Nebbiolo only seems to thrive, or even exist at all, in Piedmont and Lombardy, where it very likely originated. How often does one hear of a Nebbiolo from say, California, Chile or even anywhere else in Italy. There is something in the soil, climate and overall terroir of northwest Italy that create the conditions for Nebbiolo to achieve the greatness found in Barolo and Barbarescco. Lesser known Peidmont DOCGs such as Ghemme, Carema, Valtellina and Gattinara also produce compelling, beguiling and age-worthy wines from the grape. Part of this is due to the fact that Nebbiolo is a difficult, even temperamental grape to grow, similar to Pinot Noir, and is highly sensitive to its environment. And, being high in acidity and tannins, it is ideal for producing robust wines that will age and evolve for decades. But arguably more so than Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo is multi-faceted and, depending on the local climate and intentions of the producer, can be lighter and accessible at a young age, while still delivering remarkable complexity.
We feature today Giuseppe Mascarello, one of the greatest producers in Piedmont of Nebbiolo (as well as other varietals). It is one of a handful of top producers of Barolo alongside such names as Conterno, Giacosa, Rinaldi and Bartolo Mascarello (no relation). The estate dates back to 1921 and has been run by four generations of Mascarellos. The current head-of-family, Mauro, is described as an “enlightened traditionalist” when it comes to his winemaking approach. There are no new French oak barrels to be found in the Mascarellos’ cellars, as the wines continue to be made in the old Slavonian oak botti (very large casks) purchased by his father in the 1950s. The Barolos (there are several different vineyard-designated bottlings) are macerated for about thirty days during fermentation (down from sixty days back in the old days), raised for approximately three and a half years in old wood, and then bottled unfined and unfiltered. We touch briefly on the Barolo because what we offer today is, in effect, their ‘baby’ Barolo.
The Nebbiolo is produced from the same grapes, and using the same process, that go into their celebrated Santa Stefeno di Perno vineyard Barolos (bottles that typically go for well north of $100), and thus offers a stunning value. The nose is fruity and floral and the palate is light to medium weight and elegant, silky but with a tannic foundation and spice on the finish. The Santo Stefeno di Perno vineyard is also the source of their Dolcetto. Dolcetto is normally regarded as a budget-level everyday wine, but Mascarello elevates it to the next level. Drink it the next time you have Piemonte truffles with risotto.
Mascarello is practicing organic and no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used. The vineyards are hand-picked and fermentation is with native yeasts. The Dolcetto is for drinking now but the Nebbiolo should age nicely for five to ten years. The Dolcetto offers entry level access to a great, world class producer and the Nebbiolo is a back-door way of getting top level Barolo quality without nosebleed pricing.
Giuseppe Mascarello Langhe Nebbiolo 2018
Retail Price: $58.99
Sale Price: $52.97
Giuseppe Mascarello Dolcetto d'Alba 2018
Retail Price: $29.99
Sale Price: $26.97
Past Cellar Selections:
Lopez de Heredia Bosconia 2006
Domaine Huët 2019 – Grand Cru from the Loire Valley
Brunello di Montalcino 2015 – Selected Bottles
Shafer Vineyards – Relentless, One Point Five and Chardonnay
Paul Jaboulet – Majestic Wines from the Northern Rhone
Alion and Pintia – The Other Vega Sicilias
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey – Magic in Burgundy
Don Melchor 2015 – 98pts!
Muga ‘Selección Especial’ 2015 – Classic Rioja
Domaine A. et P. de Villaine – Budget DRC?
Three Oderros: for the Picnic Table, the Dinner Table and the Cellar
Castilla Ygay 2010 – at 98 pts a ‘First Growth’ Rioja
Chateau Troplong Mondot St. Emilion 2017 – 98pts!
Burgundy with age from Jean Chauvenet
Cornas and Côtes-du-Rhone from Franck Balthazar
Quintessa 2016 – 98pt Bordeaux Blend from Napa