When one thinks of Monprivato one can't help but think of the eponymous wine made by the Master, Mauro Mascarello and Giuseppe Mascarello. While even the name seems to imply that the vineyard is his private domain, and while he currently is in fact the sole producer of Monprivato, there was another producer who has provided us with an alternate take on this fine vineyard.
If one takes the road down from the town square of Castiglione Falletto one passes the great sweep of the Monprivato vineyard as it falls away from the ridge-line to your left. This south facing expanse is easily recognizable as it is roughly centered on the Cascina that rises ever so slightly above the road. This, known to cognoscienti, is the Ca, d,Morissio that is used to denote Mascarellos' incredible Reserve bottling form the vineyard. While Mauro Mascarellos winery is in nearby Monchiero, one needs only to drive the rest of the way down the hill to come to the Brovias' winery and home.
Mascarello Monprivato is recognized as a benchmark for the wines of Castiglione Falletto, indeed it is one of my very favorite wines, but the Brovia Monprivatos have almost a mythic quality to them. That may be attributed to the high quality of the wines, the 1985 is renowned as perhaps the wine of the vintage, but the simple fact that these wines are seldom seen only adds to their standing.
It was with much anticipation that I joined 5 good friends last Friday night to sample eight bottlings from the Monprivato vineyard. The wines were pretty much popped and poured though the 85's had several hours in their uncorked bottles. I got to spend several hours with the wines but of course that was not enough, it never is. Each wine evolved over the course of the evening and while I would have loved a few additional hours with each wine I was able to gather up an impression of each.
Our first flight pitted the 1985 from Mascarello against the renowned 1985 Brovia.
1985 Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato - Opens with a slightly musky profile to the earthy core of fruit, this is a bit tight with aged notes of bone and old wood that lifts slowly to reveal deep notes of raspberry fruit, precise tones of dried grasses and hay, dried rose petal and tea notes that evolve into more of a tobacco tone. Big and rich in the mouth with superb, bright acidity highlighting the deep wild raspberry fruit that turns towards cherry lozenge on the backend. Great length and purity to this wine with very fine balance and perfectly ripe tannins that lend invisible support to the plush fruit. This is about as good as 1985 Barolo gets. 95pts
1985 Brovia Monprivato - This is more mineral toned on the nose with notes of oyster shells, deep notes of freshly trod dandelion and a touch of wild animal edge the current fruit. This shows more evolution than the Mascarello with notes of leather, mushroom, and incipient sumer truffle adding complexity. While less plush and with more rustic tannins than the Mascarello this does offer up a bit more complexity with intense licorice and medicinal almost tequila-like tones that add depth to the midpalate. Not particularly fruit driven, this lacks the elegance of the Mascarello and reveals a bit of dirtiness in the mouth that leads to a long finish which reveals a bit of sweetness and a very red plum filled finale. Perhaps this just needs more time to peak but it lacks the innate balance of the Mascarello. 91pts
Our next flight continues the Producer battle. While the 1985's come from a universally praised, many might say over-praised, vintage our next pair from 1988 come from a vintage that is frequently overlooked. This cool, balanced vintage has aged as well as most 1985s' and is proving the pundits wrong on that count as we will see.
1988 Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato - This opens downright stinky full of big ass notes and spicy leather tones that recall an attractive woman working out in a leather bodysuit. Much is right here but some choices may be yielding questionable results! The nose cleans up with some airing but never loses that bit of stink. Notes of oyster shell and leather eventually compete with a touch of cigarette ash and raw beef on the nose. In the mouth there is sweet fruit up front followed by a taut if shallow mid-palate that has a cool, elegant feel with balanced structural elements that offer up a very refreshing mouth feel. A touch of rusty earth on the mid-palate and a long lingonberry finale are solid if uninspiring but then, after about 40 minutes of air, the wine gains a bright pop of sweet fruit across the mid-palate. With some additional time this very well might have cleaned up a bit more, other examples of this wine have shown that to be the case. 90pts
1988 Brovia Monprivato - Mint, dark fruits and a bit of obvious quinine great the nose here then notes of sweet anise and slatey minerals add depth before being joined by smell red berried fruits. Smells a bit hard but continues to evolve with intriguing notes of gunpowder, fresh mushroom and beet root adding to the mix, great to smell. Solid acids are the first element noticed in the mouth then the ripe tannins. Very fine balance here with solid intensity to the dark fruits edged in anise. Perhaps a touch hot though it remains very focused through the mouth with a Burgundian feel. Ignoring the touch of obvious alcohol this comes off as cool and restrained with layered, precise fruit that leads to a long cherry pit finish. Perhaps a touch less compelling than the nose promised but more complete than the Mascarello and a step up from the 1985. 92pts.
Now we shifted gears completely and paired up Mauro's normal Monprivato with his Reserva ca' D'Morissio bottling from 1995. While one might think this is pretty much the same wine nothing could be further from the truth. Mauro spent over a decade preparing for the Ca'D'Morissio bottling. First painstakingly preparing the land by digging up virgin soil from deep within the hillside then allowing it to lie fallow and exposed to the elements while he chose the vines to be planted. That was no easy feet since it involved tagging the best performing Michet clone vines from the Monprivato vineyard for year after year until he was satisfied that he had identified the finest vines. These were then planted and are very careful tended to produce miniscule yields of the the finest fruit. With all that cost and effort it is a bit surprising that Mauro has stuck to his guns and continues to produce this wine in only the finest of years. 1993, 1995,1996,1997,2001 are the vintages that have made it to market. Was all the work and the expense worth it? Perhaps to early to say but for my money the 95 Ca' is one of the wines of the vintage. While there are those who might say that doesn't mean too much I am a big fan of the slightly austere, structured, classic wines of 1995. Much like 1988 these are wines that lacked the early flash to appeal to critics but have shown excellent evolution in the bottle.
1995 Mascarello Monprivato - Spicy blackberry jam and subtle gingerbread notes great the nose. More sweet notes of torrefaction great the nose with a touch of marzipan to the roasting coffee tones then more typical and expected notes of slatey minerals and macerated flowers add depth. On attack this reveals a deep core packed with sweet fruit. The tannins have a slight austerity to them and the great acid adds lift to this classic profile. The fruit is off on the sour cherry end of the spectrum with a touch of ripe green herbs keeping it all fresh. The fine-grained but stern tannins add a bit of nuttiness through the finish but yield to a finale of red fruits with a touch of peach pit. A promising showing and while drinking well now this ideal needs 3-5 years more to enter its peak drinking window 91pts.
1995 Mascarello Ca'D'Morissio Monprivato Reserva - This rachets up the intensity on the nose with an edge of pro-ked like rubber sole and canvas. The nose comes to be dominated by a sweet tea note over the enormously concentrated and deep fruit with a touch of lily floral tones in the background and a gentle suggestion of blond tobacco/cigar wrapper. Still a baby this offers much promise. In the mouth there is solid density and drying tannins that frame the brooding intensity, huge extract to the rich, darkly fruited palate that is full of balanced leather and wild berry fruits. An innate sweetness powers through the finish offer great length yet still very primary notes to the dark, earthy fruit that offers an almost fudgy edge to the roasted notes on the finale. This appears to be closing down as the previous bottles offered a bit more fruit to cloak the impressive structure but still is very impressive. I will try another bottle in 3 or so yeaqrs but this is a great candidate for 20 more years of positive development. 93pts
Our finale pairing compared two of the greatest back to back vintages ever. And while that continues to be the common wisdom I find that most 1990 Baroli have not shown much positive evolution and are being smoked by not only the 89's but many of the 88's as well. Of course palates differ, that is one of the great things in life, buttro me this comparison revealed the typical and true character of each vintage. Of course pitting any vintage against 1989, arguably the greatest vintage of the post-war era if one factors in the broad range of exceptional wines made and the fact that they are both readily available, and in general well stored. Not to overplay my hand or anything but it is a vintage that I am always looking to buy more of.
1989 Mascarello Monprivato - What a nose, intense and sweet blackberry jam joined by smoky notes and hot rocks then a touch of mossy, cool greeness, a menthol topnote and forest floor edges. The fruit here is just so clear and crisp with great depth yet the freshness of perfectly ripe and balanced fruit, breathtaking. This too has impressive sweetness on entry followed by long, layered fruit with a cascade of herbal, mineral and fruit tones keeping everything fresh and presice, The tannins are ripe and polished yielding an unobtrusive presence that offers mouthfilling lift to the fruit. Really almost seamless with great finess for such an intense wine and superb length of seared cherry fruit. All around great bottle of wine that is just entering its peak drinking window. I would have no problem drinking a bottle a year for the next 24 years... if only I had 2 cases! 96pts
1990 Mascarello Monprivato - This offers up fine floral, herb and leather tones on the nose over a pool of sweetness yet does not offer up particularly overt fruit. The fruit comes off in background notes of roasted plum and apricot glaze with the roasted character being enhanced by the notes of melting asphalt that develop. Big and slightly chewy in the mouth, this lacks a bit of presence on the mid-palate. Bright and refreshing acids but without the crisp layering of the 1989 even a touch hot. Good length here but a bit hot on the finish as well though the sweet fruit does a good job of concealing some of the heat. This struck me as just a bit Grenache like with it's big ball of sweet fruit that is just a touch hollow. Good but not compelling and drinking well at this point. I would opt for drinking these sooner rather than later as while the flavors might show some positive evolution the lose of the fruit will continue to throw the balance off here and highlight the elevated alcohol. 91pts.
All in all a pretty smashing night! I loved all the wines, some a bit more than others! But really any of these bottles would have been a joy to have on their own. Definitely wines to seek out and enjoy. My thanks to everyone who came. I can't wait for what comes next!!
Monprivato, comparing some of the greats.
- Reply by PergoleTorte79, Sep 22, 2008.
Great notes, Greg. I would have killed to have a seat at that table....
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Sep 23, 2008.
Thanks. I wonder what happened to your invite...
By the way I'm think about buying some more of that 95 up on 57th. All in all I find it too hard to resist.
- Reply by Nicolai Soegaard, Oct 9, 2008.
Thanks for the notes, Greg. Very interesting to see your note on the Brovia 85 Monprivato. I can see that you were not as enthusiastic as others have been. I have seen it compared to Monfortino - do you agree on this? I'm also very happy to see such a positive review of the 89 Mascarello Monprivato as I have one in the cellar :-)
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 9, 2008.
Glad to see you here again Nicolai!
This was my only time trying the 85 Brovia and while I can see a stylistic similarity to Monfortino, qualitatively it does not come close. This may not have been a pristine bottle but it certainly came across as a touch rustic. I still liked it and would love to try another bottle but will not chace one down.
The 1989 Mascarello on the other hand is a beast. Best Monprivato ever! A wine I would consider buying more of had it not become prohibitively expensive. You are in for a treat!