Traditional Dolcetto From a Piedmontese Legend

Today’s Story: Cantina Bartolo Mascarello

Cantina Bartolo Mascarello is a highly regarded wine producer located in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, and they are known for their traditionally-made Barolo. Though the Mascarello family traces their viticultural roots back to the 19th century, they typically sold grapes to the larger houses and did not bottle their own wines until Giulio Mascarello established his own cellar in 1918 after returning from World War I. Giulio learned winemaking from his father Bartolomeo, who was previously the cellar master at the Cantina Sociale di Barolo, and it was a rare feat at the time for Giulio to bottle his own wines. He did, however, sell a majority of his wines in demijohns as well to start.

By the 1930s, Giulio was purchasing prime vineyards in the crus of Cannubi, San Lorenzo, and Rué for blending into his signature single Barolo bottling. Giulio’s son Bartolo, for whom the estate is named after today, joined his father in 1945 after World War II and the two worked alongside one another until Giulio’s death in 1981. Though many producers during the 1960s and 1970s started bottling single cru Barolo, Bartolo remained steadfast to traditions in only bottling a blending of his vineyard sites. His reputation as a staunch traditionalist grew even more during the 1980s and 1990s, as critics and consumers forged an assault on traditional Barolo by favoring the bigger, bolder, and barrique-aged wines. Bartolo never wavered in his traditions, and passed this spirit onto his daughter Maria Teresa Mascarello who runs the estate today.

Bartolo Mascarello is a relatively small producer of Barolo, owning and farming 5 hectares of vineyards which results in about 1,250 cases of Barolo and an additional 1,250 cases of their other bottlings (Barbera, Dolcetto, and Langhe Nebbiolo) produced each vintage. Maria Teresa maintains holdings in the Cannubi, San Lorenzo, and Rué crus of the Barolo commune, as well as the Rocche di Annunziata cru in the commune of La Morra. All sites are farmed by hand without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and harvest is accomplished by hand as well. The Barolo goes through alcoholic fermentation in old cement vats without temperature control using indigenous yeasts, sees 30-50 day maceration, and then ages in large untoasted Slavonian oak botti for generally three years. Once the wine is bottled, it sits for one year prior to release. In addition to the very traditionally-made Barolo, Maria Teresa produces small amounts of Barbera, Dolcetto, and Langhe Nebbiolo as well.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Dolcetto d’Alba

100% Dolcetto; 13.5% ABV

The 2019 Dolcetto d’Alba is medium purple in color with ruby hues. Medium intensity on the nose, offering up aromas of blackberry, black plum, blueberry, violet, leather, black pepper, and mocha. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate showcasing notes of blackberry, black plum, black cherry, tobacco, black pepper, charred green herbs, and cocoa. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish.

Price: $45 (I paid $35). I admittedly don’t drink really any Dolcetto, though from what I’ve read this seems like a very nice wine for the $35 I paid for it. I can tell the traditional winemaking and attention to detail are there, and this is simply a beautifully perfumed and easy-drinking wine.