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No Barrique, No Berlusconi, No Bartolo

I read today about the passing of Italy's Bartolo Mascarello, often referred to as the patriarch of Barolo. I actually don't know anything about this guy, and I've never had any of his wines, but as I was reading his remembrance, I found myself wishing I had. He was definitely one of the old guard, staunchly defending the old ways of making wine, but also doing it with a sense of humor. Apparently in his later years he began hand painting his own labels, one of the most famous of which was emblazoned with the words "No Barrique, No Berlusconi" capturing perfectly his aversion to the new French oak barrels that are more and more common in the region, as well as his distaste for Berlusconi's politics. When I read that, I realized I gotta go out and find some of his wine.

The world doesn't have enough iconoclasts like this who also have a sense of humor. Ciao Bartolo.

Comments (8)

Geoff Smith wrote:
03.16.05 at 10:51 AM

It's interesting that Decanter chose the word "patriach." I would have thought the word "doyen" to be more suitable.

Geoff Smith wrote:
03.16.05 at 10:52 AM

Um sorry. Should have written "patriarch."

Roberto wrote:
03.16.05 at 11:51 AM

Yes, Bartolo was one of the last of a dying breed (Bepe Quintarelli, Emidio Pepe, Paolo Bea and the late Giovani Conterno are others), folks who stick to their guns no matter what, and he will be sorely missed.

The fact that the New York Times saw fit to print an obituary of him was frankly amazing to me and would have gotten a big laugh out of him.

His daughter is commited to continuing his work as it was so there is SOME hope for the world.....

Ruth wrote:
03.16.05 at 9:27 PM

Postings like this one are why I love reading Vinography. Interesting stories about wine, people, and the issues we might discuss while sharing a bottle with those who's ideas we respect. Thank you, Alder.

Roberto wrote:
03.18.05 at 3:50 PM

On a related note, I just returned from a three hour lunch at Valentino with the current proprietor of one of the greatest wineries on the planet: Giacomo Conterno of Monfortino d'Alba, Piemonte. We tasted the 2002 Barbera (surprisingly good considering the crappy rep of this vintage, the hail missed them), 1989, 1999 and 2000 Barolo Cascina Francia and 1985, 1990 and 1997 Barolo Riserva Montortino. The things I have to put up with in this business...

Aside from the wines being amazingly perfumed, complex and wondrous despite the fact that you can see through them in the glass and the alcohol was reasonable, the chance to talk with Roberto was a rare treat. He calmed our fears of modernization by noting that his friends say "Your father was a traditionalist but you are much worse", when asked if he considered himself a vigneron or a winemaker he answered without hesitation that he was a contadino (a peasant farmer) and then he told us that in poor vintages they sell their wine sfuso (in jugs to the locals) thus insuring that it is not only not sold as Conterno Barolo but that it is not sold on anyone else's label as Barolo either (he described this as "a moral decision"!). Bravo Bello!

He roared with laughter when I related how, last summer at the Hollywood Bowl, I had opened a bottle of 1985 Monfortino while the people in the next box over opened some science fiction Barolo that would be Turley Zin bottling from some of his recently famous neighbors and my friend's lovely wife tasted both and asked innocently, "If you COULD make something like this (the Montfortino) why would you WANT to make something like that?".

AND, after the luncheon, he and his importer went BOWLING!!!!!!!!

So nice to see a real down to earth guy from the newest generation of Italian producers.

Alder wrote:
03.18.05 at 10:19 PM


Thanks for the anecdote. People like that are one of the main reasons I drink wine. I'm glad you've taken it upon yourself to suffer for the rest of us who couldn't possibly bring ourselves to have three hour lunches with verticals of some of the best Barolo on the planet...

Fiorenzo wrote:
03.20.05 at 7:59 AM

When his label with No Barrique No Berlusconi did pop up in the first wineshops in Cuneo (close to Barolo), some Carabinieri (our police, as you probably know) came in the wine shop to take away those 'illegal' (!) bottles from the shop. That was the first time in which a bottle of Barolo was arrested; this story was told me from Bartolo in person, one month ago. And was the last time i saw him.

ceri wrote:
06.16.07 at 12:53 AM

and the story continues - - - yes, the bottle was seized (shees, i hope they drank it - no, i take it back... i hope it is still out there...) the story i heard recently from a personal friend of his was the next day, bartolo replaced the bottle, which was then placed in clear view for everyone, with a piece of plain paper over the label which read
"C E N S O R E D"
or i should say in italian:
"C E N S U R A T O"
i agree - a man i wish i had met

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