The Scarlet Pimpernel Of Barolo

About 10 years ago while on a visit to Torino to meet my wife’s cousins, I was tasked to find a suitable present for them. I wandered out of our inner city hotel doing my usual “leave it to providence” routine. I found my way to a bar owned by a quite drunk Belgian who I was eventually able to get to understand my quest. He enthusiastically referred me to a bottle of Massimo Penna Sori Tec. “Buonissimo” he whispered.

Two years later I had started importing wine and I returned to Italy and tried to track Massimo down. No website, no phone listing. I did have an email address but no-one ever responded. It proved impossible to find Massimo and I had to enlist the assistance of a cousin to get the appointment. After much persistence she organised a visit.

On the day of the appointment, 7 of us turned up for a tasting with the Scarlet Pimpernel himself, Massimo Penna. We had such fun that after Massimo wanted us to come to lunch with him He jumped on his Moto Guzzi and we followed him through the curving stradi of Barolo to a Michelin 2 star restaurant. At the end of lunch he wanted to pay….amazing ….we were 7 strangers….but I managed to sneak out and get it done. Massimo was not impressed.

I have visited Massimo consistently since but never bought more than a few bottles for myself to take home in the suitcase. I could not simply justify the risk bringing in a pallet of Barolo due to its expense and my limited market for these types of wines.

My last visit in April 2018 was the most extraordinary tasting of my life. I tasted 10 wines made by Massimo and rated every single one at 94 points and above. Three were rated at 98 points. Now you could say that maybe I was entranced by my surroundings, and I could not argue, even though his tasting room is rudimentary….but Massimo himself is a passionate and beguiling host.

Barolo and Barbaresco are the ultimate Italian wines. These are made by an artisan from some of the very best organic vineyard locations in the area. Production is only 80,000 bottles per annum