Traditional winemaker Mascarello is dead at 78

Bartolo Mascarello, who produced some of Italy's finest wines using only traditional methods and refusing to bow to technological advances, has died at 78, his daughter said Wednesday. Mascarello died Saturday in his home in Barolo after long suffering of heart problems, Maria Teresa Mascarello said by phone. It was in the hills around his native town, in the northern Piedmont region, that Mascarello tended his vines and produced some of the best vintages of famed Italian reds such as Barolo and Barbera. He remained keen to produce wines that were tied to the region's history. "No cabernet, no merlot, no chardonnay and no wines with invented names, or you don't know what you are drinking," his daughter quoted Mascarello as saying. For several years Italy's prestigious Gambero Rosso wine guide bestowed Mascarello's Barolo the "three glasses," its top honor. Mascarello's attachment to tradition was firm both in winemaking and in marketing techniques. He inherited the small family business from his father and tried to keep things as they used to be, from manually picking the best grapes to hand-drawing the labels for some of his bottles, his daughter said. "Hold on to those, when I die they will be very valuable," he used to joke when he gave those bottles to friends and family, she recounted. Mascarello staunchly opposed many technical innovations that have transformed winemaking in the last few decades, saying they could alter a wine's flavor and aroma. Wines like the full-bodied and aromatic Barolo can take years to mature and many producers now speed up the process by aging the wine in small oak barrels named "barriques." Mascarello preferred to patiently allow its wine to evolve in the traditional "botti," or large barrels. He was equally conservative in marketing his product, shying away from big trade fairs and preferring that knowledge of his wine be passed by word of mouth between friends and connoisseurs. Still, his bottles were appreciated in Europe, Japan and the United States, his daughter said. "My father's philosophy was that you must not chase the consumer, but force him to come to look for you," said Maria Teresa, adding she intends to keep up her father's attachment to tradition. Mascarello was buried Monday in Barolo's cemetery. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife Francesca. Associated Press

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