The patriarch of Barolo, Beppe Colla, has died aged 88, in the year he would have celebrated his 70th harvest.
The area of Barolo DOCG as we know it today is the result of his hard work. In 1960 he joined forces with Renato Ratti and Gildo Cavallotto (among others) on the commission to plot the outer boundaries of the Barolo wine terroir, preparing the DOC.
‘We tried to work on typicity to explain where vineyards have been included in the incoming appellation and where they have been not,’ he said in an interview in 2016.
‘Typically is a notion linked with appellation, of course, but also with the vineyards, the grape variety and the vintage. We can encode the density, the exposure, the altitude, but the typicity is also linked with common sense, and this is not sold by tons.’
Beppe Colla began to make wine after graduating in 1949 from the Scuola Enologica in Alba. After running Casa Vinicola Bonardi, he bought the winery of Cavalier Prunotto in 1956, producing outstanding vintages of Barolo Prunotto up to 1990.
He was also one of the first producers to introduce crus to Barolo in 1960, bottling his wines as Bussia. ‘I can honestly say,’ he told Alessandro Masnaghetti in an interview in 2016, ‘that I came to understand wine when I visited Burgundy in the early ’60s.’
He was one of the first to understand the importance of over-extraction with Nebbiolo grapes, something that can still be a problem today. Many Italians remember his challenges as president of the consortium Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco during the methanol scandal, especially as he had always worked for quality wines.
In the ’90s he began a collaboration with Tuscan producer Piero Antinori, to whom he then he sold the winery. A few years later he founded his family winery Poderi Colla with his brother Tino and nephew Pietro. He was also one of the founders of the Order of the Knights of the Truffle and of the Wines of Alba, associating itself with the cuisine of Langhe.
His funeral was on 17 January in the church of Cristo Re in Alba.