Vallana Colline Novarese Spanna 2018
Walking into the Vallana cantina is like walking into a time capsule. The winery was founded by Antonio Vallana in 1937 and it doesn't look like anything has changed a bit since. From the cement fermenters which are probably the originals to the fascist era graphics on their sign and the the original label depicting the famous Vercellae battle between Rome and the Celto-Germanic Cimbri tribe (the Romans won) which took place nearby in 101 BC. The dust even looks original. Run today by great-grandchildren Marina and Frances, Vallana remains one of the best sources of traditional, long lived Nebbiolo in the Alto Piemonte.
Vallana grows almost 100% Nebbiolo, called Spanna here, with a bit of Vespolina and Uva Rara for blending into a few of their cuvées. The soil here is the product of glacial deposits over volcanic detritus from an ancient super volcano which makes for a unique, relatively acidic bedrock rich in iron and mineral salts unlike the alkaline, limestone based soils of the Langhe. It’s thought by some that this gives the wines greater longevity than even the greatest Barolos. This area is known as the Novara-Vercelli hills and sits in the rain shadow of Monte Rosa, Europe’s second highest peak, with other moderating influences on weather being the large masses of water in nearby lakes Maggiore and Orta which mitigate extreme weather to a great degree. A high thermic excursion (temperature difference between night and day) is ideal for ripening Nebbiolo and unique to this zone.
The Colline Novarese Spanna is the estates calling card. 100% Nebbiolo from old vines on the east bank of the Sesia river and like everything else made here, the wine starts with an intense selection of fruit and a 24 hour cold soak before moving to the cement tanks for fermentation. Aged for 6 months in giant oaken botti before bottling and another two years in bottle before release. This wine shows off all the classic Nebbiolo hallmarks; tobacco, tar, mint and rose petal in a red cherry infused wine with way more depth and detail than you expect at this price. Lovely early drinker but as so many old bottles I've had have shown, generally capable of 30+ years of improvement in the cellar.