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Barolo 101

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 28, 2007 3:44am ET

I had more geography lessons on Monday, this time courtesy of Luca Currado of Vietti. The Vietti cellars are located in the heart of Castiglione Falletto. From the terrace outside, there is a good view of the western part of the zone.

There are three main ridges where the best vineyard exposures are located. The central ridge, where Castiglione Falletto is located, has vineyards on both sides. From there you can see Serralunga d’Alba to the south and La Morra to the north. Each of these villages sits atop the ridges that flank the zone. The best vineyards from these ridges face Castiglione Falletto.

The day began with a visit to Paolo Scavino. Also located in Castiglione Falletto, this estate was founded in 1921 and is now run by the third and fourth generations. It was Enrico Scavino, grandson of the founder, who built up the estate to its present 57 acres. Along with his father, they vinified and bottled their first single cru, the Bric dël Fiasc, in 1978.

Scavino began using rotofermentors in 1993. This increased the rate and efficiency of the macerations, allowing for the extraction of color and tannins in a shorter period of time (6 to 12 days instead of the usual 20 to 30). The idea was to extract the correct types of tannins, those from the skins, but not the seeds.

After the fermentation, the Barolos spend a year in barriques, 35 to 40 percent new, the rest one year old. The wines are racked after a year into large wooden casks. Scavino feels two years in barriques would dry out the wines.

“This is our philosophy,” he says. “We want to have the best from our vineyards and show the character of each cru and not too much oak.”

Yields are kept low, with an eye on the balance of the grapes to keep freshness. The grapes from vines up to 15 years old are sold, to keep the proportion of older vines for the Scavino labels.

Enrico and his daughter Enrica organized a small vertical of the Bric dël Fiasc bottling, along with the first vintage (1996) of Carobric. This is a blend of three sites, the name being a contraction of Cannubi, Rocche and Bric dël Fiasc vineyards.

The Bric dël Fiasc vineyard is mostly clay, with limestone, giving wines of power and structure. We started with the 2004, which showed gorgeous aromas of red currant, cherry and a hint of spice. On the palate, it was very firm and structured, yet rich in both fruit and tannins with a long, round finish. This will be a great bottle in 10 years.

The Carobric 1996 had lovely perfume, with red and black fruits and licorice, followed by a sweet, caressing mouthfeel. It was elegant, yet firm with good balance, a wine you could enjoy now. By contrast, the Bric dël Fiasc was displayed less fruit and more tar, leather and licorice notes. Concentrated and powerful, it had freshness and a mineral undertow on the dense finish.

The 1997 delivered the ripeness and sweetness of the vintage, revealing cherry, blackberry, a hint of licorice and a mouthfilling richness. A velvety red, fine and long.

Fresher in style, the 1998 was more elegant and linear. Though less developed, it was lively and mineral-laden, with a hint of dry tannins. The 1999 was in the same vein and closed, yet with more potential, hinting at raspberry and licorice, with a tight, mineral finish.

The 2000 Bric dël Fiasc fit the profile of the 2004 and 1997. Very ripe red currant and raspberry aromas and flavors rode the rich texture, with big tannins underneath. You can understand from it how the ’97 must have tasted three years ago, and this will need at least another 3-5 years to settle in.

As we finished the tasting, Luca Currado arrived and we had a little toast before heading off to lunch.

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