Paolo Scavino: A Major Retrospective

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend an incredible tasting at the Scavino estate in Castiglione Falletto. Readers who have visited the winery within the last few years will have no doubt have seen the massive renovations that have been under way for some time. The work was finally completed earlier this year and to celebrate the opening of the new cellar Enrico Scavino hosted a vertical tasting featuring three of his four single-vineyard Barolos; Carobric, Bric del Fiasc and the Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata.

"I have waited all my life to do a tasting like this," said an emotional Enrico Scavino as he greeted the assembled guests on this picture-perfect spring day. Also present was the entire Scavino family, including wife Anna Maria and daughters Enrica and Elisa. To make the occasion even more special many of the wines were served from rare large-format bottles. When producers of Enrico Scavino’s generation were young and starting out Barolo was far from the prestigious, highly sought wine it is today. Scavino and his peers struggled just to sell through their wines and money was always tight. Few, if any, of the younger generation of producers could have ever imagined how valuable their own Barolos would become. It is therefore quite unusual in Piedmont for estates to have extensive libraries of older releases, so the opportunity to taste so many wines of unparalleled provenance was quite a treat.

In order to give readers some context on the wines, a few vintage observations as they relate specifically Scavino’s wines are in order. The 1989s and 1990s are simply brilliant. These are the vintages where quality exploded. During this time the wines were aged in Slavonian oak casks. Beginning in 1993 the wines underwent a stylistic change as Scavino began using rotary fermenters as well as 100% barriques to age his Barolos. Though somewhat overlooked in the aftermath of the great 1996-2001 vintages that would follow, Scavino's 1993s are showing very well today. I have had much better luck recently with his 1993s than with the 1995s, which remain rather compact and angular.

As might be expected from a great, legendary vintage, the 1996s are superb. The wines are just now starting to show tertiary nuances that suggest they are beginning to enter the early part of their maturities. The 1997s, on the other hand, are big, super-ripe, fruit-driven wines that are drinking well now and should continue to age gracefully although they don’t look to be as long-lived as other recent vintages. I find the over-ripe quality of the fruit and the lack of aromatic complexity relative to other vintages makes the wines less complete. Scavino’s 1998s are simply gorgeous, and combine elements of both 1996 and 1997 vintages, showing plenty of fruit, but in a less extreme style and with better balance than the 1997s. Vintage 1999 is somewhat uneven. It was a vintage of transition (see Issue 7 of Piedmont Report for more details) as around this time Scavino decided to abandon using small barrels exclusively and began aging his Barolos for one year in barrique followed by one year in cask.

At an age where some of his colleagues are slowing down, Enrico Scavino continues to push the quality envelope and it shows in the 2000s and 2001s. Over the last year I have been fortunate to taste virtually every single-vineyard Barolo Scavino has produced from 1985 to 2001 and in my opinion vintages 2000 and 2001 are clearly the best wines he has ever made. While Scavino’s wines often drink well relatively young, they have also proven time and again they are capable of improving with extended cellaring. I can only conclude by saying there has never been a better time to buy and cellar the wines of Enrico Scavino.

--Antonio Galoni