有些酒一開瓶已色、香、味俱全，這是人見人愛的酒，很輕易的便評上高分。這種酒無論在什麼 blind tasting ，也一定勝出。
最近竟日品試 Bartolo Mascarello 的 1989 Barolo，便有這種感覺。
果味在此之前一直都是渾濁不清的。開始是帶上陳腐味的，之後變得乾淨一點但平淡，到了四個小時後比較清晰的果味才冒出來。餘韻悠長，特有 Barolo 那種又深又緊的甜味開始出現，這時候的感覺是清新的。
六個小時後，果味變得甜美而且很有深度，丹寧幼細。看來酒已經整裝待發了！有趣的是，我翻查半年前我們喝的那瓶 1988 Barolo，發現酒隨著時間的變化與這次幾乎一模一樣！
晚飯時間快到了，我把 1/3 瓶酒倒進 decanter ，試試效果如何。
一小時後開飯，在原瓶的酒，仍舊在緩慢變化。在 decanter 的酒，卻變得比較有活力，有「空氣感」（ Hi-fi 發燒友用語，可以叫 “ethereal”吧 ），然後是翩翩起舞！
我的筆記是這樣寫的﹕ “develops into a “whole” wine, ethereal, dances on toes like ballet; not robust, resplendent type, but dances!”
這正中 Sheldon Wasserman 所言﹕
Bartolo’s wines are the epitome of balance, harmony, style, elegance, distinction, and character … every bottle is a wine of meditation, best shared with good friends who appreciate great wine; no food necessary, the wines are good for thought in themselves …”
我喝得興奮，于是把餘下的半瓶也傾進 decanter ，留待飯後把杯盤清洗好以後再慢慢欣賞，那是兩、三個小時後的事。
但不好了！酒膨脹了好多倍，但不再翩翩起舞了，卻更像 Elvis Presley 晚年在 Las Vegas 的舞姿﹕臃腫、浮腫，疲憊．．．
半天之內，這瓶酒顯露了三種面相，真的不可思議。上次喝 1988 時我是分開兩天的，一直在原瓶透氣。第二天香氣少了，但味道基本上一樣，特色是很 ethereal 。
但試想﹕如果進行 blind tasting ，這瓶酒起碼會拿三個不同的分數。
我第一次被 Bartolo Mascarello 深深吸引，是看到美國 Italian Wine Merchants 的一份 newsletter 裏，有一篇標題為 When 84 points is better than 100 的文章。
話說 2001年的 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo ，剛被 Wine Spectator 打了個 84 分，酒評人 James Suckling 評道﹕ “Very funky. Smells like a warm room with two wet dogs in it.”
Italian Wine Merchants 的主人 Sergio Esposito 卻認為這是大好消息，馬上把他的訂單加大一倍。
Sergio Esposito 對 Bartolo 當然有過最深刻的認識。他寫過一本名叫 Passion on the Vine 的書，對他年青時與 Bartolo 的一次見面有很精彩的描述。
當年 Bartolo 把兩星期前喝剩的1978 倒了一杯給 Sergio，Sergio 皺起眉頭，滿腹疑慮之下等 Bartolo 先喝，心想自己可以顯露一下他的博學之才。但兩人像 The Old Man and the Sea 那樣堅持了 90 分鐘。終于 Bartolo 開始喝了；Sergio 喝下第一口後，有這段描述﹕
I put the glass to my nose. An indefinite period of time followed that action. I may have stayed that way for a second, a minute, or an hour — who knows? The part of my brain monitoring such worldly concerns took a break. Abruptly, the wine was no longer what I’d first perceived. I wasn’t in a world of recognizable perfumes and sensations. I was in a complex labyrinth in which nothing made sense, and whenever I would start down a path, I would hit a wall and be forced to turn back and begin again. When I was a child, wine had been a thing of emotion. Then, until that moment, it had been an analyzable product, full of characteristics that I could isolate and classify. But now it was its own fierce mystery. I stared at Bartolo. He smiled at me, just a little. I went back to my wine.
注意﹕他沒有描述酒的具體氣味與味道！接下來，Sergio 發表他對美的兩種看法﹕justifiable beauty 與 unjustifiable beauty ，而 Bartolo Mascarello 正是 unjustifiable beauty 的一種，不可思議之美是也。（引文詳見附錄一；我上面列舉的網誌也有有關書頁）
最有趣的是，網友 Kevin Tang 今年初與一群專家品試了 11 瓶經典級的成熟 Barolo 和 Barbaresco ，其中 1961 Bartolo Mascarello 竟然居于榜末！箇中原因我猜得出來。
我但覺酒喝得越多，所知便越少，就如 Socrates 所言﹕All I know is that I know nothing。
Bartolo Mascarello 的酒我喝不懂，但他讓我開始悟出更多酒理來。他肯定是葡萄酒世界中的 philosopher king 。
Bartolo 四年前去世了。聽說 Angelo Gaja 很推許 Bruno Giacosa ，而 Bruno 則推許 Bartolo ，這裏頭是很有道理的。
Bartolo 與繼承他大業的女兒 Maria Teresa
難怪 Sheldon Wasserman 說 Bartolo 的 every bottle is a wine of meditation 。
From Sergio Esposito’s Passion on the Vine, pp 171-173
[After ninety minutes,] I put the glass to my nose. An indefinite period of time followed that action. I may have stayed that way for a second, a minute, or an hour — who knows? The part of my brain monitoring such worldly concerns took a break. Abruptly, the wine was no longer what I’d first perceived. I wasn’t in a world of recognizable perfumes and sensations. I was in a complex labyrinth in which nothing made sense, and whenever I would start down a path, I would hit a wall and be forced to turn back and begin again. When I was a child, wine had been a thing of emotion. Then, until that moment, it had been an analyzable product, full of characteristics that I could isolate and classify. But now it was its own fierce mystery. I stared at Bartolo. He smiled at me, just a little. I went back to my wine.
The world has its share of justifiable beauty: a supermodel, a blueblood racehorse, a prizewinning rose. You can debate their value and win — she’s perfectly symmetrical, he’s the finest of the species, it meets all qualifications. Nobody can successfully convince you that Christie Brinkley, in her heyday as the face of CoverGirl, wasn’t beautiful. Even if California blondes weren’t your cup of tea, she was, factually, a thing of physical splendor. The traits are clear for all to see at once, out in the open, obvious: the supermodel’s white teeth, the horse’s muscled leg, the rose’s unmarred pink petal.
And then there is unjustifiable beauty. It’s personal beauty, imperfection, ambiguity. It’s beauty you cannot argue for because you have no material proof, only your own certainty. This was the magnificence of Bartolo’s wine. It was constantly morphing, evolving, impossible to know entirely. You could experience it an infinite number of times and you would never be able to master it. This was the true beauty, the kind of great art that transcends its time and invites its admirer to continue searching within it for the answer to some unknown question. It wasn’t a catchy pop song or a girl in a makeup commercial. You couldn’t pin it down by saying it smelled like rose petals. That was as reductive and senseless as looking at The Birth of Venus and saying, “It’s a painting of a girl in a shell.”
As I looked at Bartolo, himself descended entirely into his own experience, I considered the nature of a great wine. Its value lies in the fact that you can never understand or master it. To begin to see even a small portion of what it is, you must smother your ego, stop trying to win at some mad game, and let yourself become completely engulfed by something bigger than you. See a shape is easy, but grasping at a spirit is a life’s work and then some.
I stayed in my seat for a long time. And when we’d finished the bottle, I didn’t budge, but rather sat staring ahead as Bartolo read the newspaper, commented on a story, scribbled a few notes on a pad. Then I thanked him and left. The whiz kid did not come with me.
From Wine Spectator website
February 28, 1995
Chairman of The Board of Barolo
By Matt Kramer
It’s hard not to like a fellow who refuses to install a telephone. That’s what first drew me to Bartolo Mascarello. He sat in his office, like a spider at the center of a carefully woven web, welcoming flies of all sorts–friends, buyers, even wine writers.
Today, though, you can call ahead. And Bartolo himself picks up, on a cordless phone, no less. “Eh, I’ve got to use it,” he says disgustedly, after I dropped in for a chat. “My daughter made me get one.” His daughter, Maria Teresa, sits beside him, unperturbed by his affectionate abuse. In her late 20s, she is a tiny, delicate-looking creature who nevertheless seems possessed of the same implacable will that has made her 70-year-old father so renowned. The fact that Mascarello’s legs are useless from the ravages of multiple sclerosis, confining him behind his desk, no doubt helped her argument.
That people have for decades literally gone out of their way to visit Bartolo Mascarello says something about the man and his wines. The reason is simple: In the 1950s and ’60s, while most of his colleagues were in a complacent stupor, Bartolo Mascarello was making Barolo as if the world was watching.
When no one else was issuing named-vineyard wines, his Barolo briefly bore the banner of Barolo’s greatest vineyard, Cannubi. Yet today he opposes named-vineyard wines, a juggernaut that now cannot be stopped. His argument is classic Mascarello in its seeming reasonableness–only to arrive at an unreasonable conclusion. “Originally, Barolo was an assemblage of plots,” he says. “It took us so long to achieve fame for the name, that anything that takes away from it is not a good idea.
“I am not opposed to establishing legal vineyard boundaries and using single-vineyard names,” he reminds his listener. “However, it must be done carefully. And it has not. The problem is like this sweater,” he notes, plucking at it. “First the boundary expands this way,” as he pulls downward on his sweater. “Then it goes this way,” stretching it wide. “Sure, you have a legal boundary, but of what?”
Because of this, Mascarello issues a “Barolo.” In small print, the label does indicate that it is blended from Nebbiolo grapes from his plots in the Cannubi, San Lorenzo and Torriglione vineyards. Cannubi is its backbone and the source of its distinction. Mascarello’s two-and- a-half acres of vines there are a half-century old. The yield is achingly low.
The grapes from all three vineyards are vinified in an uncompromisingly straightforward fashion by Mascarello’s 30-year-old partner, Alessandro Fantino. He was made a partner because Mascarello, who comes from old Socialist Party stock (his grandfather and father ran a local winegrowers’ cooperative that was forcibly closed by the Fascists), does not believe in employing people. So he offered Fantino, who fully subscribes to Mascarello’s non-interventionist winemaking philosophy, a partnership instead.
The philosophy makes for extraordinary wines. In 1989 and ’90, Mascarello’s Barolos stood out even among the many exceptional wines produced in those stellar vintages. A tasting of cask samples from the difficult 1991, ’92 and ’93 vintages shows the reward of implacable vineyard integrity and a steadfast belief in intelligent traditionalism. The ’91 is eye-openingly good: firm, beautifully concentrated and age-worthy. The ’92, from a harvest that saw torrential rains, has surprising depth, but will mature quickly. The ’93 is a charmer, again showing impressive concentration and perfume.
Fantino makes the wine pretty much as Mascarello did in his prime: native yeasts; no controlled-temperature fermentation capability; aging in large oak and chestnut casks; and no filtering. What results is a signature-free wine, informed with the highly individual, mineral taste of Cannubi. Absent is the taste of the small, 60-gallon French oak barriques so fashionable in Piedmont today.
“I have tasted wines aged in barriques that were well made and interesting,” offers Mascarello, all innocent blandness. I waited for the other shoe to drop. “However, such wines are not the tradition, and I would like to maintain the tradition. They,” he emphasizes with a jut of his chin, “do not.” Then he smiles angelically. Mascarello loves a discussione, but the high road, you always discover, is already occupied.
Only in Italy could such a socialist be … an aristocrat.
Matt Kramer is the author of Making Sense of Wine and other books on wine and food.