A Youthful Obsession

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Norther Piedmont's wine wunderkind goes deep into Nebbiolo

As a teenager in northern Piedmont, when most boys were enthralled by soccer, girls and cars, Cristiano Garella developed another obsession: Italian wine.

At 13, Garella bought his first wine guide, by the influential Italian writer Luigi Veronelli. A couple of years later, he spent his Christmas money on his first two bottles, one of them Barolo Brunate from Enzo Boglietti.

"Wine was like a sensation from a new world," says Garella, who can't pinpoint the origins of his precocious interest. "My father was a gymnastics teacher, my mother was a secretary, and my grandmother drank a lot of bad wine."

But this he knew: He wanted to be part of the booming Italian wine scene. He enlisted his older brother to drive him about 100 miles to southern Piedmont and knocked on the cellar doors of Barolo and Barbaresco producers—from Elio Altare to Angelo Gaja. He tasted wines and soaked up all the knowledge he could.

A science student in high school, Garella spent all the money his parents gave him on a wine cellar that grew to more than 1,000 bottles. He worked in vineyards without pay, learning all he could from an old winegrower in the tiny Bramaterra appellation. At 18, he and his brother bottled the first few hundred bottles of their Nebbiolo at home.

Today, rail-thin at 30, Garella could still pass for a teenager. He is the whiz-kid winemaker for several young estates reviving the once-great vineyards of northern Piedmont...read the full blog at Wine Spectator