I visited two Piedmont wineries today, Azelia and Domenico Clerico. The style of wines at Azelia emphasizes fresh fruit with the underlying elements of terroir. For example, its Dolcetto is refined and elegant, while the Barolos, most from Serralunga, exhibit more structure, with the exception of the charming and graceful Bricco Fiasco. From Azelia it was on to the eponymous Domenico Clerico, a visit I was anticipating since we chose his Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra 2006 as the No. 8 wine in this year's Wine Spectator Top 100.
Founded in 1881 by Mauro Mascarello’s great-grandfather, the estate of Giuseppe Mascarello & Figli today covers 44.5 acres in Castiglione Falletto and Monforte d’Alba, two towns in the storied Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. About two-thirds of the vineyards are dedicated to Nebbiolo, the region's most famous grape and the one used for the wine of Barolo and Barbaresco.
Mascarello’s grandfather Maurizio purchased vineyards in one of the zone’s most historic sites, Monprivato in Castiglione, in 1904, building a cellar there. He moved to a former ice-making factory in Monchiero in 1919, where the state-of-the-art building offered constant temperature year-round for the wines.
Traditional winemaking is the philosophy here, though Mascarello, who took over responsibility for the vineyards and wines in 1967 (after 15 years working alongside his father), has shortened fermentation time over the years from 60 to 30 days. He also began bottling each vineyard separately, beginning with Monprivato in 1970.
I’m back in Piedmont, the region of northwestern Italy where vintners are best known for working the Nebbiolo grape from the renowned Barolo and Barbaresco appellations, for a week of winery visits. After a light lunch of lingua with salsa verde and tajarin at More e Macina in the town of La Morra, I was off to my first appointment.
Castello di Verduno, in the village of Verduno, one of Barolo’s 11 communes, has a history that dates back to the beginning of the 16th C. Its current viticultural history stems from the marriage of Gabriella Burlotto of Verduno and Franco Bianco of Barbaresco. As a result of this union, the winemaking and aging is done in Barbaresco, with the castle providing a vaulted cellar for storing the wines in bottle.
One of the specialties of the house is the Pelaverga Piccolo, a grape indigenous to the area that is only grown in Verduno.