• Simon Reilly

Tasting at Associazone Vignaioli Colline Biellesi, May 2016

Hot on the heels of my recent tasting articles from my trip to Baden in Germany, I have decided to publish more tasting articles for fear of losing the bits of paper I had scribbled the tasting notes on.

This one looks at the stand out wines from a trip to Biella in May this year, where I spent a day visiting about five estates, followed by a tasting 39 wines and a gala dinner at a smart golf club outside the town of Biella. We even made the local press (see here and here).

The day and gala dinner was hosted by Associazone Vignaioli Colline Biellesi, a group of producers who work together to try to raise the profile of the region. Generally the wines live in the shadow of the Barolo and Barbaresco wines of Langhe in Southern Piemonte.

Biella is in Alto Piemonte in north west Italy, sitting within the Lessona DOC as well as the larger, less strict Coste della Sesia DOC. The tasting was a mix of passito (sweet), sparkling and still Erbaluce from Caluso DOCG, Nebbiolo from Lessona DOC and Bramaterra DOC and Nebbiolo based blends from Coste della Sesia DOC and Canavese DOC.

Having been on vineyard trips all day, we were hungry so the five tasters whipped through the wines pretty quickly. As a result my notes are brief and my scoring system rudimentary. It consisted of one star for "I'd buy a bottle of this" and two stars for "I'd buy a case of this". Strangely I had four wines rated one star and 10 wines rated two stars.

Here are my "starred" wines:

1 star - "I'll take a bottle"

1. La Favorita, Spumante Metodo Charmat Aldo (NV) - nice and simple but very drinkable. Light and dry with aromas of peach and flowers.

2. Pozzo Rieri, Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG 2015 - nice minerals on the nose, flavours of pears and lime. Long saline finish. Best of the still whites tasted.

3. Donnalia, Ilnebbia Rosso, 2012 - Declassified Canavese fruit. Browning rim, attractive nose of sweet red fruit. Red cherries and redcurrants on the palate, which is medium bodied. Dries on the finish but nicely balanced.

4. Pozzo L'arbat, Caluso Passito DOC 2007 Riserva - Nice browny gold colour. Caramel, apples and honey with some good acidity on the finish to keep it fresh.

2 stars - "I'll take a case"

1. Cellagrande, Brut Metodo Classico Pas Dose, Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG 2008 - Dark golden colour. Flavours of apple, honey and custard and a lovely sweetness on the palate leads to a dry finish which makes you want another sip. Really good stuff.

2. Cellagrande Brut Metodo Classico Pas Dose, Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG 2009 - Quite serious this. Lemon sherbet nose, grapey rhubarb flavour with nice acidity on the finish. Really seamless drink that is very more-ish.

3. Pietro Cassina, Coste della Sesia DOC Vespolina, 2011 - Vespolina was one of the discoveries of the trip for me and this, being one of very few 100% Vespolinas produced, was one of the highlights. It has a lovely nose of sweet berries and spice leading to a lovely soft, mid-weight texture and a very long finish. I noted as wine 19 of the tasting that it was the best wine so far.

4. Centrovigne Castellengo, Coste della Sesia DOC, Nebbiolo 2011 - very dark colour, with a lovely nose of cherry spice. Crunchy spiced red fruit on the palate, I like this!

5. Pietro Cassina, Coste della Sesia DOC, Nebbiolo 2010 - light colour but powerful cherry aromas, nice sweetness on the palate and not at all drying. Good typicity. I could drink a lot of this.

6. Tenute Sella, "I Porfidi" Bramaterra DOC 2010 - Dark, almost brown. Flavours of dark fruits, this is a wine of great elegance and finesse. The finish is long and balanced. A serious wine.

7. Proprieta Sperino, Lessona DOC 2011 - Nice dark colour, sweet berry fruit, good texture and body. Classy.

8. Pietro Cassina, Lessona DOC 2010 - Quite big on the nose, nice sweet dark cherry fruit. Elegant and long.

9. Tenute Sella, San Sebastiano Allo Zoppo, Lessona DOC 2009 - Spicy red berries on the nose, great minerality and a salt and pepper finish.

10. La Badina, Lessona DOC Riserva 2010 - a great wine, this is the one I returned to and drink with dinner later that evening. Creamy vanilla and berries on the nose, this is rich and sweet on the palate, balanced by lovely acidity on the finish. Extremely smooth and elegant.

So there you are, the highlights from the 39 wines tasted. It is clear that there are some leading estates producing consistently good wines across their portfolio in the Biella area. Names to look out for are most definitely; Tenute Sella, Pietro Cassina, Cellagrande and Proprieta Sperino.

Unfortunately the only one of these four estates with a UK importer is Sperino, who's wines are imported by Liberty Wines. I for one certainly hope we see more of these producers in the UK in future.