Thursday, April 21, 2016

A passito wine of Lombardia: Sforzato di Valtellina

In a couple weeks I'll be hosting our Italian bloggers group to discuss the food, wine and travel to the region of Lombardy, aka Lombardia, in Italy. Due to the redesign of my site and taking a look at what I've focused on in this region, I've noticed that most of it has been on the whites of the region.  There are many reds though as well, in particular from the Valtellina - the northern part of Lombardy, that need to be talked about. I'll be chatting more about chiavennasca in a couple weeks, but today we're discussing sforzato di valtellina, one of the 5 DOCG's of the Lombardia region.
Wine region of Valtellina in Lombardy
Wine region of Valtellina.  Looks terrible doesn't it? By Craig Drollett
Passito wines
There are many wines produced throughout Italy that are passito wines, produced with dried grapes, that goes through the appassimento process, which is the actual process of drying out grapes before fermentation. Probably one of the most popular passito wines is Amarone della Valpolicella, but there is also moscato di scanzo from Lombardy, Fior d'Arancio from the Veneto, Colli Orientatli del Picolit from Friuli, Schiacchetra from Liguria and the list goes on. Why do wineries dry out grapes? It concentrates the sugars in the grapes and produces wines that are rich, and dense with high alcohol and lots of complexities.

Sforzato di Valtellina
Sforzato di Valtellina, aka sfursat di Valtellina, is a wine made primarily of the chiavennasca grape. If you're familiar with nebbiolo from the Piedmont region, this is the same grape, it's just known as chiavennasca in Lombardy. The chiavennasca grapes are typically dried out on straw mats or racks where they lose 40% of their weight, concentrating the sugars for close to 4 months. The DOCG laws for Sforzato di Valtellina require that the wine ages 20 months in barrels and bottles before release to the public.

What does sforzato mean? 
It translates to force, which is what the winemakers are doing by allowing the grapes to continue to mature on the vine past harvest prior to picking so the sugars are at higher level that results in wines higher in alcohol. Sforzato will typically produce wines at about 14% alcohol.

What does sforzato di valtellina taste like? 
They are full-bodied as you can imagine with a profile of dried fruits, spices, plums, raisins and characteristics that will continue to evolve in the glass and your mouth. Don't you love wines of these complexities?
Sforzato di Valtellina pairing with pizzoccheri
Sforzato di Valtellina with pizzoccheri by Paolo Perini
Have you had sforzato or experienced any passito wines?

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