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Franco Masiero’s Lazaro: gorgeous Garganega from a leisurely beginning

by Claudio Celio

Masiero’s Garganega hails from a small plot of land, less than one hectare that holds a trove of extremely old Garganega vines. Their roots have delved into this calcareous terrain in the Sant’Urbano district, near Montecchio Maggiore (province of Vicenza) for over sixty years.

Franco Masiero is a painstaking, meticulous grower, as one can easily tell by listening to his account of the lengthy and complex vinification process that goes into this wine – first issued in 2015 in a tiny batch of 3,000 bottles.

“The whole grape bunches undergo 3 months’ maceration in cement vats; after which, the bunches are very gently soft-pressed and the wine is racked into truncated cone-shaped [wooden] vats, where it continues alcoholic fermentation and completes the malolactic,” said Franco Masiero. “Then it goes into a marble tank that serves the purpose of stabilizing the wine. The latter is finally bottled without filtering or the addition of sulfites.”

In other words, Masiero’s is a very lengthy process using containers made of different materials (cement, wood and marble), each of which plays a specific role.

There is one aspect, though, Franco Masiero is keen to point out: “To a large extent, what makes the procedure possible is the wine’s lengthy fermentation at low temperature. We never exceed 18 degrees [Celsius], and do it without needing to check – manually or mechanically – fermentation temperature.”

Thanks to this leisurely, ‘slow’ pace, the wine (which takes the name of Lazaro once it’s bottled) can slowly ‘unwind’ and extract substance from the skins without this implying excessive tannin extraction. True enough, astringency on tasting is anything but excessive: maceration on the skins is evident yet in no way perturbs the palate. What strikes one most is the depth and pervasive minerality that linger on long after the wine’s been ingested.

These qualities enhanced by the vintage.

“Last year,” said Masiero,” was an exceptional year in our area. We got rich, complex wines with considerable structure despite a fairly moderate alcohol content.”

In this instance, the Garganega varietal reached 12.5% alcohol by content.

The bouquet is just as lovely, rustic and upfront and layered with hints of loquat, tree bark and barley. An all-around food wine that goes well with plain, home-made dishes to match its juicy quaffability.