2016 Az. Ag. Giorgio Scarzello Barolo del Comune di Barolo
Whether I’m travelling in Piemonte speaking with actual people or lurking on various social media sites where the local wine cognoscenti gather, I always have my radar engaged to hear what wines people are most talking about. There are a lot of very, very good producers, after all, we never or rarely see here in the United States, and I have an intense fear of missing out! One name I’ve heard on a lot of lips over the past few years is that of Federico Scarzello. I first caught wind of Scarzello in a wine bar in La Morra where a table of winemakers I knew were casually dissecting a bottle of Scarzello’s 2011 Barolo Sarmassa over dinner and the reactions were overwhelmingly positive. Unfortunately for me, they had emptied the bottle before I managed to park myself at their table and insinuate myself into their conversation. The next time I heard about Scarzello was in an on-line conversation between some hardcore European Barolo/Barbaresco fans including my old pal Gregory Dal Piaz (who has forgotten more about Barolo than most of us will ever learn). He listed this bottling of Scarzello among a shortlist of ‘Old School classic Barolos’ doing excellent work and to be on the lookout for. Now they firmly had my attention, and I promised myself that next time I came across one in Italy, I would partake. In the fall of 2022, I did, and it was every bit as good as advertised. Getting Scarzello here in the US, though, would take some doing. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, though, and out of the blue, a very small LA-based importer let me know he had Scarzello and earlier this year, I scored a small parcel of Scarzello’s 2015 Barolo Sarmassa. After that sold out- in a heartbeat- it was slim pickins’ until the same importer called to let me know he had 3 cases of Federico Scarzello’s 2016 Barolo di Comune di Barolo. Federico, by the way, is the third generation of Scarzello to run the family cellar just steps away from Barolo castle. Though the family’s first bottling from their now organically-farmed vines in the Sarmassa, Paiagallo and Terlo MGAs was in 1978, it wasn’t until Fede returned to the fold from enology school in Alba in 1998 that the Scarzello star began to ascend. Firmly in the traditionalist camp, he brings an incredible amount of passion and skill to his work. The Barolo di Barolo- all from the commune near the castle- comes from parcels in the Sarmassa MGA that borders La Morra’s Cerequio to the west and Cannubi-San Lorenzo to the east and Terlo, the lower sweep of vineyards that runs from the town of Barolo towards Novello. Macerated for upwards of 50 days (talk about Old School!) in cement tank, it is aged for 24 months in large cask and another 24 in bottle before all of 7000 bottles a year are released. Another fabulous 2016, it’s a beautifully aromatic wine with all the ‘tar and roses’ Barolo aromatics you could ask for. My notes ran to camphor, cinnamon, fading jasmine, wild fennel and cedar shavings that revolve around a core of brilliant red cherry fruit with hints of mint chocolate and plenty of bramble on the palate. With airing, it’s a lovely drink but, like a lot of these 2016s right now, it’s going to ask a bit of time for it to show its best. Still, I’d drink a bottle tonight with fare like braised pork ribs or beef, aged Castelmagno cheese or a rich ragu. I’m very pleased to have found Scarzello on this side of the Atlantic. It’s truly our Barolo find of the year!