Saturday, June 9, 2012

Forever Barolo -- lunch and Paolo Scavino wines at Masseto

It was the perfect day for a long wine lunch as we'd just closed Travelife Magazine's June-July 2012 issue in time for release on June 15 and so it already felt like a weekend. In addition, the venue was Masseto, one of my favorite restaurants in Manila, and I was lunching with a couple of friends.

The lunch was hosted by Jojo Madrid, one of the partners behind Premium Wine Exchange and Masseto, as well as a board member of Travelife Magazine and a good friend; and the guest of honor was Elisa Scavino, daughter and one of the two heiresses (along with her sister) to the Barolo winery Paolo Scavino in northwest Italy, a winery known for its modernist outlook in a pretty traditional industry.


The Paolo Scavino winery is named after the founder, Elisa's grandfather, who established the winery in 1921 in Castiglione Falleto, one of the towns in the Barolo region, near Alba, a place particularly noted for its white truffles. The wines they make here -- considered among the best, if not the absolute best in Barolo -- are produced exclusively with local grapes like the Nebbiolo, which is full of tannins.

They're also perhaps the only winemakers in this region to own grand cru vineyards in six of the 11 villages of Barolo. This access to such a vast and diverse terroir enables them to experiment and produce some truly excellent wines. Serious wine enthusiasts have the highest respect for this winery that is over 90 years old.

Elisa Scavino was only in Manila for a very short stay, but in this span of time, she succeeded in convincing more people to enjoy Barolo wines. People like me who like Burgundy wines naturally also like Barolo wines because Burgundy wines and Barolo wines have a lot of similarities in taste, grape-growing conditions and production techniques used. And one thing I confirmed for myself at lunch today is that Barolo wines are incredibly good with food.

Paolo Scavini winery in Barolo, Italy

The pairing of wine and food today was truly delicious and enjoyable. We had a four-course lunch courtesy of Chef Tippi Tambunting which was paired with three wines of Paolo Scavino: the Dolcetto d'Alba DOC 2011 for the mixed green salad with pecorino flan, the Barbera d'Alba Affinito in Carati DOC 2007 for the tagliatelle with duck ragu, and a Barolo Carobric DOCG 2006 for the braised short ribs with potato puree and mustard jus.

The Dolcetto d'Alba DOC 2011 is a dry red wine with a low acidity and mild tannins. To me it had quite a strong taste, and that was probably good for the mixed green salad we had to start; but it seemed too strong to enjoy on its own.

Jojo then reminded me: "Barolo wines are meant to be enjoyed with food."

It was so true, because the Barbera 2007 that followed complimented the tagliatelle with duck ragu so well and made the dining experience ten times better for me. The Barolo Carobric 2006, when drunk and enjoyed with the braised short ribs, was also a very good match. I enjoyed the wine so much more because I had it with the short ribs, and I enjoyed the short ribs so much more because I had it with the Carobric. Scroll down to read more about lunch...


Drinking wine is an incredibly personal experience, and everyone has his or her own favorites. Out of the three wines we had today, I particularly liked the Barbera and the Carobric. And actually, if I was forced to choose between the two, I would have to choose the Barbera because it went so well with the tagliatelle with duck ragu, even if it is really the Carobric that was the prize among the three. What a perfect combination that was.

The braised short ribs made by Chef Tippi Tambunting is one of my favorite dishes at Masseto, and I was very happy it was on the menu. As I wrote earlier, this too went perfectly with the Carobric that was served.


The Carobric, by the way, is Elisa Scavino's pick for a favorite out of the three at lunch today, when she was asked which was her favorite of the three. I still liked the Barbera better, but I had to agree that the Barolo and the braised short ribs were a very good match.

Over lunch, we of course discussed wines and the life of a winemaker.

"Any significant mistakes or accomplishments as a winemaker?" I asked Elisa over lunch. Everyone laughed, and Daniel Blais, the head sommelier of the Makati Shangri-La, rephrased my question: "What she means is, which vintages should we avoid for your wines?"

The Makati Shangri-La, by the way, is the only hotel in Manila so far with a properly accredited professional sommelier -- and that's Daniel.


Elisa laughed too and confessed that she had been rather headstrong as a young girl and of course she'd wanted to try a lot of things on her own or experiment in winemaking in her own way. So for her first solo venture as a winemaker in 2005, she went a different way from her father in technique and production materials, causing him much consternation.

The result was a surprisingly good wine that Elisa is fiercely protective over. She made only a few cases and none of them are for sale; but every so often -- at Christmas, for instance, and at other family celebrations -- her father asks her to open a bottle. She says her father thinks the fruits of her first solo venture are very good and he's quite impressed.

Then it was all too soon over for lunch and back to work before rushing home to get dressed for a long gown evening at the Makati Shangri-La for the Johann Strauss Society 2012 Gala Concert, an intimate dinner concert which, ironically, is also the biggest society concert of the year.


I had my hair blowdried in exactly 15 minutes and then it took me another 10 minutes to get into one of my handpainted Malaysian silk gowns and head back out into the night -- all while planning a new trip a few months down the road with someone via BBM.

Yes, I was in Manila yesterday for an Italian lunch and an Austrian concert, but I was also trying to get on a flight for Istanbul, still looking for a fancier sports car to rent in Germany, going over the details of a private concert being arranged for me in Prague, trying to re-schedule a trip to Abu Dhabi, and already planning for this new major trip somewhere exotic in this world in November -- about a dozen trips down the road, but so exciting to think about anyway.

We were practically discussing the details of this new trip all day, including while I was having lunch; and last night we pingponged between Los Angeles, Sydney, HoustonDubai, Amsterdam and even Valparaiso (although I don't know how that got into the picture) while talking about the best way to reach our intended destination.

Just another day in a never-ending and truly never-endingly eventful Travelife.


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