Back when I was selling wine in NYC in the mid-1980s, Antonio Vallana was my favorite producer of moderately-priced Nebbiolo-based wines. His wines were a throwback to old-timey, non-interventionist, almost primitive winemaking, at a time when most wine makers were discovery the "virtues" of filtering, cold-stabilization, and a host of other flavor-denuding techniques. Always dark-colored (for Nebbiolos), fragrant, ripe, and throwing a ton of sediment, Vallana's wines were full of character. Even in vintages notorious for crappy weather, his wines had richness and character. I remember in particular a 1968 Spanna del Piemonte that was astounding for any vintage, let alone a hideous one like 1968. Some (many) in Italy accused him of secretly trucking up tankers filled with richly-colored wines from the south (like Aglianico), but regardless of whether that was true, the Vallana's "Spannas" were consistently delicious.
Well, his wines, as far as I could tell, had all but disappeared from the marketplace for several years, but I finally stumbled on a US retailer (The Rare Wine Company) that stocks (and will ship) a few Vallana wines. So I recently bought a few to try.
The 1989 Boca (from a small DOC near Gattinara), had held up relatively well, and smelled and tasted like real Nebbiolo, but was kind of on the lightish side. A light, evolved crystalline ruby color, fading to orangey-amber far from the rim (with some, but not a lot, of sediment -- was it bottled late?? decanted and recorked??). A lively, perfumed nose of spicy plums and old wine casks. Light bodied flavors with fairly high acidity. Not nearly as rich as the Vallana Spannas (Spanna is the Novara-region synonym for Nebbiolo) I used to drink, but, then again, Boca is a DOC that permits up to about 50% Bonarda and other grapes to be blended in with the Nebbiolo. I gave it 83 points. Was $9.95 as a "bin end" close-out.
I'll report on the other two Vallana wines I bought soon.