Italy

Alto Piemonte

Until the end of the 19th century, before phylloxera ravaged its vineyards, every slope and hill in this area was covered with vines. At the time, wines from Ghemme, Boca and Gattinara, to name just three of the seven, nowadays dwarf-like denominations, commanded higher prices in the grand cafes and restaurants of Turin than the crus of Burgundy. The area never recovered from the double whammy of phylloxera and a devastating spring frost in 1904 that eradicated whole swathes of its vineyards. The ensuing crisis forced many grape growers to abandon their properties and to emigrate overseas or move to Turin and Milan to build a new existence there.

A brief history of Alto Piemonte by Walter Speller

Nature took its course and shrubs and woods soon took over the ancient vineyard sites. Remnants of its former glory stubbornly survived into the 20th century, until in the 1970s it was dealt another blow when a wave of modernisation swept through Italy’s cellars. It triggered a fashion for concentrated, fullbodied, deeply coloured wines, often aged in French barriques, and strongly advocated by Italy’s all-powerful wine guides. In the process the fresh, elegant wines from Alto Piemonte were reduced to mere anachronisms in what had now become ‘modern Italy’.

Statistics give a glimpse of the enormous scale of the decline. From the reported 40,000 ha (100,000 acres) of vineyards at the end of the 19th century only 780 ha remain today, with Boca (9.61 ha), Bramaterra (26.6 ha), Fara (4.82 ha), Lessona (17.5 ha), Ghemme (25.74 ha) and Sizzano (4.80 ha) mere snippets compared with Gattinara’s 63.93 ha. The total extinction of the smallest of these minuscule DOCs was prevented only by the creation of two overarching denominations, Colline Novaresi (which includes Boca, Ghemme, Sizzano and Fara) and Coste della Sesia (Lessona and Gattinara) in 2011. Although farmers continue to cultivate grapes here, their holdings are often less than half a hectare, which makes estate bottling not a viable option, which is why most of the grapes are sold off to co-ops or merchant-bottlers.


The reds from Alto Piedmonte are typically blends of Spanna AKA Nebbiolo with a splash of Croatina or Vespolina depending on the sub-Region.


Nervi-Conterno's Latest!


The Gattinara!

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara 2017

Amazing transparency, sophistication shining though.
$136
$131ea in any 3+
$126ea in any 6+

The Cru’s!

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara ‘Molsino’ 2016

Tasted next to the Valferana, the 2016 Gattinara Vigna Molsino is much more nervous in feel. Iron, dried herbs, sweet dried cherry, mint, crushed rocks, white pepper and earthy notes give the Molsino a good deal of aromatic complexity to match its intense, saline-infused minerality. Today, though, the tannins and acids are almost overpowering. Readers will find an old-school, classically austere Gattinara that needs 10-15 years to be at its best. The 2016 is an absolute jewel of a wine, but it s
$250
$240ea in any 3+
$230ea in any 6+

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara ‘Valferana’ 2016

The 2016 Gattinara Vigna Valferana is every bit as impressive from bottle as it was from cask. Rich and resonant, the 2016 is so supremely beautiful as it opens up in the glass. It is a wine of real breadth and textural expansiveness. Rose petal, mint, sweet dried cherry, tar, anise and orange peel are some of the nuances that emerge, but the Valferana is a wine to admire for its total sense of balance. In a word: Lights out. Make that two words. Galloni Hard not to take notice wine Robert
$250
$240ea in any 3+
$230ea in any 6+

Mag’s!

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara ‘Valferana’ MAGNUM 2016

The 2016 Gattinara Vigna Valferana is every bit as impressive from bottle as it was from cask. Rich and resonant, the 2016 is so supremely beautiful as it opens up in the glass. It is a wine of real breadth and textural expansiveness. Rose petal, mint, sweet dried cherry, tar, anise and orange peel are some of the nuances that emerge, but the Valferana is a wine to admire for its total sense of balance. In a word: Lights out. Make that two words. Galloni Hard not to take notice wine Robert
$530
$515ea in any 3+
$500ea in any 6+

Something to Pour it Into!

Conterno Giacomo Sensory Glass

The Ultimate Glass for the Neb-Head!
$150
$145ea for 2+
$140ea for 4+
$135ea for 6+

Colombera & Garella's Lessona!


Colombera & Garella Lessona ‘Pizzaguerra’ 2016

Beauty and sophistication, exceptional purity, a very complete wine!
$85
$81ea in any 3+
$77ea in any 6+

Cristiano Garella has emerged as the voice of the younger generation in Alto Piemonte and is, along with Roberto Conterno, the region’s greatest ambassador. Garella makes wines for his Colombera & Garella project and also consults for a number of other estates. I was deeply impressed with these current releases.

Antonio Galloni

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Nervi-Conterno ‘Il Rosato’ Nebbiolo Rosé 2020

Nebbiolo makes fantastic fresh Rosé
$58
$55ea in any 3+
$52ea in any 6+

Colombera & Garella Lessona ‘Pizzaguerra’ 2016

Beauty and sophistication, exceptional purity, a very complete wine!
$85
$81ea in any 3+
$77ea in any 6+

Antoniotti Bramaterra 2015

The Alto is sharing its gems with us!
$88
$84ea in any 3+
$80ea in any 6+

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara 2015

Amazing transparency, sophistication shining though.
$115
$110ea in any 3+
$105ea in any 6+

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara 2017

Amazing transparency, sophistication shining though.
$136
$131ea in any 3+
$126ea in any 6+

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara 2018

Historically these wines have had Amazing transparency, sophistication shining though.
$189
$182ea in any 3+
$175ea in any 6+

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara ‘Molsino’ 2014

The 2014 Gattinara Molsino is shy and introverted in its first impression, with quite a bit of intensity lurking in the background. Today, the Molsino is not as expressive as the Valferana, but its day will come. With a bit of aeration, the 2014 starts to show the structure, layers of nuance and resonance that will emerge more fully in time. Galloni Hard not to take notice wine Roberto Conterno decided to drop some coin on a new vineyard! Taking a 90% holding Nervi based in Gattinara is a

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara ‘Molsino’ 2016

Tasted next to the Valferana, the 2016 Gattinara Vigna Molsino is much more nervous in feel. Iron, dried herbs, sweet dried cherry, mint, crushed rocks, white pepper and earthy notes give the Molsino a good deal of aromatic complexity to match its intense, saline-infused minerality. Today, though, the tannins and acids are almost overpowering. Readers will find an old-school, classically austere Gattinara that needs 10-15 years to be at its best. The 2016 is an absolute jewel of a wine, but it s
$250
$240ea in any 3+
$230ea in any 6+

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara ‘Valferana’ 2016

The 2016 Gattinara Vigna Valferana is every bit as impressive from bottle as it was from cask. Rich and resonant, the 2016 is so supremely beautiful as it opens up in the glass. It is a wine of real breadth and textural expansiveness. Rose petal, mint, sweet dried cherry, tar, anise and orange peel are some of the nuances that emerge, but the Valferana is a wine to admire for its total sense of balance. In a word: Lights out. Make that two words. Galloni Hard not to take notice wine Robert
$250
$240ea in any 3+
$230ea in any 6+

Nervi-Conterno Gattinara ‘Valferana’ MAGNUM 2016

The 2016 Gattinara Vigna Valferana is every bit as impressive from bottle as it was from cask. Rich and resonant, the 2016 is so supremely beautiful as it opens up in the glass. It is a wine of real breadth and textural expansiveness. Rose petal, mint, sweet dried cherry, tar, anise and orange peel are some of the nuances that emerge, but the Valferana is a wine to admire for its total sense of balance. In a word: Lights out. Make that two words. Galloni Hard not to take notice wine Robert
$530
$515ea in any 3+
$500ea in any 6+