Meet ‘Mr Amarone’. Sandro Boscaini (top right) is the President and sixth generation owner of Masi Agricola, one of Italy’s finest wine producers.
Masi’s history dates back to the beginning of the 18th century, when the Boscaini family bought vineyards in the ‘Vaio dei Masi’ (Masi valley) right in the heart of the Valpolicella region.
The company has been among the key players in fine wine’s raised profile within the travel retail channel over recent times, enjoying booming business with the likes of Heinemann Duty Free.
Masi is synonymous with Amarone and, in particular, with the Appassimento process – the practice of laying the harvested grapes out to dry on bamboo racks through the winter to concentrate the intensity, colour and aromas of the wines. The technique is used across the Masi Amarones and with ‘Supervenetian’ wins such as Campofiorin and Masianco.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Boscaini; his son Raffaele, who heads marketing; Sales Managing Director Duty Free, Europe, Africa Pier Giuseppe Torresani (top left) and other members of the Masi management.
Raffaele (above left) led me through a tasting of nine of Masi’s finest wines, including two that have been produced exclusively for duty free – Nectar Campofiorin and Nector Costasera Amarone. To underline the fact that Masi doesn’t simply tweak the label when it produces duty free exclusives, we tasted the domestic market equivalents alongside. The differences were clear, the quality first rate (the travel retail Campofiorin was bursting with black cherry flavours; the sumptuous Amarone a beautifully balanced powerful wine with a finish as long as nearby Lake Garda).
Later I chatted over lunch with Sandro Boscaini (you can see my interview soon on the main website), giving me a fascinating insight into a man widely credited with the revival of the wines of the Venetian region – and particularly with the creation of a modern Amarone style. Mr Boscaini is both a traditionalist (deeply so) and a modernist. Under his leadership Masi has introduced a range of viticultural and vinicultural innovations offering a contemporary interpretation of the oenological traditions of the Venetian regions.
He’s even replanting some traditional but long abandoned grape varieties and making a series of unique, experimental wines. Over lunch we drank a bottle of Masi Osar Oseleta (above), the Oseleta grape being an ancient Veronese variety rediscovered and replanted by Masi in the 1980s. This exuberant mix of bold fruit, rich tannins and the trademark Masi clean finish more than lived up to the company’s claim that Oseleta is a “jewel of our territory”.
We capped off an exhilarating day by walking the beautiful and ancient centre of Verona, concluding with dinner at Bottega del Vino, a famous Verona restaurant featuring the biggest and best range of wines I have ever seen (not only Italian but including numerous vintages of the great French wines and even an extensive vertical selection – pictured below – of Australia’s crown jewel, Penfolds Grange).I thought I’d died and arrived in heaven.
The food (excellent) was secondary to the sheer pleasure of supping a Masi Campolongo di Torbe 1995, a superbly perfumed, velvet Amarone whose fruit burst from the glass, showing just how well this big, perfumed wine ages.
[Raffaele Boscaini, Martin Moodie, Pier Giuseppe Torrasani and Marthe Bohn from Masi's Norwegian distributor Symposium Wines toast the good life]
It’s good to see such a visionary, quality-obsessed house focusing on the travel retail channel. Wine’s real future in travel retail lies largely in premium wines. Masi’s more than fit the bill, in every way. This ancient city and region is finding a wonderful contemporary identity.
["Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" The famous Juliet balcony in central Verona]
[Touching the breast of Giulietta is said to bring good luck forever]