Saturday, November 17, 2012

Changes at Massolino

Franco Massolino is in town at the moment, and I got a chance to meet with him and ask more than a few questions.  At Massolino, Franco told me, they no longer put their Barolo in barrique.  They ferment in stainless steel, and then they age their Barolo entirely in wooden botte.  This has been true since the 2007 harvest.  No more barrique, and also an increase in maceration times at Massolino.  This is a noted Serralunga producer controlling around 26 hectares of vines.  The changes are notable just in terms of sheer scale.  Before 2007, Franco said, they had already begun drawing back from their use of oak barrique.

This Barolo Parafada 2006 from Massolino was aged partly in barrique, but to a lesser extent than in years previous.  In 2006 thirty percent of the Massolino Parafada was matured in small barrique.  The 2007 Parafada was aged entirely in botte.  And the maceration time on the skins has changed as well.  Franco told me that if you change to botte, you also have to alter the maceration time, or the tannins will not resolve.  With the Parafada, the maceration time at Massolino has been as short as 10 days in the past.  Now it is twice that, at somewhere between 15-22 days each year.  All of the Barolo releases from Massolino now see a maceration time of this duration, except their Vigna Rionda, which is macerated for even longer on the skins, at 30 days.  All of the Barolo at Massolino is both punched down and pumped over during fermentation.

Parafada, Franco told me, was the first cru associated with Massolino, purchased by the family in 1955.  Today the Massolino vines there are close to 60 years old.  Parafada is located in Serralunga, in between the Lazzarito and Gabutti vineyards.  Alessandro Masnaghetti, in his writing about Serralunga, has said that Parafada shares a lot of characteristics with its neighbor Gabutti, from altitude, to exposure, to soil type.  There was a sturdiness to the Massolino Parafada 2006 that reminded me of some releases of Gabutti, and also of the Parafada from Palladino.

Franco also poured for me the first ever Massolino release from Castiglione Falletto, the Parussi 2007.  The Massolino family had never owned land outside Serralunga before they recently purchased a parcel in this vineyard nearby Montanello.  The vine age of the parcel is about 20 years.  The 2007 Massolino Parussi brought the sweet fruit of the vintage to the glass.

I asked if any Castiglione fruit might now make it into Barolo normale from Massolino, but Franco told me no, it would continue to be sourced only from Serralunga.  A sample of the 2008 Barolo normale showed some of the compact structure that 2008 is known for.  We also tried a 2007 Margheria from Massolino, from vines around 35 years of age.  The wine expressed the soft red fruit and open knit tannins that you might expect from Margheria in a warm vintage like 2007.

We spoke a bit about Rionda, the famous vineyard in Serralunga.  Massolino owns a sizeable portion of Rionda, with two parcels there and a sum of 2.3 hectares.  Franco told me that while the vineyard is mostly calcareous, the orange tint that peaks through patches of the soil at Rionda is caused by iron in the soil, something that he feels lends backbone to wines from Rionda.

If you are looking from the old Canale parcel of Rionda, from where I took this picture, the Massolino parcels of the vineyard are towards the end of the ridge.  They sort of begin at the road going up the vineyard with the two little trees at the top.  In between is a parcel belonging to Anselma, and one that is owned by someone selling to the Terre del Barolo cooperative.  The two Massolino parcels have a vine age of 30 years and 42 years.  Every Massolino Barolo release from Rionda has been a Riserva since 1995.  They release the wine at 6 years from the harvest and then again at 10 years from the harvest.

I inquired about the 2012 harvest, and Franco said it had been a short crop.  A lot of the fruit had been lost at flowering, and where they usually do a lot of green harvesting at Massolino, less was necessary in 2012.  He said that it was the opposite of an abundant vintage like 2004.

Until next time, Salute.

1 comment:

Greg Sorensen said...

This is refreshing to hear. Hopefully more folks will begin to dial back and see that the traditional methods are better. Because they are proven over time. Thanks for this great piece Levi.