Fabio Zambolin

The Story

A true northern Piedmont garagiste, Fabio Zambolin inherited his grandparent’s vineyards and converted their garage into a winery. He began his project in 2010 with a parcel that he works organically and that sits within the DOC appellation, Lessona. However, the cantina is ten meters outside of the DOC zone (right next to the vineyards) and an archaic law makes it so that he must label his wines Costa della Sesia, a generic term for regional Northern Piedmont wines. (This is a cue for the savvy buyer who’s looking for the best value and quality to snap up a few bottles.)

It is never easy to be the small producer in the big wine world and this is one of the many reasons we like to import our mere thirty cases of wine from this lovely man. Indeed, Fabio’s wines will never make him rich (nor us!) so he maintains his day job with a somewhat new, but very good producer in Bramaterra, Le Pianelle. He works with his partner, Andrea Zanetta, at both Le Pianelle and Zambolin.

As one could imagine, with such a small quantity of grapes to make his wines the level of detail in his organically farmed vineyard and cellar are maintained to an extraordinary level. The shine of the equipment and the floor, the reverence with which he takes a sample from a stainless steel vat and the pure taste and a smell of the wine makes one want to pay him triple what he charges. He also works with his long-time friend and immensely talented Italian enologist, Cristiano Garella—a guy I have also known quite well since 2010.

 

Lay of the Land

Geologically, Alto Piemonte is even more volatile than the 100-year scourge (read more) between the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s; only in geology it happens over millions and billions of years. The three small hills of Lessona (somewhere around one-hundred plantable hectares) sits on the southern foothills of the Alps, a mountain range that was and slowly continues to be created by the collision of the African with the Eurasian tectonic plates. In orogenous areas there is (or in this case, was) a lot of volcanic activity and this laid the foundation for most of the soils of this area.

The majority of the most important Alto Piemonte wine regions are grown on igneous bedrock. Bramaterra, Boca and Gattinara are grown on porphyry, a rock/soil dense in metals and deeply acidic, making for difficult flowering with the vines and naturally reducing yields. Ghemme has alluvial soils and consist of sands, clays and in some places soft granite bedrock. Lessona has the most unique soils in the region and there is no viticultural area in the world with this specific kind of soil. Lessona’s yellow and orange sandy soil was borne out from volcanic eruptions and worn down into sand by a sea that no longer exists.

Lessona’s sandy soils bring high aromas and a lifted palate, while its heavy iron content and low pH (levels well below 4.0, almost too toxic for vines) gift the wines their saltiness and cool metal, mineral palate textures. In the wines of northern Piedmont—at least those that have not been obliterated by too much unconscious and heavy-handed winemaking—a perfect balance of (dare I say it?) sourness and bitterness can be found throughout; these terms are regularly used by Italians to describe their wines, aperitivos, digestivos and much of their food, but can evoke terror in the mind of a heavily French influenced food and beverage culture.

Northern Piedmont is quite different from the Langhe, its more famous brethren to the south. It has much more precipitation during the winter and its proximity to the Alps and the local iconic mountain, Monte Rosa, brings a constant flow of cool alpine air through the vineyards, all of which contributes to the complexity and elegance of the wines. The growing season is longer than the Langhe, with Nebbiolo usually starting bud break seven to ten days later than in Barolo or Barbaresco, but harvested usually two to three weeks later, depending on the vintage.

 

Feldo

Fabio Zambolin - 2016 Coste della Sesia, Rosso, ‘Feldo’

Price: $29.00
Size: 750ml
Availability: 

Out of stock

Type of Wine: Red
Style: Rich, Rustic

Despite being named after Fabio’s mild-mannered grandfather, Feldo is a blend of ancient Piedmont red grapes and is the ultimate party wine for an Italian feast. It has gobs of festive aromas and flavors (at least compared to other wines in an area known for producing a more solemn and strict expression), with not a single dash of pretension—it’s well-made Northern Italian glou glou. Its rustic, playful flavors evoke those of an ancient Italian culture and are perfect for full-flavored food, like cured hams, braised meats, pasta and pizza.

There’s a lot of seriousness tucked in there too—no surprise considering the perfectionism with which these guys farm their vineyards and work in the cellar. They are technical and focused, and work to inspire with what little grapes they harvest each year.

Feldo is a blend of 50% Nebbiolo (the serious side), 25% Croatina (the rustic barbarian) and 25% Vespolina (one of Nebbiolo’s rough around the edges parents). They’re thrown into the fermentation vat together for more than three weeks, then pressed and raised in old 225 liter barrels for a year. One of the reasons why this wine is so fun the moment the cork is pulled is that Fabio uses SO2 sparingly (only 30ppm at bottling), allowing the wine to immediately show off, without any reservations.

La Vignetta, an almost seventy-year-old one-acre vineyard entirely within the Lessona appellation, is on very sandy soil with about 25% clay and limestone (the latter being a very unusual geological formation in these parts, and more akin to soils further south in Piedmont’s Langhe wine region). This soil combination contributes lift to the aroma (the sand’s contribution) and suppleness to the palate (the clay and limestone’s). Once the cork is popped it’s no wonder that these guys love making and drinking this wine.

The Wine

Named after Fabio’s mild-mannered grandfather, Feldo is a blend of ancient Piemontese red grapes and is the ultimate party wine for an Italian feast. It has gobs of festive aromas and flavors (at least compared to other wines in an area known for often producing more solemn, strict wines in their youth), with not a single dash of pretension—it’s well-made Northern Italian glou glou. Its rustic, playful flavors evoke those of an ancient Italian culture and are perfect for full-flavored food, like cured ham, braised meat, pasta and pizza. There’s a lot of seriousness tucked in there too—no surprise considering the perfectionism with which these guys organically farm their vineyards and work in the cellar. It’s a blend of 70-year-old vines on a single acre plot mixed with 50% Nebbiolo (the serious and noble side), 25% Croatina (the rustic and jovial barbarian) and 25% Vespolina (one of Nebbiolo’s rough around the edges parents that brings even more expanse and aroma to the wine). As I’m now entering my twenty-fifth year of obsession with wine (noted in 2020), I am much more open to blended grapes than I used to be. Perhaps it’s just a phase, but when considering the effects of a terroir (the bedrock, soil, climate, etc.) the grapes just don’t seem as important to me as they used to be. Ancient terroirs and intuitive caretakers chose the grapes that best express their regional characteristic traits, not the other way around. Feldo is a beautiful expression of this unique terroir of volcanic sands that were beachfront property a few million years ago.

Some extra details: All the grapes are thrown into the fermentation vat together for more than three weeks, then pressed and raised in old 225-liter barrels for a year. One of the reasons why this wine is so fun the moment the cork is pulled is that Fabio uses SO2 sparingly (only administered at bottling and with 30ppm in total), allowing the wine to immediately show off, without any reservations.

La Vignetta, an almost seventy-year-old one-acre vineyard entirely within the Lessona appellation, is on very sandy soil with about 25% clay and limestone (the latter being an unusual geological formation in these parts, and more akin to soils further south in Piedmont's Langhe wine region). This soil combination contributes lift to the aroma (the sand’s contribution) and suppleness to the palate (the clay and limestone). Once the cork is popped it’s no wonder that these guys love making and drinking this wine.

About The Wine

Named after Fabio’s mild-mannered grandfather, Feldo is a blend of ancient Piemontese red grapes and is the ultimate party wine for an Italian feast. It has gobs of festive aromas and flavors (at least compared to other wines in an area known for often producing more solemn, strict wines in their youth), with not a single dash of pretension—it’s well-made Northern Italian glou glou. Its rustic, playful flavors evoke those of an ancient Italian culture and are perfect for full-flavored food, like cured ham, braised meat, pasta and pizza. There’s a lot of seriousness tucked in there too—no surprise considering the perfectionism with which these guys organically farm their vineyards and work in the cellar. It’s a blend of 70-year-old vines on a single acre plot mixed with 50% Nebbiolo (the serious and noble side), 25% Croatina (the rustic and jovial barbarian) and 25% Vespolina (one of Nebbiolo’s rough around the edges parents that brings even more expanse and aroma to the wine). As I’m now entering my twenty-fifth year of obsession with wine (noted in 2020), I am much more open to blended grapes than I used to be. Perhaps it’s just a phase, but when considering the effects of a terroir (the bedrock, soil, climate, etc.) the grapes just don’t seem as important to me as they used to be. Ancient terroirs and intuitive caretakers chose the grapes that best express their regional characteristic traits, not the other way around. Feldo is a beautiful expression of this unique terroir of volcanic sands that were beachfront property a few million years ago.

Some extra details: All the grapes are thrown into the fermentation vat together for more than three weeks, then pressed and raised in old 225-liter barrels for a year. One of the reasons why this wine is so fun the moment the cork is pulled is that Fabio uses SO2 sparingly (only administered at bottling and with 30ppm in total), allowing the wine to immediately show off, without any reservations.

La Vignetta, an almost seventy-year-old one-acre vineyard entirely within the Lessona appellation, is on very sandy soil with about 25% clay and limestone (the latter being an unusual geological formation in these parts, and more akin to soils further south in Piedmont’s Langhe wine region). This soil combination contributes lift to the aroma (the sand’s contribution) and suppleness to the palate (the clay and limestone). Once the cork is popped it’s no wonder that these guys love making and drinking this wine.