“When I visited Maria Theresa Mascarello in Barolo last spring one of the questions I asked her was, “Who has been the most detrimental to the state of barolo, the Wine Spectator, Parker, Marco DeGrazia or wine consultants? She laughed. She found this all amusing. “All of them go in the same direction of modern barolo. But all of them needed to learn from Luigi Veronelli,” she said referring to the late, most prominent Italian wine critic.“I do not like this American way of judging wine,” she continued. “Veronelli connected the culture to the wine, he judged wine in its context.” Then she said, with a scorn-edge in her voice, “Do you know, Wine Spectator’s James Suckling said my 2001 wine smelled like a room with two dogs in it!”What she didn’t know was that Suckling gave it an 84. Here’s the review.Very funky. Smells like a warm room with two wet dogs in it. Yet some of the funk blows off, giving it lovely plum and berry character. Medium-bodied, with a sweet fruit finish. Drink now. 1,570 cases made. –JS.”
These comments by Alice Feiring (click on the link above for the whole article) highlight one of the most confusing issues in wine journalism today. Why does The Wine Spectator not do anything about James Suckling? Only weathermen and economists are allowed to make so many blatant mistakes and still keep their jobs. We can assume there were be a long line of competent writers lined up to take this position and almost anything would be better than this for Italian wines.
If the 2001 Mascarello Barolo smells like “a warm room with two dogs in it”, I’m going out today and getting two wet dogs. This is a lovely wine (as Alice also reports in her article) and Sucklings comments don’t reflect personal taste, they reflect ignorance of the character of young, natural Barolo.The Barolo of Bartolo Mascarello is stunning its balance between elegance and power.
Here are my notes from my visit to Mascarello in 2005: These are wines that are defined by complexity not brute strength and they flow seamlessly over the palate and with each second reveal new layers of nuance. The tannins, while substantial, have a refinement that adds its own complexity and are surprisingly delicate in spite of their intensity. A tasting of recent vintages reveals an amazing consistency of style with the differences caused by the qualities of the vintage alone standing out. A side-by-side tasting of Mascarello Barolo 2001, 2000 and 1999 revealed a consistent range of flavors featuring a refined floral nose full of violets and roses layered with touches of caramelized oranges and bittersweet tar. On the palate the wines almost float with a high-strung elegance that features notes of fresh wild strawberry, bitter black licorice, fresh porcini and black truffles and what seems like hundreds of other flavors that play hide-and-seek with your senses. As you would expect from such young Baroli the tannins are still intense, but are so refined they don’t seem harsh. The 2000 is clearly the most forward of these wines and is recommended for drinking prior to its tenth birthday, which is perfect as you will have to be much more patient with the 1999 and 2001, which demand the respect of at least ten years of aging, but waiting longer is recommended. The 2000 shows a riper note of cassis in the fruit and is decidedly softer than the 1999. The 1999 and 2001 are classic Baroli that show beautifully every aspect of what makes Barolo a great wine. The 1999 is just starting to reveal its greatness and shows perfect balance and incredible complexity. It is a “must have” wine for any collector. The 2001 is still extremely young and unresolved, but the great potential of this vintage clearly shows in the wine, which has the potential to surpass even the great 1999 in the future. They did not produce a Barolo in 2002 due to the devastating weather conditions in La Morra and the Barolo commune.