Sunday, October 6, 2013

Beautiful Barolos from Paolo Scavino

Last month I spent an evening chatting with Elisa Scavino, grand-daughter of winemaker Paolo Scavino, and a great ambassador for the family’s Piedmont wines. Like her family’s Barolos, Elisa is down-to-earth and intriguing. I love the Nebbiolo grape and Northern Italian food, but I’m by no means an expert on Barolo. In fact, among world class wine regions, it’s probably the one I have least experience with. So it was very educational to taste the wines and talk with Elisa about her family’s different vineyards.

Elisa Scavino of Paolo Scavino Wines. Photo from Ristorante i Ricchi. 
We met at Ristorante i Ricchi in Washington, DC. The wines were paired with a delicious four-course meal arranged by chef Christianne Ricchi, who maintains a Tuscan-inspired menu and an impressive Italian wine list.  The menu included pappardelle with a Tuscan rabbit ragu and a pepper-crusted prime rib with rosemary potatoes. The food was great, the wines superb, and the conversation enlightening.

If there’s one takeaway from the evening, it’s this: I really need to get off my ass and visit Piemonte already. Nothing helps you get to know and love a wine region like visiting it in person.

Salmon and Langhe Bianco: great pairing. Photo Ristorante i Ricchi.
The Menu:

Salmone Carpacciato: house-cured laced with green peppercorn sauce, black olives and Italian greens

Pappardelle Sul Coniglio: broad pasta ribbons with Tuscan rabbit ragu

Gran Pezzo al Forno: pepper crusted prime rib with rosemary potatoes and sautéed kale, Swiss chard and beet greens with pancetta

Meringata di Ciocolato Amaro Dolce: chocolate meringue tart with whipped chocolate mousse

The Wines:

2011 Paolo Scavino Langhe Bianco - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe
($14) Not your average Piemontese white, not by a long shot. This is a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Chardonnay, fermented and aged in all stainless steel. Minerals, lime, a slight herbal (sage?) kick on the nose. On the palate, it’s crisp yet full, with tangy acid and persistent minerals. Lemon, peach and apricot mix with some waxy-oily aspects. I’m really surprised at the depth and complexity of this wine, even though, as Elisa Scavino described it, the wine is intended to be a summer sipper. She looked at me like I was lost when I said I’d like to age this wine, but the nerd in me thinks it could do some fun stuff over the next few years. For around $15, this is a screaming value. (90 points) *Note: Starting in the 2010 vintage, the producer plans to introduce some Viognier into this blend.

2009 Paolo Scavino Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
($55) Aromas of plums, smoke, violets, subtle olive and mushroom. Dense tannins and gobs of red and black fruit on the palate, and the combination is really velvety. Notes of earth, granite, lavender, a bit of oak. Richly textured and generous, but capable of developing much more nuance with age. Very impressive for a “basic” Barolo. A blend from seven different crus, fermented and aged separately until blended together and aged some more. (89 points)

2007 Paolo Scavino Barolo “Bricco Ambrogio” - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
($73) Deep aromas of cassis, plum sauce, violets and caramel. Really opened up aromatically over the course of the dinner. Pure and rich on the palate with relatively smoothed-out tannins and medium acid. I get distinct blueberry fruit in this wine, mixed in with the cassis. Notes of earth, soil and crème brulée add complexity. Rich, but showing refinement. (90 points)

2007 Paolo Scavino Barolo “Bric dël Fiasc” - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
($113) Sweet, dark and bold on the nose, with plums, blueberries, coffee, loam and violets. Rich and velvety on the palate, a bit thick in texture but balanced by the medium acid. The plum and currant fruit is so pure, accented by complex notes of herbs, loam, nutshells and roasted coffee. This delivers all sorts of pleasure. Paired wonderfully with prime rib. (92 points)
2006 Paolo Scavino “Barolo Cannubi” - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
($123) My wine of the night, the 2006 Cannubi was a few steps ahead with its elegance and complexity. Intricate aromatics of fleshy plums, charcoal, smoke and pencil shavings. The kind of nose you can examine for so long, pulling out all sorts of nuance. Dusty but firm tannins and fresh acid. Plummy, blackberry, the fruit is tossed with all these earth, black olive, mineral, gravel and dried flower aspects. Dense, yet maintains elegance throughout. The last sip was the best, and I’d love to try this again in three to five years. Beautiful stuff. (94 points)


  1. "Nothing helps you get to know and love a wine region like visiting it in person." Most definitely. I hope you got a chance to visit more of Piemonte. And not just the Langhe and Roero--they're undeniably beautiful areas, but the whole region has so much to offer wine- and food-wise!

    1. Diana, it looks like you've done just that. I'm jealous of your Italian travels! I can't wait for my Piedmont pilgrimage. Thanks for reading. Cheers!