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.)
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:
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.