For all lovers of Barolo, of whatever level and orientation, it is an absolute “must” to ring the doorbell at number 15 Via Roma and to be welcomed into the office of this vignaiolo, as he loves to call himself. Bartolo Mascarello, who makes ironic comments on all of the wine-scene happenings of the Langhe while he is absorbed in drawing and colouring a sketch for one of his inventive Barolo labels, all the while issuing the bon mots for which he is notorious, has seen them all parade by, for everybody does come by, from noted politicians, to writers, journalists, and artists, but also, and in particular, legions of winelovers, who consider Bartolo (Barolo) Mascarello a symbol, the tenacious defensor fidei--“the last of the Mohicans” in his words--, living testimony of a history and a particular character of wine that survive from very long ago.From, in fact, the 19th-century roots of this wine, and from the experiences of his father Giulio, who returned in 1918 from the hardships of the First World War and was so struck by the parlous situation in which the small Cantina Sociale di Barolo found itself that he decided to strike out on his own and be an independent wine producer.Growing step by step, he began producing wine in standard bottles in addition to the traditional trade in demijohns to private customers, and purchasing small parcels of vines in some of the best sites in Barolo, in Cannubi, at San Lorenzo and Rué, and much later, in Rocche in La Morra, with the result that his operation gained a solid reputation and wide prestige. Which grew still more after the Second World War and then in the 1960s, when his son Bartolo entered the business to help Giulio, who had been named some years before Barolo’s first post-war mayor. Apart from considerably increasing the production in bottles, Bartolo changed nothing of his father’s modus operandi; he continued for many years to produce an incredible and extremely distinctive Freisa, which was “nebbioloed” by passing it briefly over fresh nebbiolo pomace, and refusing to be tempted by the growing practice of vinifying and bottling single vineyards, following the French custom, a practice that led to fragmenting production, he remained stubbornly faithful to the characteristic Barolo tradition of assembling blends of the grapes from different vineyards in order to ensure a wine of more balanced proportion and of better harmony.That practice of a single cuvée from the blending of the 4 estate vineyards, equalling 3 hectares of nebbiolo for Barolo out of the total 5 hectares of grapes, some of which go as well to Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba, and Freisa, has remained unchanged even now, when Bartolo, because of sickness, can no longer walk his beloved vineyards or carry out the winemaker’s onerous responsibilities, so that he is now helped by the discrete presence of his wife and by daughter Maria Teresa, involved in humanist studies but inevitably drawn into wine.Her entrance into the winery obviously began with faithfully applying the family’s traditional philosophy, which specifies lengthy macerations and patient smoothing out in large oak botti, and certainly not in the barriques of which her father is a declared enemy, going so far as to post his diatribes right on various bottle labels; but thanks to her fine, feminine sensitivity, she has already made a personal contribution by improving the aromatics and the crisp fruit of the wines, assisted in this process by gradually bringing in new ageing casks. For the Mascarello family maintain that tradition is never a mummified reality, but is constantly open to the new, but without ever burning the bridges to the past that brought us into the present.
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