Apr 6, 2013

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#SnoothPVA: Wines of Scarpa

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IMG_5441Arriving by subway and a swift walk through the streets of New York City, three wine bloggers (whom I met just 20 minutes earlier in the lobby of our Chelsea-Manhattan hotel) and I arrived at the Peking Duck House for the first of many wine tasting events we’d be attending together over the course of the next day and a half. Directed to the back room, we were able to briefly meet some of the other attending bloggers before taking a seat at one of three tables that were clearly set for our first SnoothPVA wine tasting. The twelve glasses placed at each setting were filled with wine from Scarpa, a 150 year old winery located in the Italian wine region of Piedmont. Only can a group of wine writers arrive at a restaurant to find their tables completely filled with wine glasses, and not an ounce of food (except for the palate cleansing crackers, of course).

IMG_5444After briefly looking over the list of wines that were poured into the twelve glasses in front of me, I realized I was about to taste some seriously high-caliber wines. Ranging in vintages from 2007 to 1978, with prices from $52 dollars a bottle to $500 dollars a bottle, our weekend of wine tasting was most certainly beginning with a bang. And, it was all about Scarpa’s Barbera di Astis and Barolos.

  • Barbera di Asti is an Italian red wine made from the Barbera grape. Characteristics typically include aromas and flavors of berries (both red and dark), black cherry, plum, spice, herbs and licorice. They’re usually medium to full bodied with solid acidic backbones and prominent, yet soft tannins. I often find that Barberas offer a velvety mouthfeel. 
  • Barolo is an Italian red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape – known for hard core tannins and complex flavors. In my experience, the older the Barolo the better – aging allows for those big-time tannins to soften while complex, alluring flavors stay in tact.

IMG_5446Hosted by Scarpa’s Martina Zola, along with her lovely Italian accent that ended every word with the letter a, we learned a bit of history about this winery. Scarpa was founded in 1854 by oenologist Antonio Scarpa, and the winery is located in the historical town of Nizza Monferrato – an area known back then, as it is now, for its high quality Barbera production. The reigns of Scarpa winery were later handed over to Mario Pesce, who added many important elements to Scarpa, including gaining world-wide recognition of the wines being produced in the Piedmont region. Mario Pesce passed responsibilities on to Martina Zola’s mother, Maria Piera Zola, who currently manages operations at Scarpa.

For reasons I’m not completely sure of, but will try to gain some knowledge on, the wines of Scarpa have not been imported into the Unites States since the 1970’s, so we were informed our group was among the first in the U.S. to sample these wines in over 20 years. In order, the twelve wines of Scarpa that we sampled:

  • IMG_5445Scarpa Barbera di Asti, La Bogliona, 2007, $72
  • Scarpa Barbera di Asti, La Bogliona, 2006, $52
  • Scarpa Barbera di Asti, La Bogliona, 2005, $68
  • Scarpa Barbera di Asti, La Bogliona, 1998, $58
  • Scarpa Barbera di Asti, La Bogliona, 1997, $95*
  • Scarpa Barolo, Tettimora, 2005, $74
  • Scarpa Barolo, Tettimora, 2004, $88
  • Scarpa Barolo, Tettimora, 2003, $98
  • Scarpa Barolo, Tettimora, 2001, $130
  • Scarpa Barolo, Tettimora, 1999, $105*
  • Scarpa Barolo, Tettimora, 1987, $250
  • Scarpa Barolo, Le Coste di Monforte, 1978, $500*

IMG_5472Starting with the five Barbera di Astis, I noticed each had similar aroma and flavor characteristics of bright red fruits, lemon zest and decent balance between fruit and acid (except for the ’98, which was oxidized). With each year, the mouthfeel gets a bit softer and silkier, and their depth of character remains full and vibrant. Of the five, however, the balance had come to complete perfection in the 1997 vintage. Martina Zola mentioned that an important storm had played a roll in creating a superb vintage, and the Scarpa winemaker (of 60 years) said, “In ’97 God made the great harvest, now we have a fantastic La Bogliona.” My absolute favorite Barbera was the ’97.

*The 1997 Scarpa Barbera di Asti, La Bogliona, displayed beautiful red fruit aromas with a wonderful smoky quality enhanced by an alluring vanilla spice. Super clean and juicy on the palate, acid and fruit balance was perfect and seamless, silky waves rolled from front to back, and offered a long, pleasant finish – outstanding. 

Unlike the Barberas, each of the Barolos were very different, except for two qualities: peppermint and gripping tannins. Of the Barolos, I really enjoyed the 2004 vintage, but absolutely fell in love with the 1999 and 1978 vintages.

IMG_5474*The 1999 Scarpa Barolo, Tettimora, had an incredible finish that left a lasting impression. Faux Pas among my peers, I just couldn’t dump this one after tasting it. I kept it and revisited it until the end of the tasting, and it evolved with each sip. Pronounced aromas and rich flavors created a super complex wine with intense depth. I nicknamed it the three V’s: violets, vanilla and vibrancy. I loved it. 

*The 1978 Scarpa Barolo, Le Coste di Monforte was incredibly different from the other Barolos. The aromas were sort of perplexing, but completely intriguing. My notes go like this: ‘newly opened cigar box, freshly put out camp fire, a saltwater aquarium, salty sea spray. I feel like I’m back in the Bahamas on my old sail boat.’ The tannins were soft, but definitely pronounced, and the mouthfeel was pure silk – I was amazed at how this wine had stood up to the test of time. It didn’t even oxidize quickly with its exposure to the air. I immediately thought about a 1978 Classic California Red from The Monterey Vineyards that I opened up last November for Thanksgiving dinner – oxidation set in super fast, although it was enjoyable while it lasted, it was nothing like the 1978 Barolo. 

With this being the first of many wine tastings to come, I was super excited about what was in store for us wine writers over the next couple days. Having just tried the stellar wines of Scarpa, I knew we were in for some very special tastings. Next on our list, which was just about an hour after the Scarpa tasting, was dinner at the Peking Duck House with the wines of Oregon – for me, that’s a little slice of heaven, you all know my heart belongs to Oregon.

 

2013-SnoothPVABloggers-30deg-smallSee what my new friends from the SnoothPVA event are saying about the wines of Scarpa:

 

 

  • Paul

    Hello Julia,

    Glad to read your comments, to observe that your comments are different from the other winewriters. 1978 was a cold and dry summer in Europe, at least France, Northern Italy, Switzerland, leading to small berries, and late vintage. Cold spring as well, with late flowering.

    I went to the region in Nov. 80 and could not buy some 78, although it was alerady bottled.
    We were able to get 1976 from great producers, the prices were 8-10 $ at that time.

    Mr. Elvio Cogno gave us some 77, (lots of rain around the 20th of October) and it was very good to drink as a young wine, 75 cl of solace, (fruity, lacking concentration to make a Barolo), labeled Nebbiolo delle Langhe.

    Regards

    • http://www.facebook.com/julias.wine Wine Julia

      Very interesting information, especially about the weather in ’78! I find that smaller berries produce more intense and complex wines, and this would explain the intriguing characteristics of the ’78 Barolo! Thanks for sharing your stories – are you a winemaker? I’m amazed with your memories from the weather way back then. Many of the best winemakers I know remember the weather from each an every vintage…it always leaves me in awe.

      Thanks for reading and sharing!

      • Paul

        I’m no winemaker, but I remember the weather from 1964 on. I then began university, studied chemistry. 78 was a year (and 1980 even more so in Switzerland and Burgundy, from where I was able to procure Griotte-Chambertin 1980) of no big structure, late ripening, not much color, very fruity Pinot’s. Not at all that plenty of ripe tannins, sugar, strength, lack of acidity as the “vignerons” are facing now. Already in the nineties, the watchword was to go towards higher altitude with Pinot noir: 600-800 m in the canton Valais.

        I remember end of Oct. 77, one more late crop, because when strong rain affects Northern Italy, in Valais and other valleys of the Alps, there is a very warm wind, and I came back from the States, (a professional travel), on a Saturday afternoon there were never-seen-queues for getting the grapes pressed. I asked the people waiting, they said all varieties got ripe in 2-3 days and began to fall to the ground.

        The year with a sudden leap towards higher temperatures was 1981, although there had been hot periods, dry autumns, and very good vintages before, but always alternating with colder years.

        Best regards

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