Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa: Fine Nebbiolos, and Other Wines Too

As I have said before, the folks at Nebbiolo Prima organized afternoon meetings with the winemakers, and on the third day I decided to visit the Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, which is a bit further than some -- in Nizza Monferrato.

Despite their location in the heart of the Astigiano they make both Barolo and Barbaresco, because they always have -- the winery was founded 150 years ago by a winemaker from the Veneto, Antonio Scarpa, and more recently was directed by the late Mario Pesce, one of the great winemakers of the Astigiano, who passed the scepter on to Maria Piera Zola and her family -- and since they were already making Barolo and Barbaresco when the Disciplinare governing the Appellations was drawn up, they were given permission to continue making it. In terms of provenance, their Barbaresco is from Neive, their Barolo is from La Morra, and their Nebbiolo from Montu Roero.

In addition to making Barolo and Barbaresco, they make two Crus of Barbera: Bugliona, which is from a vineyard whose soils are more calcareous and have a gypsum vein, and I Bricchi, from a vineyard whose soils are redder. And they make a number of other interesting wines, including a Ruchè that they label Monferrato Rosso DOC because the vineyard is outside the Ruchè di Castiglione Monferrato DOCG production area, and a wine from Albarossa, which is a Nebbiolo-Barbera cross developed in 1939 by Professor Dalmasso.

As benefits a winery located in Monferrato, I started with Barbera:

Scarpa I Bricchi Barbera D'Asti 2006
Recently bottled, and they want to underline that. Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and some orange in the rim. The bouquet is fresh, with rich sour cherry fruit supported by lively greenish spice from grapes and bracing sour berry fruit acidity too. Quite pleasant to sniff, and has a lot to say. On the palate it's rich, with powerful sour cherry fruit supported by brisk, lively acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that add a cool counterpoint to the warmth of the acidity, and flows into a bright tart berry fruit finish. A beautiful expression of Barbera, and though it is a tad young, they're right, it has a great deal to say and is very pleasant to sniff. It will be perfect with succulent grilled meats, ranging from lamb chops through steak, and will also age nicely for at least 5-8 years. Worth seeking out.

Scarpa La Bogliona Barbera D'Asti 2005
Deep cherry ruby that's slightly more intense than the 2006 Bricchi, and black reflections paling to orange. The bouquet is rich, with powerful sour berry fruit supported by minerality and some greenish accents, and also a fair amount of alcohol and some savory sea salt. It is a distinct step up from the Bricchi, in part because of the difference in terrains, but also thanks to a year more in bottle. Beautiful, and very fresh; displaying terrific elegance and depth; one could sniff and sniff again and again. On the palate it's full and rich, with powerful cherry and forest berry fruit supported by raspberry acidity and by deft sweet tannins; the wine is more graceful than the Bricchi, and the acidity more willowy, and this is also its greater age. Very impressive and one could drink it with a rich meal, or enjoy it by itself with like minded friends -- it is a Barbera, with the lively acidity of the varietal, and if you're going to sip it you will have to make certain everyone expects it.

Scarpa Selvarossa Vino Da Tavola Rosso
This is an Albarossa, a varietal developed by Professor Dalmasso in 1939: a Barbera da Nebbiolo made from a cross between a Barbera and a Nebbiolo that turned out to be a bit rustic. The bunches have tiny berries -- good for extraction, leaves that resemble Barbera, and stems with striations like one finds in Nebbiolo. This is a 2004, the first vintage from an experimental vineyard planted in 2000 (the 2006 vintage, which is aging in bottle, is a Monferrato Rosso DOC). It's deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. Looks interesting. The bouquet is intense, with leathery accents and some brambles, and underlying berry fruit as well, and pleasant spice, a mixture of nutmeg and mace with some coffee grounds, while there is also fairly bright acidity that hearkens to Barbera. On the palate it's quite interesting, with rich berry fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins and by lively raspberry citric acidity that flow into a clean warm finish. Very drinkable, and quite pleasant; it will work very well with simple grilled meats or light roasts, and will go quickly. A cheeky, fun wine with a lively smile. Something to keep an eye out for.

Scarpa Freisa Monferrato DOC 2006
Deep ruby with black reflections and ruby rim paling to barest orange. The bouquet is fairly intense, with brambly red berry fruit supported by unusual, and interesting mentholated accents and some herbal notes that bring heather from a cut field to mind, Interesting, and demands attention. On the palate it's ample, with rich slightly sour cherry raspberry fruit supported by dusky raspberry acidity that has shadowy bitter undertones, and is supported by brambly tannins that have dusky bitter notes and flow into a clean bright bitter finish. Quite pleasant, combining power with a certain brambly carefree feel, and will drink well with succulent meals from bollito misto though fried meats and vegetables. An ideal food for richer fatty winter fare, and will also be very nice with succulent grilled meats, e.g. sausages. Beautiful acidity.
2 stars

Scarpa Barbaresco Tettineive DOCG 2006
Rich slightly orange almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is rich, and elegant, with powerful strawberry laced cherry fruit supported by deft greenish accents and pleasant nutmeg spice. It's quick to write, and very young, but also very pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's full and rich with powerful berry fruit laced with yellow peach sweetness and supported by deft sour strawberry acidity, while the tannins are quite young, with a slight burr and very smooth, and flow into a long clean warm finish. Very pleasant, and though it's a sin to drink it this young one could do so with a hearty roast and be very happy. But it will reward those blessed with patience. Expect it to age well for at least 15 years, likely more.

Scarpa Barolo Tettimorra DOCG 2004
Rich almandine with lively ruby reflections and black highlights, and almandine rim paling to orange. The bouquet is elegant, with rich berry fruit that is beginning to reveal rosa canina as well, and clean savory spice from grapes; there's a vibrant youthfulness to it that is extremely pleasant, with some cut tobacco as well that adds depth and complexity. A great lot going on, and one of those wines one could sniff and sniff again. Hints yellow peach too in the berry fruit. On the palate it's ample, rich, and smooth, with powerful cherry and forest berry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that have some greenish bitter accents, and flow into a clean bright finish. Very pleasant, and has a lot to say, though drinking it is a bit of a sin now because it really needs another 3-5 years to begin to show its best. It's a child, and a nice one, but has a ways to go.

Scarpa Briccorosa Rouchet Monferrato Rosso DOC 2007
Elegant, lively ruby with brilliant reflections and black highlights, cherry rim paling to orange. The bouquet is absolutely classic, with rich floral accents supported by sandalwood spice and jammy berry fruit with some underlying yellow peach jam, and hints of menthol as well; it's a moving target and very pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's ample and rich, with powerful red berry fruit supported by sandalwood spice and clean rich berry fruit acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a bright spicy berry fruit finish with rich floral accents. Very pleasant and will drink quite well with cheeses and cheese dishes, also with friends far from the table.

They also poured a bottle of the 1996, which was bottled as a vino da tavola. With respect to the 2007 it's a duskier black almandine with black reflections. The bouquet is interesting, with rich mentholated spice supported by some sandalwood, dried orange peel, and hints of cloves, but what really comes out is the menthol. Very interesting. On the palate it's full, with rich slightly smoky berry fruit supported by menthol spice and some rather dusty sandalwood and also fairly bright cedary acidity that is the grape and not wood. Quite interesting, and though it doesn't have the freshness of the 2007 it is very much alive, and impressively so. I enjoyed it, and it does show that top quality Ruchè can age.

Scarpa la Selva di Moirano Vino Rosso
This is a Brachetto Secco 2007, though they couldn't indicate the vintage on the label because it's a Vino da Tavola. Elegant ruby with black reflections and cherry ruby rim paling towards pink. The bouquet is rich, with powerful fairly sweet raspberry fruit supported by rich, very ripe strawberries and by strawberry acidity and clean rich greenish accents and spice as it opens. Very pleasant to sniff, and something one could spend considerable time on. On the palate it's rich, with powerful strawberry raspberry fruit supported by deft raspberry acidity and a fair amount of warmth, and also enough sweetness to confer a voluptuous cast, though it's not really sweet. Were it bone dry it would seem much thinner than it is. Very pleasant, and an ideal wine to drink with friends in the evening as the stars come out, or with cheeses including blue cheeses. Impressive and a wine that will bring considerable joy.

It was my good fortune that they also opened a bottle of their 1999 Brachetto.
It's slightly more almandine in terms of color, with pale orange nail, and has -- as did the Ruché -- a much spicier nose, with considerable menthol mingled with sandalwood and some green leather, also leaf tobacco. Very interesting, and though it's clearly not young it is still quite fresh. On the palate it's rich, with lively berry fruit supported by considerable mentholated spice, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fresh berry fruit finish with bright spicy accents. Very interesting, and quite impressive. Wonderful personality.

It was a wonderful way to finish a fine day of tasting!

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