“The talented Cristiano Garella has emerged as the voice of the younger generation and is, along with Roberto Conterno, Alto Piemonte’s greatest ambassador. […] These producers, among many others, are the face of Alto Piemonte today.” —Antonio Galloni of Vinous

Before Piedmont’s Barolo and Barbaresco earned their stronghold in Northwestern Italy, there was a time when Alto Piemonte, just two hours northeast, was the more widely planted and sought-after region for Nebbiolo. We have a handful of Alto Piemonte wines in our collection, but the first and foremost name to know among the current revivalists is Cristiano Garella.

Today, I'm happy to offer Colombera & Garella’s 2016 Bramaterra Cascina Cottignano and Lessona Pizzaguerra for $50 per bottle.

Alto Piemonte was pummeled by one crisis after another, starting with the spread of phylloxera in the 1800s and, more recently, by the industrial revolution during World War II when farmers abandoned their vineyards in the countryside for factory jobs in cities. In the last decade, Cristiano has strived to revive Alto Piemonte as a wine region, highlighting its distinctive varieties and terroir. Nebbiolo is still the noble grape here, but it’s blended with small amounts of native varieties like Vespolina and Croatina that add another dimension to the wines.

Cristiano is an adviser to roughly 20 wineries across the region, but Colombera & Garella is his own project (hence the namesake)—the first half refers to father-son duo Giacomo and Carlo Colombera, Cristiano’s long-time friends who have grown grapes in Bramaterra since the early 1990s.

Together, they farm nine hectares using organic and low-intervention practices in the vineyard and cellar (native yeast, fermentation in concrete tanks, minimal sulfur, and 24-month élevage in neutral barrels, etc.). These are currently the only wines in our Alto Piemonte collection from the appellations of Bramaterra and Lessona.

Compared to Barolo and Barbaresco, Alto Piemonte has a cooler, rainier climate. In Bramaterra and Lessona, the soils are significantly more acidic and respectively comprised of reddish-brown sand from an ancient volcano and yellow sand from the sea. Some sources conclude that these factors result in a more mineral-driven expression of Nebbiolo, with finer tannins and nerving acidity—all of which makes them more approachable and readily drinkable than their slower aging counterparts.

When we tasted the 2016 Bramatera Cascina Cottionano in September, I was pulled in by the high tones of red licorice and cherry pulsing through the wine that seemed to add another octave. Italian wine critic Antonio Galloni of Vinous wrote an overview of Alto Piemonte earlier this year that included a glowing review of Colombera & Garella’s latest releases, which I think best expresses how special these wines are:

“The 2016 Bramaterra Cascina Cottignano is bold, ample and super-expressive, although it is going to need at least a few years in bottle to be at its best. Even today, though, the wine's depth and overall resonance are both apparent. Dark red cherry, plum, spice, rose petal and earthy notes all flesh out in this potent, exotically rich Bramaterra. The 2016 is flat-out gorgeous, that's pretty much all there is to it.”

“The 2016 Lessona Pizzaguerra is super-refined and silky. A wine of grace above all else, the 2016 speaks with real distinction and tons of pure class. Sweet red cherry fruit, blood orange, mint, spice and star anise all run through this pliant, racy Lessona from Colombera & Gallera. Best of all, the 2016 will drink well with minimal cellaring.”

These wines are still distinctly the Nebbiolo we know and love but reveal another facet of the variety and, as a result, another layer of admiration, especially given their more-affordable price tag. The comeback of Nebbiolo's former homeland couldn't be more appealing!

—Sydney Love