The ABCs of Alto Piemonte’s C&G

postcard_colombera_garella_600x450Alto. For me, it’s a shivery, spine-tingling, exhilirating word. Alto Adige, Alta Langa, alte montagne, Alto Saxophone (I’m riffing, after all). Gazing out on mountain vistas, snowshoeing up or schussing down snow-clad peaks, drinking deeply of high-altitude, high-wire wines. Going higher, going north, or going other — in short, getting off the beaten path.

Alto Piemonte. Here the “Alto” is not so much in altitude as in latitude — 120 kilometers north of the better-known Basso Piemonte appellations of Barolo and Barbaresco. But the Alto Piemonte has its own noble Bs: Bramaterra and Boca, among a cluster of fascinating and worthy Nebbiolo-based appellations.

Bramaterra. Another evocative word. I imagine a subversive Sanskrit-Italian hybrid: Bra(h)ma, god of creation and namesake of the highest caste (classe alta), combined with the earthy terra of farmers. Back on terra firma, Bramaterra is one of those Alto Piemonte appellations. It’s characterized by sandy volcanic soils that give a particular elegance and fine aromas. Bramaterra also allows a higher percentage of Croatina and Vespolina than in most of the other Alto Piemonte DOCs. These are not mere filler grapes; they add resonance and spice to the wonder that is Nebbiolo. Think of Bramaterra as the kinkier sibling in the Alto Piemonte family.

Carlo and Giacomo Colombera

Carlo and Giacomo Colombera

Coste della Sesia. The banks of the Sesia River, and the umbrella appellation in Alto Piemonte — an analogue to Langhe Nebbiolo in the Basso Piemonte scheme of things, but again, with the option of adding Croatina and Vespolina.

Colombera & Garella. Two young friends, Giacomo Colombera and Cristiano Garella, with the watchful eye and practiced hand of papà Carlo Colombera in the vineyards. Cristiano already made waves as winemaker at Tenuta Sella and has become the go-to guy in the Alto Piemonte. There’s a Colombera & Garella Coste della Sesia and a Bramaterra now. There will be a Lessona and a Rosato next year. You will be hearing a lot more from these guys.

-MM