Friday, November 14, 2014

Visiting Massolino

I was curious to find out more about the difference between wineries of different areas and sizes and styles within the Piedmont/Langhe wine regions, so after spending our first day near the village of Barolo visiting two of the wineries there, we headed down Serralunga Valley on the east side and paid a visit to the legendary Massolino winery in the afternoon on our last day of the trip.


A little "cru" survey outside the terrace, with the stainless steel fermentation tanks in front of us

Massolino is a relatively small, family-owned winery with an annual production of about 120,000 bottles and now in its 4th generation. Along with an American couple from Philadelphia, we began the tour at the terrace with a magnificent view of the various cru vineyards that the winery owns, including Parafada and Margheria, and the Vigna Rionda a little further from our sight, with a quick glimpse of the new production facilities now in construction, right next to the current building right in the village of Serralunga d'Alba.


Then we moved to the compact facility downstairs which houses the fermentation room, the bottling line and the aging cellar. Given the small scale of the winery and the ongoing construction, the space was rather tight and unsophisticated. In Barolo region, there's an endless debate between the so-called traditionalists and modernists among winemakers, and the divide was apparent and often led to fierce debate. Massolino was clearly in the traditionalist camp - in the cellar we were essentially given a 5-minute lecture on why barriques - commonly used by modernists nowadays - were evil (my word, not his) for being too intrusive to the elegant Barolo, for they used only a combination of the larger Tonneau and Botti barrels made of Slavonian oak instead (well, they did use some French barriques for wines which require shorter aging, including the Langhe Chardonnay and Barbera)


Our tasting flight (except the Barolo Margheria, which was not shown here)
We concluded our tour in the tasting room upstairs with a variety of their current releases. We started off with the Langhe Chardonnay, which was rather one-dimensional (me not exactly a fan) and continue on to the Barbera d'Alba, which was straight forward but likeable. Cherry was the dominant flavor, and some grassy taste too. Not very tannic, unlike some others we have tried previously elsewhere, which made it more suitable for everyday drinking. Actually I quite like the Langhe Nebbiolo, which came next and certainly offered great value for money. A light ruby color, cherry and a bit of nutiness on the palate with good backbone of tannins. Medium bodied but quite chewy. Grapes came from younger vines with 2 years aging in cask and bottles combined.

Some of the older label designs
We then tried 3 of their Barolos, which are what Massolino is famous for. The current vintage of Barolo 2010 was made from grapes from different crus, which were blended at crushing time upon harvest before fermentation. It's aromatic, with blackcurrant and white truffles on the palate, and good smooth tannins. Again, a good choice for someone looking for value for money and surprisingly approachable at this young age. Another bottle was from the same vintage (2010) but from the single cru vineyard of Margheria. It's soft-bodied, quite pleasant but I reckon there is still some way to go before reaching its optimal drinking age. It's unfortunate they were unable to give us another single cru so as to let us compare.

The last one was from their riserva range from one of their best crus - the Vigna Rionda 2005 which went through additional aging in the barrel. It's richer, with some chocolate and tobacco flavors and quite plummy. It's supposed to be the bottle they were most proud of, but I think at this moment it's still very closed and austere and needed a lot more time to develop, quite typical of the traditional Barolo wines. We rounded up the tasting with their Moscato, a relatively small production wine with good acidity and a balanced sweetness.

It's certainly a good learning experience for me in the past few days and needless to say, we found a new level of passion towards all the wonderful wines in the region.

Massolino: www.massolino.it

(This is the part of the Journey to Piedmont series, a writing project capturing our recent travel experiences to the region)

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