Spotlight on Nebbiolo: Paolo Scavino Carobric Barolo 2001

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I hate to compare the great wines of the world. It seems facile and entirely subjective. Yet, I can’t help but love the Nebbiolo based wines of Barolo more than most others. For me, these are at the very top of the mountain and though perhaps sitting in the mists for many, once you get hooked you can’t help the compulsion.

Of Soils and Vineyards

So let’s talk about soils. Calcerous marl – a fertile soil that produces softer more delicate Nebbiolo. In the east, the older and poorer soils of marl and sandstone provide deeper more intense wines. However, as discussed in the brilliant Vino Italiano by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch (no not that Lynch), soil differences are supplemented by cellar technique and the intenser soil profiles can be softened or the more elegant ones can present more hardly simply based on the length of maceration and the use of oak barrels.

The Scavino Carobric creates an even greater enigma, being a blend of the Rocche di Castiglione, Fiasco and Cannubi vineyards in Castiglione Falletto and Barolo respectively. Paolo Scavino reports that the two vineyards in Castiglione do not tend to make great wines on their own but require blending. I suppose the addition of the legendary Canubi vineyard likely adds elegance and power, the Rocche di Castiglione adds aromatics and the Fiasco structure.

2000 vs. 2001

Vintage is important in Piedmont. Not just because “great” vintages make ‘better’ wines but because most Barolos truly do reflect vintage character. Structure and perfume differ considerably between vintages. Let’s take 2000 versus 2001. In 2000 you get greater power but also greater approachability with certain wines. 2000 had enough heat and concentration that the given the fruitiness of the Nebbiolo in that year, the fierce tannins of the grape wer possible to tame earlier using modernist techniques. 2001, in contrast, is a much more structured and tannic vintage. Still warm, it yet tended to produce wines with greater tannin and higher acid than 2000. And we’re not talking such differences that make the wines any less good. Rather, it is a question of style, preference and age. The 2001’s seem to require more age than 2000 for both modernists and traditionalists. In 2000, however, my experiences have suggested that the modernists managed to tame the Nebbiolo beast at an earlier aging curve than the traditionalists, whose wines are still atom-dense. Yet a further testament to the complexity of great Nebbiolo.

Love or Love?

A wine with stunning perfume, I found this 2001 Carobric extremely expressive and deep and in a very good place aromatically. Only Nebbiolo can smell like this and these “haunting aromas” as Oz Clarke describes, are unlike any other wine in the world.

The palate is denser, tighter and slightly darker than other Barolos of the vintage. The fruit begins slightly pruney, but opens to more elegance with air, which suggests to me that with age this wine will transform considerably. I’d say this ultimately needs time to soften and unwind if you’re into wines at full maturity. However, it is also incredibly delicious right now. So, drink now with joy or in 10 years, also with joy. A hard wine not to love.

Excellent to Excellent+
~$160 at Kits Wine Cellar

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