During a recent visit to Italy I met with Barolo star Franco Massolino who, along with his brother Roberto, represents the fourth generation of the family to manage the Massolino estate in Piedmont’s Serralunga d’Alba commune.
Founded in 1896 by Giovanni Massolino, this is a Serralunga estate at its core, the soul of the winery linked with the Vigna Rionda MGA and its Nebbiolo grapes. The winery sign on the main road through the village reads “Azienda Agricola Vigna Rionda.” Its other MGAs in the commune are Margheria and Parafada; the brothers only ventured outside Serralunga in 2006, when they rented a parcel in the Parussi MGA in neighboring Castiglione Falletto, purchasing it two years later.
In 2019, however, they made a move into Barbaresco, leasing 10 acres of vineyards in the MGAs of Albesani, Serraboella and Starderi. The owner of the vineyards, Bernardino Gastaldi, has no heirs; he and Roberto Massolino struck a friendship over a passion for cars.
Each harvest, the Barbarescos are fermented and aged separately, to “understand the style that best represents Massolino,” says Franco. They found the Albesani to be the most elegant of the three, and will release the 2019 next year, in September 2022. There will also be a Barbaresco 2019, a blend of the three vineyards, to be released in spring 2022.
The Barbarescos are made at a facility owned by Massolino in Alba. Once the Barbaresco DOCG certification is approved, the wines can be moved in bulk to the cellar in Serralunga for bottling.
Massolino owns 7.5 acres in Vigna Rionda, almost one-third of the 25-acre MGA. It was the first estate to bottle a single-vineyard, with the 1982 vintage. Because of its connection with Vigna Rionda, widely considered to be one of Barolo’s top sites, Massolino wanted to create a very unique identity for its flagship Barolo.
“We spent a long time thinking about how to tell the story of Vigna Rionda,” explains Franco. Convinced that 2016 is a great vintage, it was decided to create a new, black label, for a Barolo that will “represent Vigna Rionda in the correct way.”
The Vigna Rionda Riserva Black Label will only be bottled in the best vintages; those not designated as Black Label will continue to be bottled as Riserva with the cream label. The Dieci Anni, sold only after Vigna Rionda reaches 10 years, will be discontinued. “The Dieci Anni was too confusing,” says Franco.
The new Vigna Rionda will be fermented using ambient yeasts in oak tini—large, conical oak vats—with the blending and pre-bottling in stainless steel tanks and cement vats. Like the current Riserva, it will age between 30 and 42 months based on the character of the vintage. The Black Label 2016 aged 36 months in oak.
The Massolino Barolo 2016 earned the No. 7 spot among Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2020. Quality has never been better at this address, and Piedmont fans should welcome these new reds from this historic winery.