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An Italian Red Up to a Challenge

Paolo Scavino Barolo 2005
Harvey Steiman
Posted: January 21, 2011

Many years ago, I learned how versatile Barolo can be. The late Lou Iacucci, who had a great retail shop in Queens, N.Y., that specialized in Italian wines, insisted that you can drink a good Barolo with anything. I tested the theory by quaffing the tannic red wine with whitefish salad and bagels. He was right. Ever since, Barolo has been a go-to wine when I want to drink something really fine with challenging food.

Thus, I was happy to find a half-bottle of Paolo Scavino Barolo 2005 on the wine list for $60 at WP24, Wolfgang Puck’s new luxury Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles. Several dishes we ordered boasted a significant acquaintance with chile peppers, but as expected, that did not faze the Scavino in the least. The tarry, rose petal accents came through clearly as the juicy berry fruit flavors raced across the palate. If anything, the spicy food made the wine (91 points, non-blind) even better. members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Paolo Scavino Barolo 2005 (91, $53).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Barolos.

Member comments   5 comment(s)

Jeremiah Morehouse — Sacramento CA —  January 22, 2011 5:24pm ET

Hi Harvey,
Sommelier Jeremiah Morehouse here. I have to be honest the recommendation has me pulled in 2 directions. In the positive I focus on Italian wines, and love the Nebbiolo grape, really fantastic indeed. I am always happy to see positive advertisement for Italian wines as they are special.
On the negative though I have a very hard time grasping this idea. Barolo is a very hard lined wine in its youth, heavy tannins and high alcohols. All my studies and talks with masters would point me away from a wine like this with the food you were eating. Now I do feel it ultimately comes down to the customer to decide what they want to drink with whatever food they are eating, but I find it out of the realm to recommend a wine this angular with a food type so spicy. That's my 2 cents.

Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA —  January 22, 2011 7:02pm ET

Short answer, don't knock it if you haven't tried it. Longer answer, a well balanced Barolo like the Scavino has plenty of fruit and not an overwhelming amount of tannin, so it isn't too "angular." Besides, what drives the match, in my opinion, is the acidity and the floral, tar and fruit flavors in the wine, which like the spiciness, sweetness and balancing tartness of the dish. Not too different from drinking Barolo with an Italian dish with classic agrodolce flavors.

Jeremiah Morehouse — Sacramento CA —  January 23, 2011 3:50pm ET

Interesting. I am intrigued as to what the dishes you ordered and enjoyed were, as they are not mentioned in the article, that would be extremely helpful in grasping this new age concept. Im a bit lost on the idea of spicy Piemontese cuisine, my time spent in the area yielded many rich dishes like creamy risotto and butter sauces with sage, which greatly balance the natural Nebbiolo qualities, but no chili pepper spices. Thanks

Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA —  January 23, 2011 5:59pm ET

Let's not get hung up on needing Piemontese food with Barolo. The dishes we had were a Kobe beef with vegetables (a no brainer with almost any red) and a Singapore prawn dish, the sauce a hot and sour mix with red chilies. Didn't faze the Barolo at all. If anything it brought out the fruit, and the tannins were a non factor.

Jeremiah Morehouse — Sacramento CA —  January 24, 2011 3:12pm ET

Thank you very much for clarifying, the dishes do seem a bit more geared for a forward style barolo like the scavino. Like I said before I am always happy to see positive endorsements for Italian wines as it makes my job selling them to my customers much easier.
Will you be attending the Tre Bicchieri SF on Feb 16th by chance? The best of the best brought to our neck of the woods.

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