Massolino, one of Piedmont's top Barolo producers, is preparing to launch what might be called a "double reserve" Barolo. The Barolo Vigna Rionda 10-year Riserva 1999, due to be released this upcoming September, is a version of the Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva 1999 that has spent 10 years maturing in Massolino's winery in Serralunga d'Alba.
According to winery owner Franco Massolino, the only difference between the 10-year riserva and the original Vigna Rionda Riserva 1999 (92 points, $98 on release in 2005) is an extra six months in large oak casks and a further six months in stainless steel vats before bottling. There is an additional "Dieci X Anni" banner on the otherwise identical label.
"The point of it is that we think Barolos are generally drunk too early these days," said Massolino. "In a good vintage like 1999, the wine doesn't show its full potential when young. After 10 years, the real character of the wine starts to come through. But it's difficult to find a 10-year-old Barolo in restaurants these days, even in Piedmont."
Most Barolos appear on the market four years after the harvest, after spending three years aging in oak in accordance with Italy's Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita regulations (five years for Barolo riservas). Massolino is the second major Barolo producer of note in recent years to announce the birth of a 10-year reserve wine. In 2007, Roberto Voerzio, one of the top producers in the Barolo-producing area around the town of La Morra, unveiled his Barolo Fossati Case Nere 10 Anni Riserva 2003, due for release in 2013.
Massolino first experimented with a Vigna Rionda 10-year Riserva with the classic 1996 vintage, which had a limited release in 2006. Since then he has laid down a small, but increasing quantity to mature into the 10-year bottling—2,000 bottles in 1999, 2,500 bottles in 2000, 3,000 bottles in 2001 and an as yet undecided quantity in 2004.
"We hope to be able to release the entire stock of the Vigna Rionda Riserva after 10 years, when the vintage quality is right," said Massolino. "It's a tough financial proposition, but we are determined."
Massolino chose not to make the Vigna Rionda 10-year Riserva in 1997, hailed as one of the region's best modern vintages. "The wine was fantastic, even when young, but we believed that the more forward character of the wine made it less suitable for our 10-year Riserva project."
The 1999 vintage comes only in 750ml bottles, but from the 2000 vintage on, Massolino also bottled in large formats; the 2000 vintage includes 250 magnums, 100 double magnums and 50 bottles that contain 5 liters.
Massolino said that the release price was still under review, but an ex-cellar price of around 70 euros per bottle seemed likely. He said that orders were already coming in from clients who had taken the Vigna Rionda 10-year Riserva 1996.
"We want the 10-year Riserva to become the winery's flagship wine," said Massolino. "It's important to fix the right price—one that reflects the expense of holding it for 10 years in the winery, but also highlights the very high quality of the wine."
The Massolino family has been producing wine in Serralunga d'Alba since 1896 and the Vigna Rionda 10-year Riserva takes the number of the winery's Barolos to five. The three cru Barolos, Vigna Rionda Riserva, Parafada and Margheria, as well as a blended Barolo, all come from vineyards located around the town of Serralunga d'Alba.
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