Despite the fact that I have content to write up that spans more than a year of travel (including my takes on the wine scene in Israel, the southern Rhone, and Romagna), the thing that’s been rattling around in my brain and not letting the hell go stems from a much more recent excursion, when I had a brief, impromptu visit taken during my latest jaunt to Monferrato.
Specifically, to the as-of-right-now 219-year-old building (established the same year – 1900 – as the planting of the sort-of-famous tree in their backyard in Nizza) of Scarpa. My short-term obsession has to do with the impression that this relatively small (22 hectares, yielding about 120,000 bottles/year) producer is fascinatingly, anachronistically refreshing within the context of modern Italian wine. Time passing seems to have little impact on how Scarpa approach crafting wine in Piedmont.
Scarpa works only with indigenous Italian grape varieties, and is one fo the few regional producers that have been grandfathered in to the zonal production laws of Barolo. The rest of this short tale is literally told almost exclusively in liquid form, in the hopes that my written words can transmit the sense of nonchalant, almost insouciant joy that Scarpa’s winemaking style presents…
Being DOCGs, these are to be just as regulated as the strictly mandated Moscato d’Asti DOCG, which is good news for Moscato lovers looking for something different (and, presumably, for the Italians looking for work enforcing the regulations!). Like Moscato d’Asti, the new DOCGs are made from 100 percent Moscato Bianco grapes grown in the region, but don’t require Moscato dAsti’s vintage declaration. Confusingly (for me, anyway), neither mentions the grape in its DOCG name. Anyway, here’s the run-down of the new categories, both of which offer a broader stylistic range of Asti Moscato…
Speller’s masterclass was part of a presentation given to media guests gathered at the bucolic Castello Gancia, smack dab in the heart of Asti and a focal point of the area’s recent UNESCO designation. It’s the kind of place that you imagine in your dreams of what Piemonte would be like (17th century architecture sitting atop gorgeous rolling hills… that sort of thing).
Anyway, it only took me about ten minutes into that masterclass for the cold water of facts to jolt me out of any residual dreamlike morning Piemonte trance into the realization that just about everything that I thought I’d known about Asti’s boisterous vinous calling card was, basically, absolute wrong. I’m betting that most of you reading this have gotten it wrong, too; the simple truth is that the simple pleasures of Moscato d’Asti – hands-down one of the dead easiest wines to enjoy – belie complexities that are pretty friggin’ serious.
I’m not talking about Moscato’s complexity in the nose, either; though a good argument could be made that, in terms of volume of aromatic compounds, Moscato Bianco is one of the most aromatically complex grape varieties in the world. But I am talking about… well, just about everything else that goes into making a finished, drinkable Moscato d’Asti product…
In my final piece in the Barbera Moves series, I urge you to kind of ignore Barbera; temporarily, at least. To put that ostensibly odd stance in proper context, here’s a brief quote (and yeah, I am quoting myself):
Barbera is the “gateway drug” to the rest of Piedmont. Barbera is a bridge that starts an adventure into the history, land, people, and tastes that make up such compelling and unique wines as Ruchè, Grignolino, Albarossa.
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