HOW TO MAKE A LASTING IMPRESSION – MASSOLINO (AZ. AGR. VIGNA RIONDA), PART III

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Franco describes the new project. It’s part cellar, part community park. The cellar will be all underground (even if in the picture below it is exposed – it won’t be when completed ), and on top, there will be a natural space with places to sit, gather, relax. This is how it was, many years ago upon this spot, but time erased it. Now, the Massolino family is restoring this public space once again, while also providing a new cellar that will carry the family’s production well into the future; I’m looking forward to seeing it this spring, now that it’s finished.

The plan is for the grandi botti to remain in the old cellar, but all the production and other storage will be in the new cellar – a tunnel will connect the two…how cool.

Franco and I are still in the old cellar, we’re talking about the ageing of the large barrels – how long they might be able to last. He explains that each wine is tasted at least once a month in order to determine the efficacy of the old barrels. Not every barrel is the same; they’re living, and by definition, dying things, and it’s vital to monitor their health.

Some of these grandi botti will last 30 years, some 60, or more – most will last somewhere in between. And when I say last, I mean for the purposes of their Barolo wines, these barrels are not necessarily dead (i.e. many will be sold and re-purposed by a producer of a different wine), they’ve just retired from the service of caring for and raising the Classico and Cru wines.

(below: 105,20 hectoliter barrel. If my math is right, that’s about 14,000 bottles of wine produced from just this one barrel)

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We return to the great room (my term) where we’ll finish the tasting of the four different Cru wines. But before I do that, I’d like to give a link to some helpful details regarding the Barolo Classico wine, a wine I plan to buy at least a case of in each vintage (i.e. not just ‘the best‘), because, as I’ve said already, these guys get it.

As I sit here today and replay the digital recording from my time with Franco, I’m seeing, more clearly how someone/a business gets to the point that they have me saying to myself “these guys get it”. It’s about organization as much as it is about dedication, but those two are simply the offspring of vision and execution- the vision for the future, and the ability to execute as well as the best of one’s peers. For instance, it was only 30 years ago that Massolino was selling a fair amount of their production in tank/bulk. The reason being that there simply were not enough hands on deck to be able to run the farm, and the business, together. Franco explains that when he came on, and began working full-time, he set about a plan that would devote similar attention to the world-wide markets as well as the work in the vineyards.

Clearly, Franco is a leader, but clearly, also, it’s the team that makes these wines possible, not just the face of the business. Franco’s assembled a great team – and it’s clear to me that all of them know that the devil is in the details, which is why, everywhere I look here at the estate (vineyards, cellar, wines, etc.) the details have been thoughtfully and expertly addressed.

As we sit down for the balance of the tasting, I reach for a bottle of water – even the temperature of the water is perfect; every detail, all of them. It’s not as easy – it can’t be! – as these guys make it look.

Note: all of the wines tasted were opened moments before being poured/served.

22 April, 2014: 2009 Massolino Barolo Margheria; here’s (click on style sheet, at the top) where you can find all of the details for this wine. “Very approachable now, but at the same time, it’s got some more integration to complete before it’s going to show its best. On the day, this starts out with a crystalline garnet color – striking, really. The first aromas from this PnP wine are of raspberries, the just-picked sort. With 5 minutes in the glass, wonderfully complex aromas of minerals, red and purple floral, and then another generous dose of minerals. This is very much a wine of time and place, and while ’09 didn’t get the press that ’08 and ’10 received, the great winegrowers were able to fashion some really fine wines, nonetheless. This is one of them. Give this another 2-3 years to come together, and drink them while the 08s and 10s are ageing. 14,0% abv.  recommended

massolino20visit202014-22-s22 April, 2014: Next is the 2009 Massolino Barolo Parussi; more details for this wine can be found here (click on ‘style sheet’, at the top, for full technical information). “This is the first Barolo wine from Massolino that’s been made from grapes coming from outside the Serralunga d’Alba commune – these grapes are from Castiglione Falletto. The color is typical of quality Barolo, the nose, a bit atypical in the sense that it’s of the quality usually reserved for very(!) pricey Cru wines. Medium-body, cool entry, powerful, fine tannins. An altogether different kind of crowd-pleaser – generous, but not to a fault. Offers plenty of very fresh acidity and a really long finish. This really belongs outside of the box that many have painted around this vintage. 14,0% abv.  recommended

I should add that the Massolino position at this Cru site is premium -their vines are located along the top of the hill, always the most envied for the quality/complexity of the winegrapes.

Franco also mentions another project, a recent acquisition of another 6 hectares of prime land within the Monforte d’Alba sub-zone; the family’s timing of this purchase is the very definition of prescient.

22 April, 2014:  2009 Massolino Barolo ParafadaFrom what’s been a very maligned if not forgotten vintage, Massolino really produced a winner of wine here. Just slightly darker than the Classico at the core, but nothing slight about the intensity of the aromas, this is really cracking right now. The palate shows very good structure – again I’m surprised, as 2009 wasn’t supposed to be able to produce wines like this, according to the critics, anyway – but here it is, right in front of me, and it’s just gorgeous. Elegance is my take-away word here. Best with just a few more years of rest. recommended

massolino20visit202014-21-sTechnical information for the Cru Parafada can be found here, by clicking ‘style sheet’ at the top of the page.

massolino20visit202014-23-s22 April, 20142007 Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda (full technical details can be found here click style sheet, at the top of the page. “Oh my, this is special. Beginning with the brilliant garnet color, and on to the nose and palate, this is just tops. The nose tells you it’s seriously good wine, no swirling needed, doubt removed. The entry is floral, then fruity, then earthy. Repeat. A fire in its belly, a song to be sung, this is going to be a brilliant performance. Now and for the next 25 years. Bravo, Massolino!  highly recommended 

Spending time with Franco is just as enjoyable as spending time with the Massolino wines – it’s time well spent. As we go through the tasting, Franco and I discuss different markets/countries, grey-markets, some of his choices outside of Langhe (elegant Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are two he mentions. We conclude my visit with Franco showing me the original home, ca. 19th century, that’s been fully renovated not too long ago.

After writing about these wines for the past three days, I’m thinking I know what I’ll be opening tonight with dinner.

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(header photo: after a long day of visits/tastings, I depart the southwest corner of Langhe – Serralunga d’Alba & Monforte d’Alba – and make my way back to La Morra – see the radio towers in the distance)

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