Dinner with Mauro Mascarello, 23 March 2006
at a Private Home in NYC

Six pages of photos of Mauro Mascarello, the wines, the food, and the people at this wonderful evening can be found here.

Antonio arranged this dinner with Mauro Mascarello. Mauro is a giant of traditional wine-making in Barolo. He took over winemaking duties at his family winery, Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio, in 1967. The official name of the winery is now Azienda Agricola Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio di Mauro Mascarello & C. s.s.

Antonio arranged for his friend Silvano to cook for us. Silvano is a chef for Cipriani in NYC. His food is marvelous. He refused any fee. We paid for the ingredients and gave him some bottles of Monprivato which Mauro signed for Silvano. It was the least we could do!

Many thanks to Antonio and Marzia for arranging this whole evening and treating us all so well. It was a very special evening to sit and drink these wines with the man who made them. Thanks also to Greg and Antonio for translating.

Below are my tasting notes interspersed with comments and stories by Mauro (translated by Greg and/or Antonio).

All wines opened between 6 and 6:30pm unless otherwise noted.


Wine: 1999 Gaja Rossj-Bass Langhe
Food: Prosciutto di Parma wrapped around homemade breadsticks.

1999 Gaja Rossj-Bass Langhe

[Opened at 7pm.] Big buttery, crisp, tart. Pleasant, California-style chardonnay. 87 points.

FLIGHT #1 (7:30)

Wines: Monprivato 2001, 1999, 1996, 1998.
Food: Sirloin Carpaccio with String Beans (made with Clerico olive oil from Liguria).
A really tasty dish with perfect olive oil. Great with these young wines, but something special with the 1999 Monprivato.

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Lightest color in this flight. Gorgeous nose of minerals, red fruits, and something quite ethereal. Big, complex, tannic, powerful, but not thick or rich at all. Hot on the finish. Lots of sweet licorice when tasted with the beef. Doesn't wow me, but hard to judge at this stage. 92-93 points for now.

1999 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Muted nose of vanilla, chocolate, wet stones, and a little spice. Thicker than the 01. Very tannic, but good fruit in balance. The super-long finish is stunning! The wine is so sweet with the beef. The finish seems to ring on and on for 2 minutes with the beef. This is a marvelous young wine and (at around $60) one of the best values in Barolo. 95 points.

1996 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Muted nose. Bigger, richer, more tannic than either of above. More powerful and tighter also.
Superb length. A brooding beast. 92-96 points.
After Flight #2: Even more length. Not an easy wine to drink tonight, but the potential is clear. Drink 2015-2030. 94-96 points.

1998 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
[Opened at 8pm.] Heavenly nose. More flowers and fruit than any of the others in the flight. Lots of licorice in the nose. Thicker and sweeter than the others, but still with loads of tannin underneath. The most pleasurable in this flight to drink tonight. Great stuff. Buy a case of this to drink while the others come around. 94 points.

Mauro's ranking of this flight for drinking now: 1998, 1999, 2001, 1996.
When asked about the future, he basically says they will all be great in their own time.

Story from Mauro:

In 1979 Mauro's father, Giuseppe, heard that grapes from the Rionda vineyard might be available. Someone (a broker?) took Giuseppe and Mauro to visit Canale to see about buying his Rionda grapes. When they arrived the person who brought them there said Wait, Bruno Giacosa is in there. We have to wait for him to leave. It seems that Canale had a policy that whoever had bought the grapes the previous year got first crack at this year's grapes.

Giacosa came out fuming and someone said He must have passed on the grapes. He looks mad. Giuseppe said Well, if they are too expensive for Giacosa, they are certainly too expensive for us. The guy who brought them there said they should check. Canale said they were terrific grapes and worth the higher price that year. So they bought them. Mauro made the wine and was shocked that it was almost clear. When they got a call the next year asking if they wanted the grapes again, they said no because the wine was still clear. Then a few months later, in spring of 1981, the color changed and the wine was great. But by then Giacosa was back taking all the grapes, and they never got them again.

Comment from Mauro: When asked about the producers he felt the greatest affinity with, he mentioned Bartolo Mascarello and G. Conterno. When asked specifically about Giacosa, he said something like Yes, but he's right on the edge of being too modern.

FLIGHT #2 (8:30)

Wines: Monprivato 1990, 1989, 1988.
Food: Zucchini Risotto
Heavenly! Delicious taste of fresh zucchini. A terrific dish, though not as good a match to the wines as the other dishes.

1990 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Intense plummy, slightly pruny nose. Complex, big, rich, tannic. Sweet licorice. Massively rich in the mouth with plenty of tannin. Very good length. Very tasty. Mulchy. I would love some beef with this! This is really, really good, but something doesn't seem quite right with this bottle. 93 points, but a better bottle might be 96 or so.

1989 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Tight nose of white truffles. Tremendous tannins, but they are delicious. This is a terrific wine for tannin heads. Great length. A marvelous wine. Superb classic Barolo. 96 points. My WOTF!

1988 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Cheesy nose. Medicinal in the mouth. Antonio says a bottle of this the previous night was much better. This is not a good bottle. 88 points.
Mauro says he never liked the 1988 Monprivato. He had just bought a major plot of Monprivato in 1987, and even though he pruned like he usually does, the wines remembered and did what they were used to doing: over-growing.

FLIGHT #3 (9:00)

Wines: Monprivato 1985, 1982, Barolo Villero 1978, Barolo 1967.
Food: Sautéed veal with shitake mushrooms, with fingerling potatoes and fresh rosemary. Another wonderful dish, excellent with the wines. Really exquisite flavor. Sweet and tender. Harmonious.

1985 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Glorious nose of white truffle and forest floor. Bites in the mouth. Sour. Sad, so unlike the 85 vintage. Is it a bad bottle? Mauro says give it time.
2 hours later: Now not unpleasant. Sweet and lovely, but not special. 90 points.

1982 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Cheesy nose turning to truffles with time. Massively tannic in the mouth. Very young, rich, and tannic. Great length. Excellent. Still needs 5-10 years! Finish lasts 90 seconds! This has terrific potential, but will the tannins ever balance out? 93-? points.

1978 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Villero
Lovely nose of dried cherries and porcini. Rich and tannic, slightly sour. Aggressive meaty tannins. Needs time!
Open 1 hour more: Showing much better now with the veal. Needs 5 years or serve with veal or beef. Sweet and sour. Lovely. 93 points.

1967 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo
[A blend of Monprivato, Villero and Bussia Soprano. The first wine Mauro made. Made as a blend because his father insisted.] A nose to die for! Heavenly floral with hints of beef, white truffle, and licorice. Perfect in the mouth. Intense chocolaty. Harmonious. A stunning wine! One can only hope the others will someday resolve and reach these heights! Long ringing finish. Clear WOTN for me. I said to Jamie that the other wines were all about potential, but this was there. He agreed rather poetically with This is the end of the rainbow. 97 points.

Mauro was asked What is the biggest challenge in growing nebbiolo? He replied The most critical time is the winter pruning.

FLIGHT #4 (10:00)

Wines: Ca d'Morissio 1996, 1997.
Food: Selection of Cheeses

1997 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Riserva Monprivato Ca' d'Morissio

[2401 bottles made.] Lovely ripe red fruit nose. Intensely tannic. Quite sweet. Rich, sweet with fierce tannins on the finish. Very young! Excellent length, but I'm not convinced. Has the tannin and sweet fruit, but will it resolve? Reminds me of a Turley Juveniles Zin with more tannin. It has tannin, but seems to me to lack structure. Not that it really matters. This wine sells for $180 and up, so I won't be buying. I will be interested to taste others' bottles in 10 years. I can't imagine buying this when you could buy the 96, 98, or 99 Monprivato for $60ish. 92-? points.
I know others liked this quite a bit more than I did. Antonio's comment was Porn star . . . with big boobs. I want to drink what he's drinking. ;)

1996 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Riserva Monprivato Ca' d'Morissio
[1660 bottles made. $200 wholesale in the US. $300 list retail.] Exquisite floral nose. Gorgeous in the mouth. Quite tannic but loads of sweet young fruit. A lot there, but again I think it lacks the structure to be great. 92-? points.

Facts about the Ca' d'Morissio wine: Mauro told a story about this particular parcel and how his grandfather (Morissio) told him this was the best part of Monprivato. Also how he tested vines over 4 years in the mid 1980s to find the best vines in his vineyard. He then replanted those into this special parcel. Only these grapes go into Ca' d'Morissio. There was much more detail in this story which I did not catch entirely. I understand he turned over the soil about 4 meters deep when replanting.

Approximate Yields:
Good Barolo: 1.5 bottles per plant.
Monprivato: 1 bottle per plant.
Ca' d'Morissio: 1 bottle per 2.5 plants.

Six pages of photos of Mauro Mascarello, the wines, the food, and the people at this wonderful evening can be found here.


All original content © Ken Vastola