Within the region of Piedmont there can be no dispute that the greatest expression of the nebbiolo varietal is to be found in the Langhe hills in the regions of Barbaresco and Barolo. Yet, as famed as these wines may be, they are relatively newcomers in the centuries of history of Italian wine. In the north of Piedmont, in the provinces of Vercelli and Novara, there lie several other areas that also rely on the nebbiolo vine, here called Spanna, to produce noteworthy wines.
To the west of the Sesia river lie the regions of Gattinara, Lessona, and Bramaterra, all using the catchall DOC of Coste della Sesia for their base wine, while on the eastern side of the Sesia the regions of Ghemme, Fara, Boca and Sizzano, all using Colline Novaresi as their as their basic DOC. As opposed to the monovarietal wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, blending is allowed here with other varietals such as Bonarda (aka Uva Rara) and Vespolina, purportedly to flesh out the otherwise thin wines made from nebbiolo in these soils of glacial moraine. While this may be the case, there are many producers who choose to make unblended nebbiolo wines and the results,while quite different than the Barolo and Barbaresco wines of southern Piemonte.
Wines from the Colline Novaresi and Coste della Sesia have an unual minerality not often encountered in red wine. Red wines tend to rule the day here. Any white or dessert wines are more the exception than the rule, but what reds there are can be extraordinary wines at extraordinary prices. For Ghemme, look for the excellent wines of the Cantalupo winery, whose vineyards are passed underneath by anyone going from the Langhe hills to the Malpensa airport in Milano as the highway passes through a tunnel beneath them. Also look for the excellent wines from the Ioppa winery. Another great wine from the province of Novara is the “Caramino” bottling of Fara by the Dessilani winery. Examples are not easy to find from the province of Novara, but they are worth looking for, and almost always represented on our list. Come in and learn more about these unique wines!