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Wine Legend: Mascarello, Monprivato, Barolo 1970

Why it makes the Decanter hall of fame...

Wine Legend: Mascarello, Monprivato, Barolo 1970

Bottles produced 5,900

Composition 100% Nebbiolo

Yield 40hl/ha

Alcohol 14.2%

Release price 4,600 Lire (equivalent to about €25 today)

Price today N/A

Tasted by Michaela Morris in November 2017 for Decanter Premium

A legend because…

Single-vineyard or cru wines are a relatively new concept in Barolo, although growers must have known for decades which were the finest sites that consistently gave the best wines. Monprivato, the jewel among the holdings of Mauro Mascarello, was one of the early cru wines. First documented in 1566, the vineyard was hailed as one of Barolo’s top sites in Renato Ratti’s classification of 1985. It has also become celebrated because of Mascarello’s unwavering espousal of traditional rather than modernist winemaking: long maceration and a preference for large casks over barriques.

Looking back

The estate of Giuseppe Mascarello acquired vines in Monprivato in 1904, and came to own more than 90% of the cru. The vineyard name first appeared on the bottle in 1970. Mauro Mascarello took over from his father Giuseppe in 1967, and in the 1970s he experimented with methods like varying maceration times, but was never tempted to introduce barrique- ageing as he remained unpersuaded that this yielded better results. Above all he did not want to compromise the subtle aromas that contribute to Barolo’s complexity.

The vintage

The growing season was excellent, resulting in a generous crop of high-quality wines. However, its reputation has been slighted by the fact that the 1971 vintage was even more splendid.

The terroir

Monprivato occupies 7ha in the commune of Castiglione Falletto. The site faces southwest and lies at an elevation of 280m. The soils are silty and calcareous, and the vines have an average age of 55 years. A sector planted with a massal selection of Michet clones in 1963 is used to produce the rare Riserva called Ca’ d’Morissio, named after his grandfather Maurizio. First made commercially in 1993, this is only made in top vintages, and in other years the wine is blended into the Monprivato. Mascarello believes in low yields, which rarely exceed 40hl/ha and can be far lower. Although always picked late, Monprivato never shows overripe notes.

The wine

Mascarello is fanatical about picking only the healthiest fruit, allowing him to give the must a maceration of three to four weeks. Although the fermentation vats, which today are made from cement and steel, are temperature controlled, Mascarello prefers the grapes to ferment slowly and evenly, extracting colour and tannin with pumpovers, only intervening if temperatures rise to a dangerous level. He initially used indigenous yeasts, but today prefers selected yeasts. Despite the long maceration, the tannins of Monprivato are supple. This can be deceptive, suggesting a wine that might not age well, whereas the reverse is the case. A pneumatic press is used after the maceration is completed. The wine spends about 36 months in large oval Slavonian oak casks. There are up to three rackings in the first year, reduced to a single racking in subsequent years.

The reaction

In 2009 Antonio Galloni, writing in The Wine Advocate, noted: ‘Another of Piedmont’s legendary, icon wines. Amazingly, it remains incredibly dense, primary and full of fruit. It may very well prove to be immortal. Today all of the elements are in perfect place. The only thing the wine might need is more time!

Decanter’s Michaela Morris, who reviewed the wine in November 2017, said that the wine was ‘simply stunning’ and still had plenty of time left ahead of it. See Michaela’s note here.

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