Sunday, February 25, 2018

Azelia and Massolino: The Nuances of Margheria Barolo

Friday night of the La Festa del Barolo is normally a rollicking affair where Barolo lovers and producers share their favorite vintages of (for many) their favorite wine. Saturday is a more sober affair with the invited Barolo producers presenting a wine tied to the theme of the Masterclass. The 2018 edition of the Masterclass --titled 2013 Barolo: Sublime Finesse and Elegance -- featured 15 wines, each presented by an estate representative, organized into six flights. In this post I report on the flight titled The Nuances of Margheria featuring wines presented by Lorenzo Scavino of Azelia and Franco Massolino of Massolino.

The map below shows the Margheria cru to the far west of the ridge flowing down from Serralunga d'Alba.

The cru is 8.1 ha (20.01 acres) in size, sits at elevations ranging between 240 and 335 m, and  has exposure from the west to the south (Masnaghetti, Barolo MGA). The soil is clayey-calcareous with a good amount of sand.

The nuances stated in the flight title could be associated with vineyard exposure: "The exposure, however, varies significantly and the style of the wines range from the warm elegance and aromatic expressiveness of the sector facing westwards ... to the more muscular and tannic character of the southfacing slopes" (Masnaghetti).

Lorenzo Scavino began making wines in the 1920s from grapes grown in the family's vineyard in Serralunga d'Alba. Today the estate has an almost fanatical focus on the delivery of high-quality grapes to the vineyard subscribing, as it does, to the concept of wines being made in the vineyard.
  • A minimum of two green harvests per year to reduce yields 
  • All hand operations in the vineyard -- pruning, leaf removal, green harvest -- are the purview of Luigi and other family members
  • Copper- and sulphur-based products used only when necessary
  • No chemical fertilizers
    • Natural manure applied every 3 to 4 years
  • Grass allowed to grow naturally between rows.
The Massolino winery was created by Giovanni Massolino in 1896 and all through the years it has been operated as a family enterprise with brothers Franco and Roberto, enologists both, managing the current incarnation.  The style of wine espoused by the family is a pure expression of Nebbiolo which demonstrates a balance between power and excellence.  Franco refers to this style as "classic" and sees aging in large barrels as a key enabler of that style because the barrels respect and protect the classic bouquet of Nebbiolo.

Fermentation is carried out in resin-lined-cement or stainless-steel tanks.  Cement tanks are desirable for their ability to maintain purity of fruit and freshness, according to Franco Massolino. He also mentioned that 10 to 15 years ago, consultants had been recommending deserting cement tanks for stainless steel.  Massolino had not gone down that path and now cement is back in vogue.  Their choice is to use cement vats and when those are not available then use stainless.

The Wines
Table 1 below shows the characteristics associated with the Margherias from the two producers.

Table 1. Azelia and Massolino Margheria Characteristics
Activity Characteristic Azelia Margheria Massolino Margheria
Vineyard Size (ha)


Exposure South South

Training Guyot Guyot

Planting Density (vines/ha)

Vine Age (years

Yields (tonnes/ha) N/A

Harvesting Mode Manual Manual

Selection Bunch-by-bunch N/A

Fermentation Fermentation Spontaneous Spontaneous

Fermentation Vehicle Rotofermentors Concrete 

Fermentation Length N/A 15-20 days

Aging Vehicle Large Casks Large Casks

Length (Months)

Bottle N/A 1 year
*Above the range for the cru reported in Barolo MGA

The main differences in the vineyards are the elevation, aspect, density, and vine age. In the cellar the primary noted differences are the choice of fermentation vehicles and cask-aging length.

As regards the wines, the 2013 Azelia showed tar, roses, and a savoriness on the nose. Weighty on the palate with tar and dark fruit showing through. A drying finish.

I was very impressed by the 2013 Massolino. Tar, full-fruit, strawberries, and a hint of shoe polish. Dark and savory on the palate. Brooding. Dusky character. Lengthy finish. The increased competition for the Massolino vines at lower altitude has resulted in a great result, younger vines notwithstanding.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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