Maria Teresa Mascarello

Maria Teresa Mascarello

Bartolo Mascarello (Barolo) (Enologa/Winemaker & Owner)

“I have a big responsibility.”

Maria Teresa Mascarello, a single woman who owns and runs her family’s iconic winery, is a bit of an anomaly in the male-dominated world of wine. She began working in her family’s winery in 1993 when she was 26 years old. “The environment was very masculine and women were always marginalized.” Nonetheless, she persisted, and carried on the winemaking traditions of her father with great aplomb, much to the surprise of those who were waiting for her to fail.

Maria Teresa grew up in a well-known and celebrated wine family but remarkably did not taste wine until she was 20, as wine did not interest her. Her parents, Bartolo and Franca, allowed her to make her own decisions, and Maria Teresa chose to attend Liceo Scientifico in Alba and then to study foreign languages, namely, French and German, at the University of Turin.

As a daughter, she was not expected to be able to carry on with her father’s work, but as an only child, she began to feel the responsibility to do so. Her grandfather had produced his first Barolo in 1919, and his knowledge and use of the traditional methods was passed on to her father, who was now producing great Barolo. She felt a commitment to her roots, and a responsibility.

In 1993, Maria Teresa began learning all aspects of the business from her parents, who were then already in their 60s. (Her father, also an only child, was 41 years old when she was born.) Her father became her teacher in both the vineyards and the cellar, and was a demanding but brilliant mentor in this role. When his health began to decline in the late 1990s, Maria Teresa began taking on more and more of the responsibility and work of the vineyards and cellar, and she was taking nearly full responsibility by 2004 (her father passed in March 2005).

Her first vintage, produced in 2005 when she was only 38 years old, received rave reviews. Gambero Rosso called it one of the finest Barolos of the vintage; Antonio Galloni’s Vinous agreed, awarding the 2005 Barolo 95 points, and describing it as “a gorgeous wine.” Wine reviewers consistently describe her Barolo as having a harmony and elegance that surpasses the great vintages of earlier years.

Maria Teresa continues to run the winery according to her father and grandfather’s traditional methods. Indigenous yeasts are preferred for fermentation, but if they fail to initiate the process, selected yeasts are then used. She also employs long fermentation and maceration times for her wines. Fermentation takes place in glass-lined concrete tanks with no temperature control, and wines are aged exclusively in botti, the traditional large Slovenian oak casks, rather than the smaller barriques favored by the “modernists.” Indeed, Bartolo was such a “traditionalist” that he once produced a hand-painted label stating, “No Barrique, No Berlusconi,” a statement of his distain for the smaller barrels being introduced by the modernists and to the political leadership in Italy at the time.

Maria Teresa appears comfortable with continuing to be the guardian of tradition in the Langhe, and this may extend to her neither having a winery website nor engaging in travel for advertising her wine. At the same time, she is a leader in working to preserve the authenticity of the wine region and is a strong promoter of sustainable farming practices.

The Wines. Bartolo Mascarello produces Barbera d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Alba, Langhe Freisa, and Langhe Nebbiolo in addition to its well-known Barolo. Its production is 32–35,000 bottles, half of which are Barolo, from five hectares devoted to these Piemonte varietals. During our visit we were pleased to be invited to taste two of her very wonderful wines, the 2016 Bartolo Mascarello Langhe Nebbiolo, with its bright fruit and wonderful aromas, and the elegant 2014 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, which had recently received 95 points from Wine Enthusiast and 94+ points from Vinous.

The Bartolo Mascarello wines have earned highly positive reviews from both Italian and international wine critics, especially the winery’s Barolos. The 2010 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, for example, was awarded 97 points by Wine Spectator, 96 points by Robert Parker, and 99 points by Vinous. In 2015, Wine Spectator listed the 2010 Barolo among the world’s 100 top wines; it was listed as #50. These excellent reviews have continued in subsequent years. For example, Vinous rated all her vintages since 2010 between 94+ and 98+ points.