is the 5th generation to run the estate, and with a soft-spoken manner and wine thief in hand, he showed us some of the trip’s best 2015 red Burgundies that we had the pleasure to taste. Each of Pierre’s micro-cuvees from throughout the Gevrey village were stunning, and as we moved up through the Premier and Grand Crus, my opinion was assured that this is one of the next great Burgundy producers in the making.
Wines of note: 2015’s Gevrey Chambertin Village, 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques, and 1er Cru Estournelles St. Jacques. – Domaine Duroche at Morrell
Based in Chassagne-Montrachet, today’s Bernard Moreau is run by Alexandre and Benoit. Alexandre took us from barrel to barrel, touring through their 200 yearold cellar, and tasting all of the current vintages. If there was one thing that I took from this visit, it’s that Bernard Moreau is making some of the best white Burgundy in the market today. What’s more, the 2014s at this address are off the charts. Picking favorites was like splitting hairs.
Wines of note: ‘14 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot, ‘14 1er Cru Les Champs-Gain, and ‘14 1er Cru Grandes Ruchottes. – Bernard Moreau at Morrell
Georges Mugneret Gibourg
Arriving at Mugneret Gibourg in Vosne-Romanée, and peeking out the back door at the sprawling vineyards of the village heading down to the D974, is a moment that I will never forget. I could practically feel the energy of this location welling up through the ground. We were greeted by Marie-Christine, who took us down into the cellars and began to pour glass after glass, both ‘14s from tank and ‘15s prepared earlier in bottle. These were some of the greatest young Burgundies I’ve ever tasted. Each wine was pure elegance in a glass, yet infused by the earth. They are simply gorgeous.
Wines of note: ‘14 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Chaignots,‘14 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Feusselottes, ‘14 Ruchottes-Chambertin and ‘15 Ruchottes-Chambertin – Georges Mugneret Gibourg at Morrell
Now the third generation winemaker of Marquis D’Angerville, Guillaume d’Angerville greeted us like an old friend as he walked us through the gardens surrounding the estate. D’Angerville is all about Volnay, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Guillaume led us through a selection of his ‘14s, which were spectacular. The elegance, matched by power and structure of these wines, creates a perfect balance and sense of raw potential.
Wines of note: ‘14 Volnay 1er Cru Les Fremiets, ‘14 Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds, and ‘14 Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs – Marquis D’Angerville at Morrell
Where do you go before your visit at the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti? To taste at Jean Grivot, of course. Our early morning meeting with Etienne at their cellar in Vosne-Romanée was a fantastic way to start the day. The wines of Jean Grivot may have crossed into the realm of price prohibitive, but I firmly believe they are still a good value compared to the company they keep. The ‘14s at this house are in perfect form, and the ‘15s (in mid-malo at the time) were coming along in an exciting trajectory.
Wines of note: ‘14 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts, ‘14 Clos Vougeot, ‘14 Echezeaux, and ‘14 Richebourg – Jean Grivot at Morrell
And so there it is. My trip further down the rabbit hole has left me feeling both anxious to taste these wines again and hoping to add many of them to my cellar. In the end, we all know that the best of Burgundy comes at a premium, but what other wines on earth can incite such emotion and such passion, and what for some becomes a lifelong obsession?
Article, Tasting Notes, and Photos by Eric Guido
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