Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Valtellina: Home of Chiavennasca

I'm a big fan of northern Italy, especially the Alpine region.  Although I'm a big fan of many regions of Italy (who isn't?).  I fell in love with the Alpine regions when I traveled to the Valle d'Aosta for my honeymoon.  This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) takes you to the Valtellina. 

The Valtellina is a lesser explored wine region tucked into the mountainous landscapes of northern Lombardy near Lake Como with the Alps and Switzerland bordering to the north.  The Adda river runs through the area from east to west.  It's also been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site. 

Nebbiolo is most famously known for the Piedmont region, but it's also the dominant grape of the Valtellina where its known as chiavennasca.  Here is produces more delicate and feminine style wines compared to those of Piedmont that are typically deeper and more concentrated.  To gain more concentration in the wines some producers dry their grapes, known as the appassimento process.  You may familiar with this process as amarone from the Valpolicella wine region of the Veneto also uses it. These wines produced with dried grapes in the Valtellina are called sfursat or sforsato. 
                             nebbiolo chiavennasca of valtellina
Grape growing and winemaking in the Valtellina presents a handful of challenges with the largest obstacle being the vineyards themselves.  The high altitudes up to 2,000 feet and steep, terraced, south facing slopes make it extremely difficult to harvest and care for the grapes.  It's a workout not for the faint hearted.   

The weather here has extremes of cold winterse and hot summers.  Luckily with the proximity to Lake Como they receive the warm winds, breve, that carry themselves up to the vineyards in the valley.
                             Vineyards of the Valtellina Lombardy

The wines that you'll find produced in the Valtellina include the following:

  • Terazze Retiche di Sondrio IGT - This is a catch all including reds, whites, sparkling nebbiolo and late harvest.
  • Rosso di Valtellina DOC - These wines require 7 months aging and is mostly made of nebbiolo with some other varietals allowed.
  • Valtellina Superiore DOCG - Must age a minimum of 24 months with 12 months in oak.  Riserva must age 36 months.  They are made of at least 90% nebbiolo.
  • Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG - As discussed previously these are dried in the fruitaoi, a climate controlled room, for about 2-3 months where they lose 40% water.  They are then aged 20 months.

There are 5 special zones that are considered the cru of the Valtellina and are named after castles and churches of the area.  Each demonstrates their own style of nebbiolo.  Those zones are: 
  • Grumello – These wines are more approachable and fruit forward 
  • Inferno – Steep and rocky producing wines with power.  The rocks here retain much of the heat absorbed during the day that is released at night. 
  • Sassella – Another rocky, steep area that produce powerful, concentrated wines.  The most prestigious of the area.
  • Valgella – This is the largest of the 5 with the highest altitudes producing the most delicate and perfumed wines   

  • Maroggia - The smallest of the zones.  Here you will find balanced wines of acidity, tannin and ripe red and black fruits. 
Some of the most common producers of this region to seek wines out from include Nino Negri, Domenico Triacca, Sandro Fay, Ar.Pe.Pe, Conti Serfoli Salis and Aldo Rainoldi to name a few. 

Think hearty fare when pairing food with the wines of this region.  Lots of beef, including bresaola, pizzocchieri pasta and their local cheeses include casera and bitto 

Have you been to this region yet or sampled the wines from here?  What are you preferences in comparison of the nebbiolo from here compared to those of Piedmont?

There's more Valtellina coming your way.  Check out my fellow bloggers as they share their wine and/or food pairings from this region.  If you catch us in time we are chatting live on Twitter this Saturday February 3rd @ 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.  We hope you can join us!

Susannah Gold is sharing "Exploring the wines of Mamete Prevostini in the Valtellina" on Avvinare.

Camilla Mann will be dishing on "Short Ribs + the Balgera Valtellina Superiore Inferno #ItalianFWT" on Culinary Adventures with Cam.

Katarina Andersson will share "Valtellina - Winemaking in a Mountain Landscape" on Grapevine Adventures

Martin Redmond writes "A Taste of Valtellina: 2014 ArPePe Rosso Superiore with Wild Mushroom Ragout over Creamy Polenta" on Enofylz Wine Blog

Jeff Burrows shares "Double Secret Winery: Giorgio Gianatti in Valtellina" on Food Wine Click

Wendy Klik brings "Celebrating Love: Pork Filet Mignon with Valtellina Wine" to life on A Day In the Life on the the Farm

Li Valentine shares "A taste of Valtellina with Nino Negri and Carpaccio" on The Wining Hour

Information sourced and pictures copyright of Consorzio di Tutela Vini di Valtellina.