Visit to Cantina Bartolo Mascarello
@ Via Roma 15, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy (7/4/2016)

After a long and wonderful evening out with the younger Vairas, I had an excellent breakfast at my hotel and walked about 400 meters to Cantina Bartolo Mascarello (CBM) in the town of Barolo. This legendary winery has been a Fine Wine Geek favorite for a long time. The second winery I did a FWG page on was Cantina Bartolo Mascarello.

For each image, I have posted a compressed (and possibly cropped) version. Click on it to see the original, much larger image.

The original winery is in the cellar of the yellow building, which also serves as the Mascarello family home.
The red brick structure on the right houses the office and visitor area, as well as newer parts of the wine cellar:

The top of the Mascarello family home:

The Mascarello home was originally the home to the Bianco family. Bartolomeo Mascarello was born and raised in nearby Torriglione. He married Teresa Bianco in the late 19th Century and moved into this house. Later, when his son Giulio established the winery in the cellar of this house, he purchased the house from his in-laws.

Courtyard entrance to CBM: Sign hanging outside of CBM:

Entrance to the office on the right: Sign next to the entrance:

The office and tasting room of Cantina Bartolo Mascarello:

Winery History

The winery was founded as "Cantina Mascarello" in 1919 by Bartolo's father, Giulio Mascarello. 1919 was the first vintage produced by the winery. He was assisted by his father, Bartolomeo, who was the winemaker and manager at the Cantina Sociale in Barolo. Giulio was born in Barolo in 1895 and died in 1981. Just after World War II, he served as mayor of the town of Barolo. He was a pioneer as a small grower/producer of high quality Barolo.

Bartolo Mascarello was born in 1926 and died on March 12, 2005. He joined his father in winery in the 1940s and became a legend in his own right. Starting with the 1982 vintage, he changed the name of the winery from "Cantina Mascarello" to "Cantina Bartolo Mascarello" because his winery was being confused with other wineries.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, ill-health kept Bartolo out of the vineyards. This is when he began hand-drawing labels. Today, the winery is run by Bartolo's daughter Maria Teresa (who joined her father in 1993), with help from her mother Francesca. The winery continues to be an icon of traditional Barolo winemaking.

You can find out much more about this winery on the Fine Wine Geek's Cantina Bartolo Mascarello page.

Vineyard Tour

One of the distinctive features of this winery is that they do not believe in single-vineyard bottlings of Barolo. They own Nebbiolo vines in four Barolo vineyards: For a total of 3.0 hectares from which they typically produce about 15,000 bottles of Barolo per vintage, sometimes a bit more. They have an additional 2 hectares planted to other varieties, as well as Nebbiolo used for Langhe Nebbiolo, spread over these four vineyards and Monrobiolo di Bussia where CBM owns Dolcetto and Freisa vines.

The grapes are picked and hand-selected, then the Barolo is made from all the grapes selected from these four vineyards, which are co-fermented. There is no blending after the fact. The wine is whatever nature gives them from these four vineyards. More on the winemaking below.

Another important person currently working at Cantina Bartolo Mascarello is Alan Manley. Alan is an American with Swiss parents who spent a lot of his youth in Switzerland. He has lived in the Barolo zone for the last five years and has two plots of vines that he farms himself (in the Ginestra vineyard in Monforte d'Alba and the Pernanno vineyard in Castiglione Falletto), mostly on the weekends. He jokingly lists his position at CBM as Consigliere, but like most people at small wineries, he performs a wide range of jobs including hosting my visit. In many small wineries in this region, it can be a disappointment if you don't get the owner/winemaker to host your visit, but not here. Alan is extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of wine and shares the passion of the winemaker and the wine aficionado.

San Lorenzo and Rué

We headed out to see these vineyards following
the red line up from Barolo to San Lorenzo
in the aerial map photo below:
Original aerial map photo © Google Maps.

Nearly due north of Cantina Mascarello, less than a half mile on SP163, is the hamlet of Muscatel. At the Muscatel rotary, we got on SP3 heading northeast, then made a slight left off of SP3 down a hill (see photos below). On our right, up the hill to SP3 is CBM's portion of the tiny San Lorenzo vineyard (outlined in blue at the top of the aerial map photo above). In particular, in the photo on the right below, you can see the triangular bare patch where Nebbiolo vines were recently ripped up in CBM's San Lorenzo plot. They will be replanted this year. The vines that are still there on the right are Barbera.
Note the rose bushes planted at the bottom of the bare triangle. Rose bushes are planted next to vineyards that might be susceptible to odium (a.k.a. powdery mildew), because roses are even more sensitive than grape vines to odium. The roses are like canaries in a coal mine.

We then drove further down the hill past San Lorenzo, turned around, and came back toward San Lorenzo. In both photos below, the darker vines going up the hill are CBM's San Lorenzo Barbera vines. The parcel on the left is owned by CBM, while the parcel on right (with the yellow house) is owned by a relative who also owns the yellow house (which faces SP3 on the other side), but leased by CBM. Bartolo planted this portion of San Lorenzo in the 1980s, and CBM has farmed it ever since.

Below is a panorama of the view from the base of San Lorenzo looking west. It spans from the Castle of La Volta on the far left through the vineyards of Rué and Sarmassa. On the farther hill right of center I think is Cerequio. Left of center, I think is Liste. In the distance on the ridge is the town of La Morra with Fossati and La Serra below the ridge on the left. Somewhere off on the far right beyond the ridge line is the Rocche dell'Annunziata vineyard in the commune of La Morra where CBM has another Barolo plot.
Note that the original image is very large, over 18MB.

Speaking of Rué (in the photo above), in the aerial map photo below, CBM's plot in Rué outlined in red. Their plot in San Lorenzo is outlined in blue. My photo on the right is a close-up of the closer of their two plots in Rué (to the right of the dirt path in the photo on the right). This plot faces slightly south and is planted to Nebbiolo, while the plot is not seen in the photo on the right (because it faces slightly north) is planted to Dolcetto.
Original aerial map photo © Google Maps.

At the top of the San Lorenzo vineyard is the highway SP3. On the other side of SP3 is the famed Cannubi vineyard and all its associated vineyards (Cannubi Valletta, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Cannubi Muscatel, Cannubi Boschis). In particular, almost exactly across SP3 from San Lorenzo is Cannubi San Lorenzo, which has a similar size and length to San Lorenzo.


Our next stop is to visit CBM's plot in Cannubi proper. But since we want to approach it from the bottom and not the top, we go around back past my hotel and the town of Barolo onto Via Alba along the red line in the aerial map photo below. San Lorenzo is again outlined in blue, while CBM's Cannubi plots are outlined in orange. The photo on the right was taken right about where the "G" in "Google" is at the bottom of the aerial map photo.
Original aerial map photo © Google Maps.

CBM's main Cannubi plot is an almost perfect amphitheater at the center of Cannubi. Plus they own a smaller, trapezoidal plot just west of the amphitheater. Both are outlined in orange in the aerial map photo above. Note that the small roof visible in the photo on the right is the shed at the center of the amphitheater plot.

Two vineyard workers arrive in a white van.

Nebbiolo grapes in Cannubi. Note the residue of copper and sulfur on the leaves in the photo on the right
which is sprayed to prevent peronospora (a type of mold) and oidium (a type of fungus).

Looking across Via Alba from Cannubi toward the southeast. The near ridge is mostly the Preda vineyard.
Beyond that is mostly the vast Bussia vineyard, though there are also parts of Zuncai, as well as
Monrobiolo di Bussia where CBM owns Dolcetto and Freisa vines.
Note that the original image is very large, over 16MB.

Below is a cropping of the above image from the left end of the far ridge.
This cluster of buildings is in Bussia Soprana. This is where, a few days later,
I took photos looking back this way, just before leaving the Langhe.
I will link to them here once I post them.

And here is a cropping of the above image from the right end of the far ridge
that can be seen just left of the white buildings on the right. This is a blow up
of the fuzzy bump on the ridge in the distance which is the town of Monforte d'Alba.

Torriglione & Rocche dell'Annunziata

Our next stop will be to view CBM's vineyard in Rocche dell'Annunziata and to see the hamlet of Torriglione where Bartolo's grandfather was born.

Along the way, here is a nice view of the Arborina vineyard. The dark red building on the left is the winery of Renato Corino. The cluster of buildings in the center of the photo contains the wineries of Mauro Veglio on the left and Elio Altare on the right. The Elio Altare Winery is the first winery I ever visited in the Langhe, a long, long time ago. It still holds a special place in my heart.
Note that the original image is very large, over 11MB.

The photo above was taken from Alan's pickup truck on the SP58,
roughly where the X is marked in the aerial map photos below.
Original aerial map photos © Google Maps.

A few meters past the X where the above photo of Arborina was taken, we turned left off of the SP58 onto the road that leads to the hamlet of Torriglione. This road runs right through the middle of the finest vineyard in this area, Rocche dell'Annunziata.

In the photos below, CBM's plot is just above the road on the right. That is, the first two plots that can be seen in the photo on the right to the right of the road. In these photos (esp. the 2nd one), in the distance along the ridge, you can see La Morra to the right and Croera to the left. CBM's Rocche dell'Annunziata plots are outlined in red in the right-hand aerial map photo above.

Here are photos of the hamlet of Torriglione, where Bartolomeo Mascarello was born and raised. The 2nd photo is cropped from the first.

After turning around near Torriglione, we are now coming back the other way through Rocche dell'Annunziata.
Here, CBM's plots are on the left side of the road.

Heading Back to Cantina Bartolo Mascarello

This one (and the cropping below it) are of Castiglione Falletto in the distance,
and Serralunga d'Alba even further away to the right.
It was taken from the passenger side window of Alan's truck facing east on Via Alba,
just before we made the turn to come back south on SP3 past the hideous box winery (see below).

Now heading south on SP3 toward the town of Barolo with the upper ridge of the Cannubi vineyards on our left.
Specifically, at this northern end, it is Cannubi Boschis on our left.
Here we see the hideous new winery of L'Astemia Pentita.
Note: It is purely coincidental that the number for the first photo is 666.

View across Liste, Sarmassa, Cerequio, and Brunate to Bricco delle Viole, Fossati, La Serra, and the town of La Morra along the ridge.
The vineyard closest to the road here is Crosia, but you can't actually see it in this photo.

Winery Tour

The courtyard entrance on the right: Here is the inside of that door:

Some of the artwork in the courtyard:

The Fermentation Room

The cement fermentation tanks used for all CBM wines:

Since the CBM Barolo is made from four vineyards, and the vineyards are picked at different times, the grapes from each vineyard are brought here when they are ready. A first selection is done in the vineyard. A second selection is done here.

In a typical vintage, the San Lorenzo comes in first, then Cannubi, then Rocche, and finally Rué. The grapes are then placed in these fermentation tanks in the order that they come in. When the next vineyard's grapes come in, the current tank is filled, and then the remaining grapes are put in the next tank, and so on. Eventually, all the wine is blended together. So the blend is whatever nature gives them in that vintage. For example, in 2012 there was hail in the Rué vineyard, so the 2012 Barolo contains about half the Rué found in most vintages.

Another example is that starting in 1999, they began replanting 0.2 hectares out of the 1.0 hectare in Cannubi every 4-5 years. So from 1999 until now, there is only 0.8 hectare of Cannubi contributing to the Barolo.

Finally, as mentioned above in the vineyard section, all the 0.3 hectares of Nebbiolo vines in San Lorenzo were ripped out in 2015 and are being replanted in 2016. So starting with the 2015 Barolo, for at least 5 years, their Barolo will not contain any San Lorenzo. Instead, a friend who owns a plot adjacent to theirs in Monrobiolo di Bussia will let them rent 0.4 hectares of Nebbiolo there.

Fermentation in these tanks typically lasts from 30 to 50 days depending on the vintage. They have a method for deciding how long, but I forgot what it is??? Generally, warmer vintages get shorter macerations. Pump-overs are used early in the fermentation, followed by prolonged submerged cap maceration.

Alan and the wine press:

Wood ageing tanks used for other wines, but also for fermenting
Langhe Nebbiolo when there is not enough room in the cement tanks:

The Barrel Cellar

Next we went down half a flight into one of the barrel cellars where the wines are aging in 50 hectoliter barrels called botti,
which made from untoasted Slavonian oak. (A hectoliter is 100 liters.)

Looking back at the barrel room we just came through:

Into another, older part of the cellar with smaller barrels (tho' no barriques!):

A demijohn for topping up:

The Bottle Cellar

The winery keeps a library of older Barolos for family consumption.

Here is a set of shelves just before the entrance
to the bottle room with magnums from (top)
2006, 2007, 2004, 2005:
The original file is large, over 11MB.

Note that CBM magnums were bottled in Bordeaux-style bottles
from 1989 to 2010 because Bartolo and Maria Teresa felt that
the Albeisa magnums had glass that was too light in color to
protect the wine inside. This changed with the 2011 vintage.

Just above inside the entrance to the bottle room is an area
with unlabeled bottles believed to be 1945 and/or 1947 Barolos.

Next along the left wall as you enter the bottle room are locked metal racks of the oldest labeled bottles in the cellar, e.g. the 1929 that Alan is pointing to, the 1944 Riserva next to it, or the 1954 Riserva above it, which I have had twice since it is my birth year.

1955 Barolo, laying down for 60 years:

Here we see Alan holding a 3 liter Albeisa bottle and a rack containing
three-liter bottles of (from top) 2012, 2011, 2010 CBM Barolo.
Only 10-12 are made in each vintage, and these are the first
three-liter bottles ever made by this winery.

Some of the greatest wines in the world stored right here:

Old demijohns and hand-blown 9, 10, 12, and 15 liter bottles on top of the racks:

The Oldest Part of the Cellar

This is under the front of the yellow house. This structure dates back hundreds of years.

Here we see some of the 25 hectoliter botti:

Here we see a chute built into the original cellar. In the old days, grapes were brought here by wagon, and dropped down this chute where there were selected and fermented. One of the street-level windows with bars on the outside of the house leads to this chute. (Scroll to the top of the page to see the window I'm talking about. It is just to the lower left of the front door in the first two photos on this page.)

The archway leading into the last room …
… where bottles from other wineries are stored:

Alan and I had been so engrossed in discussing so many aspects of wine,
that we hadn't noticed the late hour. Maria Teresa had to come looking for us.
Amazingly, this is the only photo I took of Maria Teresa Mascarello.
Later, when we chatted in the office, I think I was a little awestruck.
The wines that she and her father and grandfather have made have been
among the greatest wines of my life.

Back in the Office & Tasting Room

Back in the winery office, Alan poured me a taste of the current release Barolo:

2012 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (7/4/2016)
[From unlabeled half bottle at the winery with Alan Manley.] Sweet strawberries and zabaglione nose which I suspect will turn more balsamic over time. Bright, light strawberry attack. Strikingly tannic finish given the delicate sweetness in the nose and initial palate. Stunningly complex at this early stage. Long finish. Lots of potential here. Real grace and elegance with underlying stuffing. (93–95 points)

The label for the 2012 should look just like the 2011 below. [Note posted from CellarTracker.]

A few photos of interesting bottles displayed around the tasting room:

Here is the legendary "No Barriques, No Berlusconi" label,
as well as another "art label", the 2011, and a 2010 magnum:

The non-Barolo wines all have art labels that are the same every year:

Some older bottles:

Next, Alan walked me around the corner to La Cantinetta and introduced me to the owner and staff. I had a lovely lunch at La Cantinetta before my visit to the Giuseppe Rinaldi Winery.



All original content © Ken Vastola