Italy, Wine

Tar and Roses

Last week I met with two giants in Barolo in the space of a few days: Elio Altare and Maria-Teresa Mascarello. Their espressione of Nebbiolo are as starkly different as tar and rose.

Tar and rose are the signature aromas of Barolo. I like the dissonant images that come to mind of thick, black gooey tar joining with delicate, velvet, pastel roses. There’s something about this wine that resonates with me on a primitive olfactory level: perhaps, it’s the realization that the best is not always sweetness and light.

This also holds true for the people making the great Barolos of today, or anyone who decides to go against the grain.

Yet there could not be two more different producers of Barolo.

Altare uses French barrique; Mascarello is dead against it – using traditional large botte – and famous for the label “No Barrique, No Berlusconi”.

Altare makes single-vineyard Barolo; Mascarello makes Barolo the traditional Piedmontese way from three to four cru vineyards.

Altare visits Burgundy twice a year since 1976; Mascarello insists on traditional Piemontese spelling on her labels.

The young Altare in the 1970s used a chainsaw to remove all of the old barrels from the cellars of his father’s vineyard and was cut out from the family business until 1985.

Maria-Teresa Mascarello ferociously upholds the tradition of her late father and grandfather, and until recently, handpasting labels made from his drawings.

They both talk about BALANCE, but approach this with very different, very defined philosophies.

No matter how different they are, what is similar to both winemakers, is that they are both fiercely individual. The hard-won philosophy goes beyond a simple glass of wine. Both, in their own inimitable way, responsible for radical developments in the Langhe region over the past 25 to 30 years.

Why I find Barolo deeply inspiring.

Evviva the mavericks!

Evviva Barolo!

Favourite wines:

Elio Altare 2006 Barolo Ceratta Vigna Bricco (Justerini & Brooks)

Cantina Mascarello Bartolo 2006 Barolo, Magnum (Berry Bros & Rudd)



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