A surprise in my cellar – Tenute Sella Lessona Omaggio a Quintino Sella

Just about every night, around the same time, I make the trek into the basement, head over the the racking and look for a bottle(s) to go with dinner. Most times I’ll spend too long down there, aimlessly searching for a bottle that I feel is ready AND will make a nice complement to the food(s). This is probably a common (ahem, problem) occurrence with us fine wine collectors, we feel like nothing’s really ready – truly ready; most of us have probably learned to be less and less concerned with perfect pairings, I know I have.

I’ve come to understand that these trips down to the cellar are a lot like wine itself – on balance, the results are close to the middle; some bottles are better than expected, some less. Last night, given the way things unfolded from a timing perspective, I hurriedly pulled one that turned out to be a real gem; at the time I chose it, however, I had no idea how it would play out (still, I had my fingers crossed).

The bottle happened to be one that I hadn’t tasted since it was released, roughly a decade ago (I remember buying it for the wine store I was working at after I’d tasted it at a trade event), it was the 2004 Tenute Sella Lessona Omaggio a Quintino Sella.

By the way, a lot of great information regarding Tenute Sella, and in particular, the story behind Quintino, the man, can be found here: The wine that once served as the “Family Reserve” today goes into the label dedicated to Quintino Sella, one of the promoters of the unity of Italy and minister during the Risorgimento period.

The grapes for this bottling come from a single-vineyard, Rivaccia, located at 330m (~1100′) altitude, the vines face south-west and average nearly 50 years of age; typically, the blend is 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Croatina.

The why part of the reason I enjoyed it as much as it did, beyond how it was grown that is, can be seen in the raising of this wine: >25 days of maceration, fermented in stainless steel, then moved to 25 hectoliter (~ 660 gallons, or ~ 3300 bottles, see below) Slavonian oak barrels where the wine is allowed to rest for 48 months. Which is to say that I find more elegance in Nebbiolo that’s been raised in this (traditional) way. Which is not to say that I only prefer traditionally raised wines, only that I prefer certain varieties that have been raised this way.


That said, I did not know beforehand how the wine was raised (e.g. what type of oak and for how long); I prefer to judge a wine by what is in the glass, and not on a technical data sheet, or an a label.

MArks Map

Lesson D.O.C. is tiny, only 35 acres. That may not mean much to most, but after having had this wine from Tenute Sella, for one reason or another, it’s that much more special to me now. Which is to say I will need to visit them and others in the next few months.

As to the surprise reference in the heading/title, it’s because I grabbed this from the cellar, did not look at anything more more than the vintage, and ran to my the car – my wife was already tired of waiting on me. In other words, I had no idea I was grabbing Tenute Sella’s flagship red, and given that it’s ten years on since release, I’d completely forgotten any particulars regarding how this may have been grown/vinified. Which is, as I’ve already said, my prefer way to enjoy wine – basing merits upon what’s in the glass and not some preconception from a prior tasting, label-bias, shelf-talker, etc.

Because I had no idea what I was opening (and didn’t want to know, other than 2004 from Lessona D.O.C.), I did not aerate or decant any sediment (there was very little, anyway). And yes, it may well have benefited from some prior aeration (it continued to reveal more of its beauty), but it still wowed me nonetheless for each of the ~ 90 minutes I got to spend with it. (below: great fill, new-ish cork, and overall bottle condition)


3 March, 2014: 2004 Tenute Sella Lessona Omaggio a Quintino Sella “Pop and Pour straightaway. Color is a brilliant, crystalline garnet – I ‘m already excited. Aromas a reticent at first, but with just a minute in the glass, this is in fine form, with aromas of red and purple floral, soil, and a basket of red fruits – cherry, strawberry, a touch of cool raspberry. The medium-bodied palate reveals everything I look for in a wine: elegance, structure and balance. Cool red red fruits follow the aromas to the palate; the acids caress and lift in unison, providing an ideal foil to the fine, sweet tannins. No surprise here, the finish is confident, though understated as many things elegant often are. By the final third of the bottle, this had really opened up, gained yet another level of finesse; I was very happy with my serendipitous cellar selection. Days later, as I write this note, I’m still smiling – that’s what fond memories do to me. In its preferred plateau, now and for the next 10-12 years. Just lovely. 13,0% abv.”  highly recommended

** What you need to know ** Tenute Sella only produces this wine, named after one of their own (very important) relatives, which is to say it’s not produced every year. So it’s safe to say (really safe) that you don’t need to concern yourself with the question of “is this the ‘best’ vintage?“. The answer has already been provided for you; buy any you find that are available.

(header photo: deep inside the caves/cellar of Sébastien Bobinet in Saumur, France)

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