This is a little out of the way from Malpensa and Milan, and only for this reason it comes second on our agenda. Indeed, it probably is the most intriguing part of Alto Piemonte, thanks to the extreme diversity of its soils. We are referring to the other side of the River Sesia, the right side descending the valley from Alagna. There are four important appellations here: Gattinara, the very best known internationally; Lessona, a very small area with sandy soils; Bramaterra, and Coste della Sesia. Gattinara is large, concentrated on a volcanic hill. Its fame makes it a bit more difficult to find small producers, and we decided to dedicate a separate journey just to Gattinara.
Well, the other appellations deserve more than one visit each. We make an appointment with Colombera & Garella in Masserano. This is a beautiful old town, with arcades and stunning palatial buildings, that were once the estate of a Prince, with the right to coin his own money!
Cascina Cottignano is situated a little outside, in the middle of a vineyard. Carlo Colombera tells me how he worked in rice paddies, but was disgusted by the exaggerated use of pesticides, so he went to work for a winery in Gattinara. Then he bought Cascina Cottignano and its vineyard.
Not far from there, we meet with Cristiano Garella in Brusnengo, another hilltop town. We are in the cellar. Enclosed behind a red stone wall across the road, is Le Pianelle. Here Cristiano and partners grow Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Croatina.
Cristiano then introduces us to two other young local winemakers. Fabio Zambolin inherited his passion for wine and small vineyard from his grandfather Feldo, in honour of whom he named his first wine. It is a blend of Nebbiolo and Vespolina, fresh and pleasant, with a good balance between red berries and peppery spice.
Around 15 minutes drive south-west lies a hill covered in vineyards. A large farmhouse on the top called Cascina Preziosa is home to Gianni Selva Bonino and lends its name to his winery. The hill is in a nature reserve called Baraggia, which lies exactly where the hills end and the flatland begins, and the view from the hill stretches endlessly.