Posted by: tomciocco | October 21, 2014

COSTE DELLA SESIA: ALTO PIEMONTE’S WINE OF THE PEOPLE

The tiny appellations of Bramaterra, Boca, Fara, and a few others are to this part of northern Piemont what Barolo and Barbaresco to are to The Langhe further south: the pinnacle (both in terms of quality and price) of wines made predominately from Nebbiolo. And though the prices stuck onto the bottles from these northerly areas almost never reach the high numbers that their cousins further south carry, they are made in such tiny quantities, and consequently so rare, that you could easily equalize the gap by wasting a lot of car or train fare out searching for them.

This is not to say that the wines from Coste della Sesia are as ubiquitous as Pinot Grigio or Chianti. The appellation (which means “Banks of the Sesia” which is river that runs through the region) is appreciably larger than any of the aforementioned Piemontese regions, and its production norms are a bit looser, so turning up a bottle or two shouldn’t wind up being a grail quest.

Coste della Sesia wines are typically red but a small amount of white wine is made there too. The reds are named by the primary grapes from which they are made (no less than 85% of a single grape variety) but the wines designated as rosso is always a blend, and in the case of this particular wine, a melange of 65% Nebbiolo, 25% Croatina and 15% Vespolina, and in my estimation quite a felicitous one too, with Nebbiolo providing structure and elegance, Croatina the flesh and color, and Vespolina a soft and easy-going fruit, ultimately making for a wine that is more than the sum of its parts.

This particular cuvee` is made from fruit sourced from 40 year old vines grown on a warm and sunny southwest-facing vineyard situated 1150 feet above sea level in high-acid yellow sand a terroir typical to the whole zone that serves to generally leaven the wines making them decidedly ethereal with a sophisticated fruitiness. In the cellar, this wine is vinified spontaneously with wild, native yeasts and then aged for a bit less than a year in once and twice-used French barriques – just enough exsposure to fine oak to refine and polish the wine without in any way obscuring its decidedly cool blend of grapes or the area’s rare terroir. Again, Coste della Sesia wines are not typically available at Big Bob’s Wine Dump or the like, but that said, they are well worth keeping your eyes peeled for if not calling or surfing around to find – for me, they are amongst the most most expressive wines that emanate from Piedmont, period, especially if price is a factor. Go forth.

I paired this very lovely little red with a first course of fettuccine dressed with a walnut, cheese and garlic sauce from Piemont called Aja (pronounced AH-ya) followed by breaded and fried escalopes of chicken dressed with traditional salsa piemontese, a piquant sauce made with hard-boiled egg yolk, capers, anchovies, red bell peppers, garlic et al. and carote in agrodolce – carrots made sweet and sour with honey and red wine vinegar.

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Colombera & Garella Coste della Sesia 2011

Translucent brownish ruby color. Sweetly spicy cherry, strawberry preserves and plum butter fruit notes beautifully backed by sophisticated notes of juniper, violet, dried herbs and wood-fire roasted chestnuts. The palate is nimbly medium-bodied with a fresh acidity, supple tannins, and very elegant flavors of red currants, blackberry, blueberry, cinnamon, and sweet mocha notes. Long complex finish. Great stuff indeed.

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