Saturday morning I received a nice parcel of Mazzolino Estatetotally unexpected also because I was not expecting deliveries on the Saturday before Easter. The second wonderful surprise was to find pinot noir not only vinified as sparkling wine, but also vinified red. It may be me, but even if theOltrepò Pavese is a temple for the italian pinot noirI think this is the first time I have ever tasted it vinified in red. And of Oltrepò wines I dare say I have drunk a lot! So, and I have also repeated this to Francesca and Stefano at least 10 times, I was really happy to taste these wines... and create pairings with superlative French cheeses thanks to the expertise of Amaury Jimenez, who has a dream cheese shop in Turin and I can't wait to visit with my better half to break into the cellar! 😝

mazzolino estate

As you can see in the box was a beautiful letter that I decided to transcribe for you because it tells a beautiful story.

Dear Chiara,

I was born in 1984 when my grandfather Enrico Bragiotti had purchased the Mazzolino Estate a few years ago, while he was laying the foundations for an adventure that would change not only the destiny of the company, but also the wine history of the Oltrepò Pavese.

The whole world of Italian wine was taking its first steps towards the great revival that has made it what it is today, and my grandfather's skill - which I have always admired - was to make quick, far-sighted decisions. We are in the westernmost part of the Oltrepò Pavese, an area that not by chance is called 'the old Piedmont' as it was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia until the Lombard annexation in 1859. Geology, as we know, has much more stable boundaries over time than political geography. The legendary Luigi Veronelli and Giacomo Bologna, his invaluable advisors, had immediately realised the potential of the white soils surrounding the estate, and the name of the nearby Oliva Gessi speaks volumes about the characteristics of these soils abounding in chalky-calcareous formations. A great red wine could be made from an elegant and delicate variety like Pinot Noir, and Grandpa didn't ask for it twice!

In this area, known as the Pinot Noir hill, they brought in directly from Burgundy both the cuttings of the clones traditionally used and the best wood, and in 1985 the first vintage was released. Something great was born: the most important wine guides wrote enthusiastic reviews speaking of 'new air' and 'elegance and personality'. Thanks to this, the vineyards in the area immediately increased their economic value.

In the meantime, my mother Sandra, who had thrown herself with her usual determination into the running of the farm, never missed an opportunity to take me with her to Mazzolino. I couldn't wait to leave: I knew I would spend whole days among the vineyards, the roses in the garden, the ducks and chickens, the donkeys, the horses and above all the winemakers who still - after 30 years - work here with us and are one of the treasures of the winery.

Speaking of people... in 1999 another stroke of genius by my grandfather led to Mazzolino's Kyriakos Kynigopoulos, at the time little more than a Greek boy who moved to Burgundy to follow his innate passion for wine. And today that Kyriakos is considered one of the people who helped create the myth of Burgundy, to know that we are the only Italian company working with among the total 150 domaines, is for us a source of great pride.

In 2015, I had already begun my career as a lawyer in Milan when I received a phone call from my grandfather. In that phone call he asked me, aware of my passion for Tenuta Mazzolino, to be the one to take over the business full-time. He had chosen me from among many grandchildren and I was happy to change my life to continue his mission. There were many trips to Burgundy in the company of Kyriakos and there I found the path to follow, the same path my grandfather had taken so many years before.

Today with him and the rest of the team we are more and more focused on the respectful management of the ecosystem that hosts our land, we preserve the landscape and the biodiversity that is indispensable for quality balance, and we preserve the division of the vineyards that we vinify separately into small plots. In fact, we know that every little piece of vineyard, regardless of the variety chosen, expresses unique characteristics that we want to preserve right up to the bottle. We also know where the limestone veins that give us elegance run through, where the sand is more abundant for concentration in white wines, where the clay is deeper and we can expect more structured and long-lived wines, and where the shade of the forest protects the acidity that gives the fundamental freshness to the classic method.

In the meantime, we sell our wines in the best restaurants and wine shops in Italy and around the world. We export them to 25 countries, from Japan to the United States, personally visiting our importers to convey our philosophy and passion to them. Today, Noir is continually listed among the best Italian Pinot Noirs by national and international guides. Numerous awards have arrived and are still arriving, rewarding us and motivating us to keep improving.

In 2020, we had an unprecedented alignment of the stars: in the 40th year since the beginning of our Pinot Noir adventure, it happened for the first time that the new vintages of our three Pinot Noirs were released at the same time. So it seemed a nice opportunity to taste them together.

Best regards and see you later!


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Tenuta Mazzolino Cruasè Oltrepò Pavese DOCG Metodo Classico Rosé

Did you like Francesca's letter? I loved it! But now to the tasting of the 3 pinot noirs. The first one I tasted was the Tenuta Mazzolino Cruasèterm originating from Cru and Rosé, a collective brand of the  Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese that identifies theOltrepò Pavese DOCG Metodo Classico Rosé which comes from the Pinot Noir of the region. Although it is not yet stated on the label, this is the 2013 vintage. The plants from which this wine is made have their roots immersed in a limestone vein in an area of former, now abandoned chalk quarries. The result is a wine of a beautiful, bright onion skin pink colour with a very fine, abundant perlage. The nose is very delicate and I recognise hints of strawberry yoghurt, sugared almond, orange blossom, white chocolate and custard. In the mouth it is consistent, crisp, silky with an even more pronounced nutty and pastry flavour. The finish is savoury, increases salivation and is very fresh and persistent.

As you can see from the photo, I combined with great success the few quail eggs on a lightly toasted bread crouton with a dash of balsamic and the Burgundy cheese Brillat Savarin troufflé which I have already told you about in this article.

estate mazzolino sparkling wine

Tenuta Mazzolino, 'Terrazze' Oltrepò Pavese Pinot Nero 2019

Terrazze in France would be called 'vin de village' because it is made from four different vineyards in the same commune. It has a beautiful deep ruby red colour and is transparent. The nose is very elegant, complex and intense. Well recognisable notes of pomegranate, fresh cherry, black pepper, cloves, bay leaves and liquorice. In the mouth it is soft, very fresh, very savoury indeed almost salty. Long finish of fresh fruit.

Saint Marcellin PGI, an extraordinary cheese from Savoie

As you can see from the chopping board above (centre) I have combined the St Marcellin PGI, a small French cheese named after its home village in the heart of the Savoy. Saint Marcellin is a creamy cow's milk cheese that has a centuries-old history, so much so that the first mentions date back to the account books of King Louis XI. It became very popular due to its popularity at royal tables, famous was the eulogy in 1863 by Louis Philippe: 'Delicious! You will take me to the château every week'. Saint Marcellin is a cylindrical soft cheese with a diameter of just under 8 cm, about 2 cm thick and weighing about 80 g. The flowered rind is wrinkled and beige in colour, while the paste is creamy and cream-coloured. The flavour is very intense, with rather marked roasted notes. Warmed in the oven and picked up with a piece of bread, it is an incredible pleasure. With the Terrazze it went very well because its lively tannins defatted the unctuousness and balanced the intrinsic succulence of the melted cheese. Then its fresh fruit aromas were enriched by the toastiness of the cheese and made up an incredible bouquet!

estate mazzolino terraces pinot noir

Tenuta Mazzolino 'Noir' Oltrepò Pavese Pinot Nero 2017

It is a beautiful semi-transparent ruby red, deep and consistent. The nose is crazy, very elegant, with the spicy notes of pinot noir enhanced by a respectful use of Burgundy wood, of which about a 20% first passage. Balsamic hints are added, as well as notes of ever-fresh fruit in which blueberry plays the leading role. In the mouth, it is still young, but already of rare pleasantness. Great freshness, structure and sapidity for a softness that is balancing the wine month after month... and then it is very long on the finish!

You should buy at least 6 bottles of this wine and open one every 2 years to hear how it is evolving in the bottle. I really enjoyed it! As I do with all the wines of this vintage, I invite you to read my report Frost 2017: disaster in Italian vineyards, photos and thoughts directly from winegrowers. This is because I have heard some truly extraordinary wines from this vintage - thanks to superhero winemakers who gave 200% in the vineyard - which should by no means be demonised as I have heard from some.

Epoisses de Bourgogne AOP: what better pairing in homage to Francesca's grandfather?

Here is a French cheese that I am really in love with (Yes, another...😍) made from cow's milk, with a washed rind and medium fat maturation. It is produced in the Cote d'Or, Yonne and Haute-Marne in Burgundy. It has a cylindrical shape with irregular flat faces and a diameter of about 10-11 cm for about 250-350 g in weight. The washed rind is a beautiful amber colour with brick tones, while inside the soft, creamy paste is a more or less intense straw-yellow colour depending on maturity. Also in this cheese, the wheel is washed with Marc de Bougogne, I have already told you about this process with theAisy Cendré HERE. As with so many good things in France and beyond, we have the Cistercian monks living in Epoisses to thank for this delicious cheese created around the 16th century. Processing was refined year after year thanks to local breeders and producers, but the trade in this cheese, praised by Madame de Sèvignè and declared 'king of cheeses' by Brillat-Savarin in 1825, only became widespread from 1840 onwards.

tenuta mazzolino pinot noir

I also recommend reading this in-depth study on pinot noir to learn all the secrets of this extraordinary grape variety (with another Pinot Noir that you should taste and that I love!).

Thanks to Francesca and Stefano of Tenuta Mazzolino for the wonderful tasting we did together first on Zoom and then on ClubHouse!

Cheers 🍷


P.S. Don't forget to support my blog, which will always be independent of financial vices and free, by buying my book How to become a Sommelier: All my wine notes in one book! 😉

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