Scarpa is one of the great, classic estates of Italy (and lauded by the likes of Giacosa and Gaja), though most people on the west coast of North America have not heard of them. Founded in 1854 in Monferrato, they were among the first producers to bottle Barolo, shipping in the grapes from growers to their Monferrato based winery. They were also one of the two producers to first make serious Barbera in the 1960’s. The estate is traditionalist and, like Borgogno, holds back a portion of all their ageable wines for future release. This 2007 Scarpa is one such library release.
Piedmont is More Than Nebbiolo
Being in Monferrato (a DOCG lying east of the classic Barolo and Barbaresco vineyards) means the estate vineyard is not planted to the famous Piedmontese Nebbiolo. Rather, the 50 hectare estate is planted with 9 varieties including Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Brachetto, and the grape from which this wine is made, Ruchè. Only 27 of the 50 hectares are planted, with the remainder a wilderness that the owners maintain for biodiversity. The vineyards sit at 400m on clay soils. There are some vineyard treatments, though they are minimal. The harvest is by hand and vinification is in stainless steel.
What is Ruchè? According to Oz Clark, it is a “seldom-seen Piedmontese variety” that makes floral reds with good tannin structure. I can affirm this as an accurate description, though Scarpa brings far more to the table, including elegance and highly expressive red and black berry aromatics. It is highly complex with a bitter-sweet character and firm but supple tannin in a long finish. It is a wine worthy of experimentation beyond the calabrese pizza I had it with (also delicious) and I can imagine a sommelier having a lot of fun with the simultaneous aromatic expression, lightness in texture, but firm structured tannin buoyed finish.
Yet another producer that should be imported into this market.
$45 at Liner and Elsen, Portland