As we look ahead to next month’s second Nebbiolo Day tasting The Buyer will be profiling and talking to some of the key producers taking part in the event to find out how they are each working with this key grape variety that is attracting such interest around the world. We start with Franco Massolino, who with his Massolino Vigna Rionda wines is the fourth generation winemaker to make wines in the estate.
Buyers will get the chance to taste a wide range of Nebbiolo styles as part of the main Nebbiolo Day tasting on March 5 including this highly respected producer, Franco Massolino, in the heart of Barolo.
Tell us something about the history of the winery and how it has grown?
The Massolinos are a family of Serralunga d’Alba for four generations. Giovanni Massolino established his farm there in 1896, a determined and creative man, who was also the first to bring electric current to the village. His son Giuseppe built the first cellar underneath the family’s house and started to plant vineyards in some of the nicest plots of Serralunga; in 1934 he was also among the founders of the Consortium for the Defence of Barolo and Barbaresco. Three of his children, Giovanni, Renato and Camilla, later on followed in his footsteps and between the 1960’s and the 1980’s drove a significant expansion of the winery activity, with the building of the first nucleus of the present winery (just in front of the old family’s house) and the purchase some of the most precious vineyards, owned by the family till today, in the Crus of Margheria, Parafada and above all the Vigna Rionda, which since then also gives the name to the family business.
Since the 1990’s, myself along with my brother, Roberto, the 4th generation of the family, have joined the winery. We have looked to invest in further expansion with the purchase of a great vineyard in the cru of Parussi (in Castiglione Falletto) and of other beautiful estates in Monforte and Alba. We have built a new facility in the village of Serralunga, well hidden underneath the renovated town square and panoramic point of the village.
Why do you grow Nebbiolo and what sort of styles of wine do you hope to make from it?
Nebbiolo is certainly one of the most interesting and prestigious grape varieties in Italy. A native grape of south Piedmont, it works so well in the Langhe region as the peculiar climatic conditions are crucial to its development. In particular, the lower altitude and the milder climate of the northern part of the Langhe (Bassa Langa), where the Barolo and Barbaresco appellations are found, create the best conditions for the growth of this variety. The most interesting and intriguing thing about Nebbiolo is how much its expression and characters are determined by the vineyard of provenance: the huge variety of terroirs of the region provides uncountable opportunities to seize each time a unique and peculiar trait.
It makes Nebbiolo such an incredibly interesting grape to work with, but it also needs the greatest care and attention. Our philosophy has always been about respecting and preserving as much as possible the real personality of every vineyard, so that the bond between the wine and the territory becomes evident and indissoluble. We vinificate our grapes with this hope and goal, that our wines communicate elegance, complexity and depth and tell you all you need to know about where we come from.
Have the styles of Nebbiolo changed over the years and if so how and why?
Because of its complex personality, its true Nebbiolo is the subject of a number of several interpretations. We firmly believe in the tradition that it should also be a starting point; this is why, while continuing to keep a very traditional conception, we have implemented new techniques and technologies in the vineyards and the cellar, in order to make our wines the most clean, precise and typical. In fact, putting technology at the service of tradition, moving forward but with one eye looking backwards as well.
What Nebbiolo wines do you export to the UK?
Today we export to UK our full Nebbiolo range, through Liberty Wines, including six labels that have the precise aim of representing the different personalities of the grape. First of all, the Langhe Nebbiolo, that we consider the little brother of our Barolo, showing the youth of this grape; the Barolo Classico, as we like to call it, the identity card of our winery, since it represents the hand of the winemaker and the original way of making Barolo as a combination of the best grapes from various plots, in order to harmonise many nuances together
Then we have the three single-vineyard Barolo made from the many precious plots in the crus of Margheria, Parafada and Parussi (Castiglione Falletto), all vinified in the same way so as to focus on the pure personality of the vineyard, and therefore produce three completely different wines. Finally we have our diamond, the Barolo Vigna Rionda, from one of the historically famous cru of the whole Barolo area and always produced as a Riserva, to allow it the time it needs to express its strong personality in full shape.
Why do you think your wines are suitable for the UK market?
The UK market pays very close attention to the Nebbiolo variety and it means it is more popular and appreciated there. The trade and consumers alike understood that this is a unique variety, with its own complexity and charm, so we think it has a big chance to grow even more in the UK market in the years to come.
What other varieties do you grow?
Besides Nebbiolo, we still produce two of the historical grapes of the Langhe, Dolcetto and Barbera; we can consider them as the grandparents of viticulture and oenology of the area as they were the wines made by the farmers for their own consumption, a long time before we had actual winemakers in the region. They are our link to our history, our story and traditions and they are still our everyday companions. Since the 1990’s we have also introduced two white varieties: the Moscato d’Asti, the traditional dessert wine of Piemonte, and Chardonnay, a personal way to bring “Burgundy” to the Langhe. I have also started a new project, and a new label which will be launched soon.
Where are your other major export markets and why?
Around 70% of our production goes to the US, which is certainly one of the largest markets in the world. Besides, the old World still takes a significant share: together with our historical markets, the UK, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. The Scandinavian markets have also become very important.
Surprisingly Australia represents another market that grown a lot in recent years.
How do you see 2019? What are your big opportunities and challenges?
2019 will be another very important year, we will continue to promote our wines, especially the Barolo that represent our king, in our best possible way! We have also many new projects, like the renovation of an old house to host our friends and the launch of a new label produced in the highest part of an our new property in Monforte d’Alba. A project born thanks to our passion. We are looking forward to introducing it!
Why should a buyer come and taste your wines at the Nebbiolo Day tasting?
Our wines are the sons of the deep communion of the grape with its territory and its grower. Our aim is to carefully preserve this bond and let our products express this strong relationship, cemented in generations of work, research, innovation and above all passion for our land of origin.
- The Nebbiolo Day tasting takes place onMarch 5 at the Lindley Hall, Elverton St, London SW1P 2PB including more than 90 winemakers and 500 Nebbiolo wines. It will include in-depth seminars and master classes by Walter Speller( ) and the guru of Italian wine maps Alessandro Masnaghetti ( ). You can also test your knowledge of the many styles and guess the origin of more than 90 wines on the Nebbiolo Trail. To register go to http://huntandspeller.com