Colombera & Garella - Long Live 2016 Alto Piemonte

10/19/20 -

I was thrilled when samples of the 2016 Bramaterra and Lessona arrived from Colombera & Garella of Alto Piemonte. Having recently opened them, I can say that the excitement was warranted. The wines are fantastic, and if you haven't had the chance to taste either in past vintages, these '16s are going to be great to cut your teeth on. Via our friends at PortoVino, the estate's winemaker, Christiano Garella, shared his thoughts on the year. "We are very satisfied," he wrote. In his opinion, the wines display "great finesse and sure longevity," while also being "elegant from the start." I can't agree more. I want a handful of bottles for drinking now, and I want more for cellaring and coming back to. There is treasure buried in this juice. It's flirting with us today, but should be revealed within a few more years in bottle.

The Colombera & Garella 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 seagrass - 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.

In contrast, the Colombera & Garella 2016 'Pizzaguerra' Lessona is leaner, a touch brighter and lighter in fruit. Even the color is a truer red. The nose offers a spectrum of aromas: red licorice, strawberry, cherry, balsamic, and Autumnal notes of forest floor. Flavors of wild cherry and crushed black rocks make way for a finish of iron, mint, and clove. The tannic structure of this wine is more focused than that of the Bramattera, landing primarily on the tongue and gums, and the acidity of the Lessona is a bit livelier, coupled with the wine's additional notches of clean minerality.

Ancient volcanic material dominates the soil makeup in both Bramaterra and Lessona, two of the many winemaking villages of Alto Piemonte. PortoVino, our source of Colombera & Garella wines, breaks it down like this: "At 350-400 meters, Bramaterra and Lessona’s soils are distinctly acidic, quite different from Barolo and Barbaresco’s basic soils. Bramaterra’s volcanic soil is composed of crumbly red-brown rocks made from porphytic sand crystals. Lessona still has acidic soil as well, but here you see a marine sand that’s yellow or red-ochre in color." You can absolutely taste the two different soil types in the wines, with the Bramaterra being denser, burlier, crunchier, and the Lessona being fresher, crisper, and slightly more elegant in form.

In this unique earth, Spanna, better known as Nebbiolo, has long been the region's prized grape, although other varietals are blended with it - a practice you almost never see in the Langhe. The red wines coming from villages like Bramaterra and Lessona host other regionally significant varietals in addition to the Piedmont's star. The 2016 Bramaterra is 80% Nebbiolo, 10% Vespolina, and 10% Croatina and the 2016 Lessona is 95% Nebbiolo and 5% Vespolina. "The Croatina gives that dark fruit; the Vespolina, spice and briskness," according to the PortoVino website.

We at Chambers believe in the longevity of Alto Piemonte wines. Many of the oldest bottles we have for sale are from the region, produced by celebrated names like Nervi and Travaglini. Colombera & Garella is a much younger company, started a little over a decade ago. Garella, a young, hardworking, and very intelligent winemaker, spent time at Tenute Sella and helped neighboring wineries as a consultant. However, when he joined forces with Giacomo and Carlo Colombera, he found a place to shine. This team is leading the way for younger producers in Alto Piemonte. With time, as more vintages are released and past vintages are cellared and matured, I truly believe Colombera & Garella will take their place with the greats.

Grazie to our friends at PortoVino, and thank you to Cristiano Garella and Giacomo Colombera for vintage notes and wine info!

-David Hatzopoulos

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