Wines of Scarpa (Piedmont, Italy)

Wines of Scarpa

Earlier this week I told you a little bit about being invited to a weekend of wine seminars with 20 other bloggers in conjunction with the Snooth People’s Voice Wine Awards  (Snooth PVA). I was pretty blown away to be invited. And once I arrived, the weekend was filled with opportunities to learn so much about wines from all over the world. We took part in 8 wine seminars from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, and I tasted well over 100 wines. It was all pretty amazing and a bit overwhelming, to be honest.

Over the coming weeks I’ll share with you my impressions of the wines and what I learned, right here on VineSleuth Uncorked.

Wines of Scarpa

I arrived in New York for the Snooth PVA weekend,  used Uber for the first time to secure a great ride from the airport to my hotel, checked in, and was able to meet up with a dear friend for a warm-up glass of wine and great conversation at Lulu & Me. (Fantastic roasted shrimp crostini, by the way. The lemon caper cream was a perfect, refreshing touch.)

After that I made my way to the Peking Duck House for our first seminar, where we learned about Scarpa’s Barbera d’Asti and Barolos.

Scarpa’s wines are grown and made in the northern part of Italy as they have been since 1854. The winery is in Nizza Monferrato, in the Piedmont region.

As I took my seat, this is what was before me:

Wineglasses at Snooth PVA

I have been faced with a placemat filled with glasses like that before so that didn’t intimidate me. But then I took a look at the list of wines we would be evaluating:

  • Scarpa Barbera d’Asti, La Bogliona, 2007, $72
  • Scarpa Barbera d’Asti, La Bogliona, 2006, $52
  • Scarpa Barbera d’Asti, La Bogliona, 2005, $68
  • Scarpa Barbera d’Asti, La Bogliona, 1998, $58
  • Scarpa Barbera d’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

We were jumping right in with some serious wines at our very first seminar. There were some very old wines on that list…and $500? Yikes!

I typically don’t like to know the prices of the wines I taste until after I’ve formed my initial impressions, as I did at the Bordeaux Cru Classe tasting in Houston earlier this year.  (And yes, I admit it. I did love the most expensive wine offered at that tasting, but I also loved the least expensive, too.)

I couldn’t help but see those prices, though. They were on my tasting sheet. Looking over the years, even I knew I was in for something very special. I just knew this was going to be one of those things I would look back on in a few years and say, “Wow, if only I knew then what I know now.” But I didn’t know. And I still don’t. And yet I was one of the lucky ones to be in that room, tasting those wines, doing the best I could to make sense of it all.

To be honest, I often feel as though I’m in over my head when it comes to wine. I enjoy drinking it, and I really do enjoy sharing it with friends, and yes that includes those of the online kind like you.

When I taste it, sometimes I’m blown away, sometimes I am intrigued by nuance, and sometimes I wonder what in the world other people are talking about when they describe it. In that room of wine writers, I definitely felt out of my league and decided to just listen to everyone else’s questions rather than pose my own.

I wonder if perhaps others might have felt a little overwhelmed, too. Was I really the only one? I don’t know.

In looking at my notes, I had the most comments on the final two wines.

Scarpa Barolo, Le Coste di Monforte, 1978, $500

I’ll just cut to the chase and jump in with that 1978 Barolo that retails for $500. (I’m not sure how they have these prices listed, though, as we were told these wines are not available for sale in the US just yet.)

My notes say that it was a touch salty and savory and had a hint of bouillon flavor, which does not sound delightful at all, but I remember writing that and thinking that was exactly what I was tasting, and it didn’t sound good, but that it was very good and intriguing. I wanted to drink it all in. It was like no other wine I had tasted in that it wasn’t very fruity at all, but the savory characters were luscious and made me want another sip, and then another, as I thought about how to describe it, and I just enjoyed it.

Scarpa Barolo, Tettimora, 1987, $250

This one also had savory flavors of bouillon, but had a trace of mint I rather enjoyed. (I am very partial to mint anything.) I couldn’t help but wonder if the one from 1978 had the mint at one time but aging took it away. (Anyone with more wine background want to answer that one in the comments? I’d love the input.)

Those are the two that stood out the most, and I promise it’s not just because of their prices. They were so different than any wines I ever remember tasting. That savory taste still intrigues me.

The Other Wines

The Barberas, which we tasted first, were all bright with nice acid that gave the wines structure without being too harsh, and I enjoyed the fruit. But those Barolos called out to me.

Looking back over my notes, I see ‘mint’ written quite a few times, so I cannot help but wonder: Is that a typical characteristic of Barolo? I’m not sure.

I also wrote ‘tannic’ quite a lot, even for a 1999 Barolo. If it is still tannic now, I cannot imagine what it must have been like when it was originally released!

We Take Our Time

Our presenter, Martina Zola, whose mother is the president of the winery, shared that the wines of Scarpa “…are like a Sunday brunch in Piedmont. We take our time.” She went on to explain that a traditional Sunday lunch in the region takes about 4-5 hours, as everyone relaxes and takes their time.

When someone in the group asked about aging, she said, “We work in a human way. When our winemaker says it is ready, we bottle it.”

That really resonated with me, making me think of my own life driven by deadlines and to dos. I loved the idea of making something that wasn’t dictated by a calendar, but explored by a winemaker and moved from one step to the next when he or she deemed it was ready, and not a moment sooner. And, after tasting these wines, taking time certainly made them more intriguing, more interesting, and much more desirable to me.

My husband and I are just starting to buy wines to age. We have several bottles of a trockenbeerenauslese we intend to open each Christmas for many years to see how it changes.

When these wines from Scarpa are available in the US, I’ll probably buy several bottles of a Barolo from a single vintage so I can explore how it changes, perhaps opening one bottle every two years and doing my best to keep good notes to compare. When that happens, I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, my notes will have to suffice.

Next, I’ll share about wines that are much easier to get a hold of in the US: Wines from Oregon. Yes, I’ll tell you about some Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley. But there will be much more.

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  1. Ted says

    While I’m not a Piedmont expert, I’ve had a few over the years, and bouillon doesn’t sound like a typical trait of a wine that’s sitll in good shape. Barolos from the pre-barrique era (that ’78 would probably qualify) often developed licorice-like qualities after some time in bottle. I find that far less often in modern Barolos. Mint also interesting … If the Barolo(s) you’ll choose to lay down are made in a more traditional style, plan the experiment to last at least 20 yrs!

  2. says

    It sounds like your notes are pretty much on track with what I’d expect. To answer a couple of questions:
    It totally makes sense that the ’99 is still tannic. In Barolo standards, ’99 is still young, and yes, if you drank it five years ago it would have been even harder to drink. In fact, the ’96’s are still hard to enjoy as they struggle to escape the grasp of those tannins. The only way to attempt to fix this at this early point in it’s evolution is to decant or “Slow-O” the bottle for a long time.

    The mint is probably a vineyard characteristic, not necessarily a Barolo trait. Age could be the reason the oldest bottle didn’t show it. However, since you were tasting a single vineyard bottle, it makes total sense that you would taste mint in most of the bottles. Sound like a vineyard trait.

    I’m glad you enjoyed these, I love aged Barolo and I was so sad that I had to miss this part of the weekend. THanks for sharing your thoughts, it was a very enjoyable read.

    • VineSleuth says

      Thanks, Eric, for stopping by and for your insight. It was great to meet you at the event!
      I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge here. I have so much to learn, but your input makes me think I am on the right track. Woo-hoo!
      I look forward to reading your posts on some of the other wines we tried and I am so sorry you had to miss this one.

  3. says

    I love how honest and brave you are! THAT is the way to learn, rather than pretend you know it all, which no one does, right? I too am sometimes flummoxed by the sheer number and strangeness of what some people claim to taste in a wine glass. I guess if you take classes and start to break each component of a wine down, subdividing it if you will, you can start moving beyond your usual, more obvious tasting notes. Those wines sounded amazing! I’m going to the Piedmont in September for 5 days and have already asked my wine tour guide about Scarpa and if he knows about them. I would LOVE to try some and bring a few bottle back fro my friends to taste!

  4. VineSleuth says

    Thank, Mark. I appreciate your support.. and hope that you are also able to try some of the Scarpa wines. :)


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