Barolo enthusiasts often discuss, hell – they argue passionately, about the merits of Barolo produced through traditional methods versus Barolo produced by “modernistas”. It’s an argument I’ve engaged in many times and in fact, I’ve advocated both sides of the discussion as the instance dictated. However, when you’ve tasted as much Barolo as I have from a wide array of styles, one thing becomes clear. Great Barolo can be made by both traditional and avant garde producers. The key to both is always balance and of course, the passion to produce the best wine possible.
The theory behind both approaches to Barolo is filled with debate. However, inevitably, the discussion always turns to the question of will “modern” Barolo age well? To some that means will the wines be miraculous examples of the type when they are 30 or even 40 years old? In some cases, that may be hard to judge. However, over the last few decades, in an effort to obtain some data points on this very topic, I have allowed some examples of Barolo to age. I’d find something I like, buy 3 or 4 bottles, and make sure I save one for the long haul. Am I on to something? Beats me. Your mileage may vary as taste is always subjective. That being said, I’ve been happy to drink some fine examples, both in their youth and as they’ve aged. Again, balance is the key. If a wine is balanced in its youth, it will be balanced when it’s a elder gentleman.
Luigi Scavino represents the 5th generation of winemaker to work the 16 hectares of vineyards at their family estate in Castiglione Falleto. Founded in 1920 by his father Lorenzo, the Scavino family is obsessed with meticulous care of their vineyards. Most of the vines date from the 1940s and the Scavinos practice natural fertilization techniques, double green harvesting and strict selection during the manual harvest.
Today we’re looking at a wine that has just turned 17 years of age. A Barolo produced by what could only be called “modern” methods. Let’s dicuss…
The San Rocco vineyard lies in the commune of Serralunga d’Alba and is a small 1.5 hectare parcel of land. The vineyard lies on a sloping hillside directly in front of the San Rocco Church which has historical roots deeper than the vines themselves; having been used as a refuge for the sick during the plague in the 1600’s. The vines today average 55 years of age.
The 2001 Azelia Barolo San Rocco is a deep ruby red, trending to brick in color, with a thin, clear orange ring at the rim of the bowl. After fermentation in stainless steel rotofermenters, the wine is aged for two full years in french barrique and then bottle aged an additional year before release.
The wine was decanted for an hour before dinner in order to remove sediment and allow the wine to breathe. In fact, so much sediment was removed that the funnel I used kept clogging. I had to clean the screen several times with a spoon to allow the wine to freely run into the decanter. The aromas from the wine were nothing short of spectacular. Warm crushed cherry, dried spices, fennel seed, cured meat and orange rind were enjoyable and complex. On the palate, this wine was smooth. Velvety smooth. Ripe cherry flavors are backed by notes of dried mushroom, warm clay and peppery spice. The tannins are fully resolved but the acidity provides all the freshness and structure you will need. While this isn’t as old as many nebbiolo afficionados would profess, I see no flaw in the winemaking here at all. This is drinking very well now and can easily last another 5 years in a proper cellar. Beautiful wine; like a soft baby’s bottom. 96 points. About $45 upon release. The current price is about $100 and more recent vintages sell for around $60. Compelling. Find this wine.