Sunday, March 03, 2024

Enrico Scavino - A Remembrance

Last Monday, I received a note from a friend in Italy. “Enrico Scavino has crossed over into the Great Sea.”

Our paths first crossed 40 years ago, in 1984. It was my first business trip to Italy and I was with my friend and colleague Guy Stout. We had a duo of Italian restaurateurs with us and our guide Barone Armando de Rham, who represented Scavino to us in the U.S.

We were coming from Vinitaly, which in those days was a smallish (but growing) affair. Piedmont! It was so exciting to be going to the Burgundy of Italy, which was what we were told. In those days, the Italian wines and regions leaned on French equivalents, so the unknowing could find an entry point. Now, not so necessary, as Italian wine has become a force in the wine world.

1984 a very young yours truly at far left, Armando
de Rham and Enrico Scavino -  photo by Guy Stout

When we arrived to the winery and the sunny courtyard, Enrico met and greeted us with his famous smile. We toured the winery. Something about it was different than some of the others we had recently visited. There was a large room solely designated for small barrels, barriques, they called them. The barrels were French, and expensive, and some producers were experimenting with ageing the Nebbiolo wine in them. It was just short of scandalous, at the time. But, if used properly, the wines showed a vim and a vigor that some of the neighboring wineries just didn’t quite come up to.

Paolo Scavino

Enrico was a warm person, enthusiastic and youthful. His daughters and wife and father were around as well. It was a family affair. His father Paolo, was older then. Ha, I think about his age and laugh a little. It’s not that far from where I am now. And for those young’uns reading this, if you are lucky enough to get through the next 10 minutes, you might also be there, sooner than you think.

We tasted through some barrels and then went into the tasting room to sample some bottled wines, over some breadsticks and local cheeses, which was fairly de rigueur in those days. The wines were stout and young and strong and compelling to my young palate. We were told how much we could expect for our market (Texas) and we reserved all that we could have. Guy told me that the two restaurateurs would put the wine on the list, for sure, and Guy had big plans for other places, both retail and restaurant, in his territory, which was Houston. As for my territory, Dallas, which was a little staider and conservative, I felt reasonably certain that some of the high-end hotels and a few innovative Italian restaurants, like Alessio’s and Savino’s, would also follow suit. And just like that, voilĂ , we were going to bring in the wines of Paolo Scavino to Texas. Another first!

Enrico, daughter Enrica and Armando de Rham

What I remember about Enrico, and his whole family, was that they were pretty mellow. Driven yes, but calm. They looked at time in generational terms, something most Americans have a hard time gripping onto.

Thirty years later, in 2015, I returned to the winery, for the 30th anniversary festivities for their crowning achievement, their Barolo Bric del Fiasc. Luminaries from all over the wine world flew in for the party, and we were lucky to be in Italy at the time and get invited. 

I always had a soft spot in my heart for Elisa, ever since she was a toddler. But the whole family emanated a warmth and a familiarity that was welcoming and engaging. One of the great things about being in the wine world, and getting to know and love the people in it.

When I got word that Enrico has passed, it saddened me. So many people in the wine world that I grew up with have left us. Or rather, left their little rivulets and gone on to the Greater Sea.

Indeed, after a period of swimming in the vinous river of the Langhe, Enrico has also gone into that Larger Presence.  Bon anima, amico. See you on the other side.

© written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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