I enjoy most wine books – some more than others – as they contain information on any number of subjects, from grape varieties to history to producer profiles. Given the wide array of wines and wine regions, I’m grateful that so many are written and analyzed.
Every once in a while, there is a wine book, however, that stands alone for the author’s mastery of the subject as well as its organization and visual appeal. Barolo MGA: The Barolo Great Vineyards Encyclopedia, written by Alessandro Masnaghetti, is a work that approaches its subject like none before and it exceeds one’s hopes for what a book on this topic should contain. This is a masterful work, a book that should be part of any wine lover’s library.
For several years, Masnaghetti, one of Italy’s premier wine journalists (and an extremely gracious individual), has been publishing a series of vineyard maps for numerous production zones in Italy. These maps have included detailed analysis of individual sites in Bolgheri in Tuscany as well as the Valpolicella district, but his best known work has been with his maps of the Barolo and Barbaresco zones. There are maps not only of the entire Barolo area, but also ones that detail particular communes, such as Serralunga d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto. The maps, with numerous shades of blues, yellows, pinks and greens (among others) help the reader easily understand the differences in the crus in the zone or in one commune. The back side of these maps has text about the vineyards, with information ranging from elevation to soil makeup to a brief list of producers that source grapes from these sites.
Well it so happens that these maps were just a warmup exercise for Masnaghetti. The book takes his examination of the Barolo vineyards (referred to as MGA or Menzione Geografiche Aggiuntive, basically a fancy way of saying “cru”) to the next level. All of the 167 MGAs are profiled with an individual map – 3D, no less! – with detailed information on the physical layout of the vineyard along with information on what producer owns what slice of each site.
There are also maps and individual pages on each of the eleven Barolo communes – written, as is each section in this book in Italian and English (grazie a te, Alessandro!) – with the author’s thoughts on the style of wines from these places. If this book were only maps, I would highly recommend it, but Masnaghetti’s opinions on his subject matter – based on many years of research (I know – I’ve tasted Barolo for many years with him in Alba), is even more reason to purchase this book. His writings are not that of a highly opinionated person who is on a rant, but rather well thought out explanations of why certain Barolos feature particular characteristics.
If that wasn’t enough, there are historical maps, with one particularly helpful comparison of the Cannubi hillside as it looked in 1970 and then in 2013, when the MGAs were finalized. There is also a vintage chart, ranging from 1961 to 2011, as well as text about specific issues regarding labeling of Barolo. The author at one point notes that with the implementation of the MGA listing, a classic Barolo made from more than one of these MGA cannot list those vineyards on its label, but must instead, be identified merely as Barolo (the great traditional Barolo of Bartolo Macarello being the most famous example here). Insight and information such as this are what makes this book so distinctive and complete.
I can’t say enough good things about this book without repeating myself. If you are a fan of Barolo and want to understand the DNA of MGA, this is the book for you. But even if you are not that familiar with this area and its wines, you should purchase the book to help you better understand the concept of terroir, which in turn will give you that much more insight into Barolo.
Very highly recommended, Barolo MGA: The Barolo Great Vineyards Encyclopedia, by Alessandro Masnaghetti, is a masterpiece!
Price: 50 Euro (and worth much more)