GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

Scarzello - An Emerging Star of Traditional Barolo

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 29, 2008.

Wines reviewed

2006 Dolcetto d’Alba - 91pts
2005 Barbera d’Alba - 91pts
2004 Barbera d’Alba - 87pts
2006 Langhe Nebbiolo - 89pts
2005 Barbera d’Alba Superiore -92pts
2004 Barolo - 90pts
2004 Barolo Vigna Merenda - 95pts

Meeting Federico Scarzello of the Azienda Giorgio Scarzello was as refreshing as it was intense. This young man is obviously a future star of the traditional movement in Piemonte. The 3rd generation of the Scarzello family to produce wine in Barolo, Federico inherits a winery with firm roots in the village. In fact Federico’s grandmother only started to make wine since she was the proprietress of a bar in the immediate post-World War II era. The need for something to drink was the simple motivation for turning the family’s grapes into wine.

The history of the family is a little less clear than this post war break may indicate, as there had been a tradition of making wine in less exalted vintages. Counterintuitive perhaps, but the reasoning behind it has beautiful simplicity. Grapes sold well in great years, less well in problematic years. Thus in order to not loose a years worth of effort, these hard to sell grapes were turned into wine which could be sold slowly throughout the ensuing years, but sold it was.

The 5.5 hectares of vines farmed by the Scarzello family are all on the young side, 12-16 years of age. The vineyards were replanted with a variety of clones that were selected for each microclimate in an effort to replace older clones that had been chosen for their high yields. The current clones were chosen to ensure that each vineyard was paired with the clone best suited to their specific conditions. This strategy seems to be working well as the production is deemed to be of excellent quality with little over-production typical of younger vines. In fact in light of the current string of unusually hot vintages with anomalous rainfall, the fact that the vines have not suffered from hydric stress and have given balanced wines in each vintage, resisting even the urge to pump up the grapes with water after a rain, seems to validate the clonal choices made.

While these wines have very limited distribution in the US at the moment they are such compelling examples of their type that I expect that to change in the near future. If you are a fan of traditionally made wines keep your eyes peeled for the wines of Scarzello. They are great today and with every additional vintage Federico will no doubt move from strength to strength. He is one of the bright future stars of traditional wines in the Langhe!

2006 Dolcetto d’Alba - 91pts
3000 bottles produced, from a high vineyard, above Merenda to the west, surrounded on three sides by woods with a clay/rocky soil mix, 13-16 days in followed by a year in Stainless

A bit doughy on the nose with a feral quality and a rusty minerality, a touch stinky still with layered minerality, oily clay and slate 2+
Cool in the mouth with nicely integrated very fine but substantial 2006 tannins and subtle supporting acidity all in an elegant package 2+
Spicy on entry with a touch of bay leaf/green herb notes, with a core of powerful, plumy fruit, still a bit tight but with plenty of stuffing and fringe blue fruits 3
Closes with blue fruits, long, important tannins then turning very mineral drinking. This needs another 1-2 years or so and is a usually structured style of Dolcetto in a very powerful vintage. Killer wine for those in search of this style 3

2005 Barbera d’Alba - 91pts
3000 bottles. Also from a location above Merenda but with a SW exposure, planted in 1999. 12 day fermentation then in Stainless

Dark and masculine on the nose with a touch of tobacco and ash, very crisp fruit with notes of rosemary stem and African violet 2+
Rich in the mouth for Barbera but silky with almost bright acids enmeshed in the fleshy fruit 2+
Offers cut plum fruit with a touch of blueberry on entry, great purity turning more towards blackberry on the backend, layered yet edgy 3
Offers great cut on the finish with authentic but not overwhelming acids, good length, and a lovely mineral twang on the finale after a length fruit profile. 3

2004 Barbera d’Alba - 87pts
The first vintage for this wine

Perfumed and fruity on the nose with a spicy pomegranate fruit, cactus twang, a touch animal and nicely mineral 2
Rich in the mouth but still elegant with a leaner character than the 2005 2
Less fruit driven than the 2005 with a more obvious mineral core but still decent amount of blueberry/blackberry fruit 2
A nice touch of tannin on the finish which offers impressive cut with excellent length and a great depth to the savory fruit 3

2006 Langhe Nebbiolo -89pts
From vineyards just beyond the confines of Barolo towards Novello with S-SW exposure and light soils though in problematic years the Barolo vineyards are harvested a bit earlier and their juice is bottled under this label
13-15 day maceration, malo in wood for vintages with higher than average alcohol then into 600 liter French oak botte which are between 3-5 years of age

Reticent dusty nose with a touch of rose, a touch of mineral, faintly balsamic with cool fruit and a slow to emerge touch of coal 2
Sweet entry with excellent focus, full of fine grained tannins and excellent supporting acids, bright without being obvious 3
Very pretty in the mouth with peach skin and light wild cherry fruit, a touch simple and a bit closed but with excellent purity 2+
Finishes crisply with a touch of tea edging the bright cherry/ wild strawberry fruit, then a touch of melon rind, gains god length and sweetness on the finale, impressive depth and length for Langhe Nebbiolo 3

2005 Barbera d’Alba Superiore -92pts
From a select vineyard with full southern exposure at the base of the Merenda hill originally produced in 1997 but now also includes a bit of fruit from the Sangallo vineyard from just under the Castello in Barolo.
22 day maceration then into new 600 Liter botte for 16 months

Minty at first then incredibly concentrated brambly blackberry fruit, a hint of juniper berry, dried beef, some furry animal, a touch foxy, deep red clay and chalk soil tones 3
Broad shouldered in the mouth with a fleshy feel and emerging acids with the backing of some very fine tannins 3
Full entry of bright black raspberry fruit with a hard candy edge to it, faceted and precise with gentle suggestions of rosemary and roast meats with a slight mineral top note 3
Finishes with an extension of the palate, a touch short but the acidity pulls out a wild blueberry note on the finish with a light mineral edge 2

2004 Barolo - 90pts
28-30 day maceration

Soil, tea and roast wild herbs greet the nose with oily, woody herb stems, rosemary, bay leaf, and floral note giving a chinato tone to the nose, more roots, beet and parsley, not fruit driven but very complex 2+
Lovely texture in the mouth, open an almost delicate with medium light weight, very ripe tannins and good acidity 3
Open in the mouth with a touch of orchard fruits then more typical red wild cherry fruits, a touch of bay and a gentle medicinal top note, a bit simple but with good purity and intensity 2+
Offering a bit more spice on the medium length finish but pure if a touch simple 2+

2004 Barolo Vigna Merenda - 95pts
35 day maceration then 2 months in stainless followed by a few months in small wood to precipitate then into large wood for 30 months. Vigna Merenda is within Sarmassa

Intensely aromatic, slightly chinato, drying grass, sweet warm cherry juice, deep almost profound depth of soil, herbs, mineral tones, lightly smoky top note with notes of black pepper and strong prosciutto fat 3+
Rich yet elegant in the mouth with layered very fine tannins and solid acidity, very fine balance 3
Dark tones to the cherry fruit on entry with a deep core of chalky earth and top notes of ripe herbs, touch tarry, still tight and reticent 2
Finishes with fuzzy but sweet tannins, big and round in the mouth then very long and focused with a mineral rich core of fruit and emerging yellow floral tones, tannins creep in but build alongside excellent length and persistence with a finale of fresh almond 3+


Reply by Nicolai Soegaard, Oct 29, 2008.

Greg, very interesting notes from a producer I have never tried. How many bottles are made of the Barolo Vigna Merenda?

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 29, 2008.

Hi Nicolai,

I really don't know but it can't be much. I believe there are barely 2.5 hectare of Barolo, and that is split between the two wines. I expect it will not be enough once these wines get the attention they deserve.

Reply by Nicolai Soegaard, Nov 4, 2008.

Hi Greg,

Yesterday I rang the doorbell of Scarzello. I took a chance and came unannounced. Federico opened the door and I was treated with a fabulous tasting. Federico and his mother sat down with me for an hour and a half, telling me about their vineyards, their wines and their philosophy in winemaking. I had the same wines as you apart from the 2004 Barbera d'Alba. And I must admit that I was very surprised to find such high quality from a relatively unknown producer. I have to agree with you, the wines were fantastic especially the Barbera d'Abla Superiore and the Barolo Merenda. I don't think these two bottlings will go unnoticed by the big critics for very long. That Merenda was simply breathtaking. The day before yesterday, I even had a glass of the 2004 Barbera d'Alba Superiore at Ristorante La Cantinetta in Barolo. The bottle had been open for a while, and the wine was spectacular. I sensed a bit of oak, which surprised me, but Federico told me that he used only new tonneaux for the 2004 vintage.

Thanks for the great tip.


Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Nov 4, 2008.

Nicolai, I am impressed, first that you took my word but even more, much more, that you found the door bell!

I'm glad you enjoyed the wines. I wish they were easier to find here in the states and of course less expensive!

When we spend some time in the region together hopefully we can organize a few dinners with winemakers and maybe get some back-vintage wines added to the mix. I really look forward to watching these wines age and develop.



Back to Categories

Top Contributors This Month

847804 Snooth User: EMark
33 posts
127503 Snooth User: rckr1951
31 posts
324443 Snooth User: outthere
12 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network