Bel Colle – Beauty without the Beast – from $29!

We tasted some outstanding Nebbiolo this past week from the highly fancied yet relatively under the radar Piedmont maker Bel Colle, including what most experts say is the vintage of this century to date, 2016. Sublime wines backed up by tremendous reviews from Gary Walsh (96pts for both 2016 Pajore Barbaresco & 2016 Monvigliero Barolo), Decanter (96pts for the 2020 Pajore Barbaresco), and, not to be outdone, Huon Hooke’s Italian reviewer Stephen Blandford (96pts and 95pts for 2020 Pajore & 2019 Monvigliero respectively - the 2020 Pajore ranking #4 for the entire 2020 Barbaresco vintage).

This notable winery came to be by three brothers in 1977, who established Bel Colle in Verduno, on the northwest edge of the Barolo DOCG. It was purchased in 2015 by Luca Bosio, an innovative young winemaker in Piedmont representing the third generation of his winemaking family. Luca seized the opportunity to work with such a prestigious property, which is known for producing single vineyard Barolo and Barbaresco wines noted for their delicate, elegant, spicy and floral character. Bel Colle Barolo Monvigliero D.O.C.G. is grown in one of the best areas of Verduno located in Barolo villages at 200 to 300 ft. above sea level. The average age of the vines is 50 years old, and they are grown on a southern exposure in calcareous clay soils, at a density of about 5,000 plants per hectare. After harvesting, the grapes are pressed and the must is fermented in temperature controlled steel tanks, after a short period in contact with dry ice, to increase complexity and aroma. Bel Colle’s prestige Barbaresco comes from the highly recognized single vineyard of “Pajoré”. The winery owns 1 hectare of this small, south-facing crù in the village of Barbaresco. No herbicides and chemical compounds are used. Harvest is in the middle of October, followed by fermentation and maceration in 5,000L oak barrels at temperatures of 25-28° C for 15-to-20 days. During the fermentation process, multiples rounds of pumping over the skin occurs to extract color, tannins and aromas from the grapes. Malolactic fermentation occurs in Slavonian oak casks, and then the wine ages for two years in French oak barrels and a further 6 months in bottle.

Universal acclaim is one thing however how about price vs peers? It starts with a true bargain amongst bargains. Bel Colle’s 2022 Langhe Nebbiolo is the only sub $30 representative of this popular style in Australia. It comes ‘highly recommended’ from US publication Wine Enthusiast to boot… “Gorgeous… fine tannins and brilliant acidity, 92pts”. I thoroughly concur! At the top end of town the two star crus Pajore (Barbaresco) and Monvigliero (Barolo) arrive at a tick over $100 for the current vintages. There’s not a stable in Piedmont that can come close to offering these two desirable crus at such an affordable scale. Equally, the special prices on the epic 2016’s are impossible to resist!