Why Be Curious? A single-vineyard Barbera from traditional Barbera d’Asti specialist Scarpa in the Monferrato. It’s aged like a serious, traditional Nebbiolo (i.e., several years in large casks) and shows that Nebbiolo is not the only Piemontese variety that’s capable of making serious, long-aging wines.
Produttore / Producer: Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa has been producing traditional wines in the Monferrato hills of southeast Piemonte since 1854. But it was Mario Pesce, admired by both Giacosa and Gaja, who made Scarpa’s reputation in the second half of the 20th century. Traditional sometimes means ‘rustic’, but that’s not the case here. A very present gusto della casa (house style) produces elegant wines with arrow-like acidity and well-aged tannins. In the 21st century, Scarpa continues to produce each year small quantities of more than a dozen wines from 10 different grape varieties and to release gradually wines from its ample library of bottles going back to the 1960s.
Vigna / Vineyard: Poderi Bricchi is Scarpa’s 50-hectare estate vineyard area in Castel Rocchero, in the heart of the Monferrato. 27 of the 50 hectares are planted with nine grape varieties that produce 11 wines. (Scarpa also sells off some grapes.) The remaining 23 hectares are forests and fields, which Scarpa deliberately leaves unplanted in order to maintain biodiversity and healthy vineyards. Vineyard treatments are copper and sulfur. The part of the vineyard from which I Bricchi comes is 100% clay soils, which gives power to the wine. Scarpa calls I Bricchi “the daughter of clay”, as opposed to their other single-vineyard Barbera, La Bogliona, “the daughter of sand”.
Cantina / Cellar: Fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging for two years in large casks (2,000-10,000 liters) and then at least one more year in bottle before release.
Il Vino / The Wine: Here in the U.S., we tend to think of and drink Barbera as the exuberantly fruity and tangy, jack-of-all-trades everyday wine for pizza and pasta. I Bricchi shows another side of Barbera, in which structure, spices, and earthy flavors are at least as important as fruit. Although Scarpa releases the wine with plenty of age, good vintages will continue to improve for at least several years.
A Tavola… / At the Table… A powerful, complex, aged wine that deserves the same respect as the serious Nebbiolo-based wines of Piemonte. Drink it from a Burgundy glass or other large, broad stemware to fully enjoy the aromas. Good pairings include hearty pasta dishes, stews, and meat-based second courses. It’s also a worthy vino da meditazione at the end of a meal, with a generous hunk of aged cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano.
Scarpa Barbera d’Asti ‘I Bricchi’
Vigna / Vineyard
Denominazione / Appellation: Barbera d’Asti DOC
Nome / Name: Poderi Bricchi, in Castel Rocchero (Monferrato).
Ettari / Hectares: 27 hectares (for all Scarpa wines other than the Nebbioli).
Quota / Altitude: 400 m / 1310 ft.
Suoli / Type of soils: Clay.
Vitigni / Varieties: 100% Barbera.
Età delle viti / Vine age: Planted 1968.
Allevamento / Trellis system: Guyot.
Metodo di vendemmia / Harvest technique: Hand harvested.
Metodo agricolo / Agricultural technique: Lotta integrata (sustainable).
Cantina / Cellar
Fermentazione alcolica / Alcoholic fermentation: In stainless steel.
Élevage: Two years in large French oak casks (botti grandi) ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 liters and from three to 12 years old, plus at least one more years in bottle before release.
Gradazione alcolica / Alcoholic %: 13.5%.
Tappo e bottiglia / Closure and bottle: Natural cork, 750 ml modified Burgundy bottle embossed with the Scarpa logo.