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Essential Winemakers of Italy ©Opening a Bottle

Masserano, Piedmont

Primary Grapes: Nebbiolo, Vespolina, Croatina

Primary Appellations: Bramaterra DOC, Lessona DOC, Coste della Sesia DOC

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Why Colombera & Garella is Essential

Colombera & Garella stands out as an anomaly in the fiercely traditional wine business of Piedmont. Not because of any tricks or modern-twists in the winery, but because, for once, the wines are not deadly serious. This is Piedmont and its kingly grape Nebbiolo at play.

The Alto Piemonte winery is also a relatively young endeavor, founded in 2010 by Giacomo Colombera and Cristiano Garella. Colombera and his father owned some vineyards in Bramaterra, and Garella was an emerging star winemaker. Not yet 30 years old, Garella was already managing the historic Tenute Sella estate in Lessona, and consulting at a number of farms. Fast-forward just a few years and these supremely crafted wines are among the most “buzzed about” from Italy’s most competitive wine region.

Wine writers and Nebbiolo nerds often dive deep into this region’s soils, as there are significant swaths of igneous porphyry that lend a distinctive volcanic “tingle” to the wines from here. That’s all well and good (and certainly there to unpack in the wines of Colombera & Garella), but to me, the simple reason these guys matter is their generosity. I’ve never met them and never visited the winery, but their wines have a benevolence that is universal in its appeal. Wine ought to be giving. It ought to be generous. This is a winery that hasn’t forgotten why we open bottles in the first place.

Colombera e Garella Vispavola & Bramaterra wines. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Colombera e Garella Vispavola & Bramaterra wines. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Wines to Seek Out

Colombera & Garella produces four wines of extraordinary purity, grace and ease. They are beauty run amok: rich with heavenly details, yet surprisingly thirst-quenching given their Nebbiolo spine.

Colombera & Garella Cascina Cottignano “Vispavola” Vino Rosso

Made from 100% Vespolina, “Vispavola” is the winery’s only wine without any Nebbiolo, and a bit of an oddball. Light in tone yet darkly sensuous with its fruit, it is a great example of how a wine’s sensory push-and-pull can create something brilliantly compelling. There is even a little fizz trapped in the bottle. The Italian wine equivalent of a Taika Waititi film.

Colombera & Garella Pizzaguerra Lessona

The Lessona consists of mostly Nebbiolo with a small splash of Vespolina, and while the tones of this wine are familiar (deep cherries, dark roses, black licorice, truffle) the texture is wildly different than Barolo. Think of velvet versus sandpaper and you are not far off.

Colombera & Garella Cascina Cottignano Bramaterra

The Bramaterra may be less serious than the Lessona — consisting of only 70% Nebbiolo — but I love it the most. The wine’s bouquet is as inviting as an Italian family dinner. It pulls you in, and the offerings just keep coming. If you are tired of waiting for your stash of Barolo and Barbaresco to age 10 years, this is the wine to reach for. It carries all of those charming Nebbiolo notes, but leaves behind the gruff stuff of youth.

Originally listed: November 2018.

Visiting Colombera & Garella

Contact the winery in advance if you are interested in a private tasting. Next door is a small agriturismo, Cascina Cottignano.


 


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