Fabio Zambolin

Zambolin vineyard
Zambolin vineyard

A true Alto Piemontese 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 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 in this area. (This is a cue for the savvy buyer looking for the best value and quality to snap these up.)

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 from this lovely man. Indeed, Fabio’s wines will never alone make him financially secure (nor us!) so he maintains his day job with a very good producer in Bramaterra, Le Pianelle.

As one could imagine, with such a small quantity of grapes to make his wines to 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 or barrel, 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 friend I have known quite well since 2010.

Geologically, Alto Piemonte is even more volatile than the 100-year scourge between the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s (read more); only in geology intense volatility 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) seem to gift the wines their salinity 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, home to its more famous brethren to the south, Barolo and Barbaresco. 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. There is also an endless supply of forested area surrounding most vineyard areas. 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. -TV

Feldo

Fabio Zambolin - 2018 Coste della Sesia, Rosso, ‘Feldo’

Price: $29.00
Size: 750ml
Availability: 

Out of stock

Type of Wine: Red
Grape(s): 50% Nebbiolo, 25% Vespolina, 25% Croatina
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 called La Vignetta, and is a mix of 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—too bad it took so long! 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 in some areas as they used to be. I’ve come to understand that in ancient terroirs, intuitive caretakers chose the grapes that best express their regional characteristic traits, not the other way around.

La Vignetta, the vineyard for Feldo, is composed of 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) and suppleness and breadth 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.

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. Another reason that this wine may be so enjoyable the moment it’s open is that Fabio uses sulfites sparingly (only administered at bottling and with 30ppm in total—considered within the threshold of “natural wines”), allowing the wine to immediately express itself.

INFORMATION DISCLAIMER

Vinification: Three week, natural fermentation without stems

Aging: Old 225-liter barrels for a year

(Subjective and based on young wines)

Mineral Impressions:

Lightly SaltySaltyMetalMineralWet StoneFlintGraphiteReductivePetrol

Ageability:

Drink YoungShort-Term BenefitsLong-Term BenefitsUnknown

Technical Precision:

NatureModerateNurture

Intensity:

SubtleVigorousElectric

Core:

LitheMediumDense

Acidity:

LightMediumFullElectric

Body:

LightMediumFull

Tannin:

NoneLightMediumFull

Wood Presence:

NoneSubtleNoticeable

The Vineyard

Soil:

Volcanic marine sand with about 25% clay and limestone

Farming:

SustainableOrganic CertifiedBiodynamic CertifiedUncertified Naturalist

Irrigation:

ForbiddenNeverSometimes

Vine Age:

70 years old on average
(typical numbers; not vintage specific)

Enological Additions:

Sulfites

Total SO2:

None AddedVery LowLowMediumHigh

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 called La Vignetta, and is a mix of 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—too bad it took so long! 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 in some areas as they used to be. I’ve come to understand that in ancient terroirs, intuitive caretakers chose the grapes that best express their regional characteristic traits, not the other way around.

La Vignetta, the vineyard for Feldo, is composed of 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) and suppleness and breadth 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.

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. Another reason that this wine may be so enjoyable the moment it’s open is that Fabio uses sulfites sparingly (only administered at bottling and with 30ppm in total—considered within the threshold of “natural wines”), allowing the wine to immediately express itself.