The sunset over Masserano, Colombera & Garella's home (producer's Facebook)

Colombera & Garella's 2019 Vispavola, 100% Vespolina... and two other remarkable bottles from C&G in the Alto Piemonte!

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Who here has tasted an 100% Vespolina? I hear crickets chirping in cyberspace. Full disclosure, I hadn’t either until a new stock of Colombera & Garella hit the shop a week ago. The winery, located in the Bramaterra DOC of Italy’s Alto Piemonte, is one of the few producers to sell a wine made entirely from this red grape, which is most commonly blended with Nebbiolo and Croatina. I am stunned by the tannic form and the fruity softness of C&G’s 2019 Vespolina, named Vispavola. To an extent, it mimics the powerful mouthfeel of an accessible, early-drinking Nebbiolo, and doubles down on the floral and mineral tones that wines from this area, a two hour drive from the northern tip of Barolo, are known to display.

Vespolina! (from Eatitalynew.com)

Out of the bottle, the nose smells of cherries, cigar ash, and healthy, vibrant red flowers. Over time, the bouquet deepens and darkens, becomes plummier, and takes on an enticing, gravelly expression. The palate has ripe red fruits, with crisp apricot, and a layer of zippy black minerals. The weighty stone fruit flavor grows after seeing two hours of air. Structurally, great acidity, focusing on the back of the tongue, that balances the wine's lovely, fruity middle. Tannic in the right places. Very well built!

Although native to the northern stretches of the Piedmont, Vespolina has lost ground to other grapes, like Barbera, since phylloxera wreaked havoc on the region’s vineyards in the late 19th and early 20th century. According to Wine Grapes, Vespolina vines didn’t graft well to American rootstock, a process that stunted the development of a vine that was already known to be low-yielding. Although I’d love to see more recent data, experts say that 108 hectares of Vespolina existed in 2000, “less than half” of what existed in Italy in 1970. Colombera & Garella’s Vispavola is a great chance to taste a grape variety in flux. My guess is there will always be Vespolina, because it blends so flawlessly with Nebbiolo, creating a style of wine that the industry here relies on, but I can’t be certain that there will always be wines made from the grape alone, especially available outside of the local region. I hope that Colombera & Garella, known as a leader of Alto Piemonte wine in the current international market, continues to foster Vespolina, for the sake of its history, but also because it is so, so delicious.

This winery is a family estate. In 1992, Carlo Colombera bought property in Masserano, a village within the Bramaterra DOC, along with neighboring Nebbiolo vines. Four years later, Carlo left his job working in Italy’s rice fields for a position at Antoniolo, one of the most iconic producers in the Alto Piemonte. He was there until 2005, before shifting focus to his own production. Soon after, he planted and acquired more vines in the area, in the villages of Lessona and Roasio, as well. Carlo’s expansion created the foundation for Colombera & Garella to be built upon, which was started in 2010 by his son Giacomo, then a student of wine in Alba, and the talented and popular wingrowing consultant, Cristiano Garella. Today, the winery is practicing organic, and uses low-intervention techniques in the cellar, including fementation by natural yeasts.

A snapshot from Google Earth... check out those mountains!

In addition to the Vispavola, we are offering the 2019 Coste della Sesia and the 2016 Bramaterra. I have never been disappointed in the affordable and drinkable Coste della Sesia, a blend of mostly Nebbiolo, with 15% each of Croatina and Vespolina. I recently enjoyed a 2010 bottling, and it held up wonderfully. I showcased the 2016 Bramaterra many months ago, and we sold through it - which was no surprise. The wine is so well textured, full of dark fruits and minerals. Definitely a bottle to age, but only after enjoying a bottle or two today.

As always, don’t forget where your wine comes from. When you’re drinking the wines of Colombera & Garella, imagine the beautiful land of the Alto Piemonte. The mountains, the hills, the dense, green landscape… and, of course, the vines of Vespolina, Nebbiolo, and Croatina. David Hatzopoulos

Colombera & Garella 2019 Vispavola

I knew I would love this wine. From 100% Vespolina grown in the sandy, volcanic soils of Bramaterra in the Alto Piemonte. There are two hectares planted, one with younger 15 year old vines, the other with vines aging between 40 and 50 years old. Southwest exposure, 1150 feet above sea level. The grapes are tended with organic methods, and harvested by hand. In the cellar, natural fermentation lasts 10 days, and the wine spends a 6 month elevate in saintliness steel tanks. The wine is bottled without filtration. Out of the bottle, the nose smells of cherries, cigar ash, and healthy, vibrant red flowers. Over time, the bouquet deepens and darkens, becomes plummier, and takes on the same gravelly expression you'd expect from a pungent Medoc. The palate has ripe red fruits, with crisp apricot and a layer of zippy black minerals. The weighty stone fruit flavor grows after seeing 2 hours of air. Structurally, great acidity, focusing on the back of the tongue, that balances the wines lovely, fruity middle. Tannic in the right places. Very well built. Paired with blackened pork chops in a cherry sauce, with buttered carrots and rice. Too good! David Hatzopoulos  

  • red
  • 5 in stock
  • $26.99

  • Organic

Colombera & Garella 2019 Coste della Sesia

This vibrant red 70% Nebbiolo, 15% Vespolina, and 15% Croatina. Cristiano Garella teamed up with Giacomo and Carlo Colombera to produce wines in the Northeastern corner of the Piedmont, known as Alto-Piemonte. Christiano had been associated with a few producers in the area, focused on revitalizing a once-prominent wine producing region, and Carlo had been growing grapes in Bramaterra since the 90s. The bottle comes from the appellation of Coste Della Sesia, with volcanic-sandy soils. The vines have Southwestern exposure and have an average age of 40 years. All fruit is picked by hand and ferments for 14 days in stainless steel without temperature control. The wine ages for 10 to 12 months in used barriques before bottling. Aromas of redcurrant  and strawberry contrasts those of graphite, bell pepper, mint. The palate has dark plum, ripe black cherry and spicy, cracked black pepper. High acid and strong tannin last in the mouth long after the sip. A lovely chew. The finish has a hint of sour blackberry, bolstered by a snappy mineral drive. Great wine! David Hatzopoulos

  • red
  • 26 in stock
  • $26.99

  • Organic
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Colombera & Garella 2016 Bramaterra Cascina Cottignano

"Bramaterra 2016 is 80 % Nebbiolo, 10 % Vespolina, 10 % Croatina, the vineyard is located in Masserano on a volcanic brown soil. Fermentation was in concrete with 38 days of maceration for the Nebbiolo grapes. After we blend the 3 varieties and we wait the spring for the natural malolactic. The wine aged for 2 years in a botte 6000 L."- Information sent directly from Giacomo Colombera.

The 2016 'Cascina Cottignano' Bramaterra has a color of dark cherry. The nose has expressive, plump red fruits, like cherry and raspberry, along with a hint of flowery perfume. These aromas float above a distinctly savory character, which I found to be reminiscent of fresh, dark-green sea grass - salty and rich, not bitter or vegetal. On the palate, the wine shows a medley of black and red berries, before a long, herbaceous finish. It has a ripe mouthfeel with lovely, tempered acidity, flashy stoniness, and a broad blanket of medium-level tannin. David Hatzopoulos

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $44.99

  • Organic