Wednesday night was Monprivato night at the Maltings Cafe run by Sam Harris of Zucca fame. The tasting was attended by a familiar collection of merchants & brokers and hosted/organised by Eric “Barolo Guru” Sabourin. For me as a Barolo fan this has been looming large in the diary for a fair while. My knowledge of Monprivato being fairly limited to recent bottles of 1986, 2003 & 2006. I guess what I wanted to know was how good is the vineyard and is it in my opinion, when mature, a first growth/Grand Cru?

The format was 6 pairs of wines with just some bread to keep the palate going. I scored out of 20 which I have put below, I found scoring them tricky because you have to be aware that amongst wines of this age some bottles will show differently from others. There was one curve ball thrown in but a very interesting and totally logical one.

So Monprivato, the info is essentially here – but it is interesting to note that it took from 1967 to 1970 for Mauro Mascarello to convince his father that a single vineyard wine was a good idea, they had always blended this in with other vineyard holdings. This tasting was of wines from between 1970 & 1990 so was all “like for like” from 1993 there has been a wine – CA’ d’ MORISSIO – made from a part of the vineyard in some vintages but this is not relevant here.

Before staring we had some Ayala NV sans dosage, decent and Moreish. So the tasting…oldest to youngest, all the wines had been double decanted and had time (2hr or so to settle).

1970 Rich strong firm colour, surprisingly so, a savoury bacon edge to the nose but also fruit and freshness. Structure good and masculine too, fruit more black than red. Impressive, will keep but I don’t think it’ll change or evolve much more as the structure and fruit seem locked in the same balance. Good start (18).
1976 Lighter, browner, slightly “bricky” colour. Bovril and frazzles on the nose, fully mature and a nice example of aged Nebbiolo but a bit out of its league here (15-16).

1978 Dense colour with a little brown. Deep and darkly rich nose. Reminded me of struck matches and mushrooms. Brooding and masculine in style, has grunt to it. Very good (18+).
1979 Fascinating to have this next to the 1978. Lighter more feminine, fragrant and very good. Like Volnay next to Chambertin. Redder fruit, impressive especially for the vintage (17).

1982 Mid colour with a touch of everything about it. This was deeply impressive. Red fruit and gorgeous balance, everything in check, lively acidity, great wine (19).
1984 An awful vintage but this was a more than decent wine. A bit of soy and Worcester sauce. I put “no faults but no charm”, probably one of the best 1984’s I’ve had from anywhere! (16.5).

1985 The curve ball – this was Monprivato 1985 from Brovia – they sold their tiny (less than an acre) plot to Mascarello in 1991 so 1990 was their last vintage. This had a different texture/profile to the Mascarello’s which is no problem (I am a big Brovia fan). It had a dash of Christmas cake and spice with a finish that reminded me of Palo Cortado (17.75)
1985 The “real” Monprivato 1985, a lighter redder colour, a salty tangy to the wine that I liked. Like the 1982 in profile and made you want the 1982 again, good if rougher round the edges than the ‘82 (18).

1986 A spicy soy-ish edge to the nose, green pepper and more spice too. “Feminine but butch” someone said and I get the idea. My note here doesn’t do it justice, very good (18.5).
1988 I have written “dash of ketchup” which is strange, this was more than decent but not in the top few wines (17.25).

1989 This final pair was very good as you’d expect. I got a lovely balanced nose but with a definite crème brulee element to it. Vibrant and fresh it gave a slightly immortal feeling, very hi-toned, a star (19.25).
1990 A more evolved nose, still complex, good fruit but it was the palate that this wine took off, very impressive and expressive, sweetness and depth (18.5).

As an aside there was also a bottle 1971 that Eric felt was not good enough to show, it was not perfect but it was interesting, closewst to the 1970/78 in style, so a more masculine wine.

So what of the Monprivato vineyard? As far as I am concerned it is definitely a Grand Cru, the quality was very high and there is a real sense of place to the wines…it was deeply impressive.

After the tasting we had a great selection of food that Sam had created, I ate far too much to quickly but then that’s just my greed. We had a double mag of Fontalloro 1997 to accompany it, this was delicious, balanced, vibrant but mellowed from the bit of age…a good choice.

Bravo all round Eric & Sam!