Aldo Rainoldi from the Valtellina DOCG, Italy

They call them viticoltori eroici (heroic winemakers) and looking from the valley floor up to the steep slopes above us, it seems most appropriate that any winemaker who chooses to plant his vines on the slopes of the foothills of the Alps deserves that moniker. We were driving through the province of Sondrio, in the AOC of  Valtellina, where the nebbiolo grape is grown on the slopes of the Adda River valley. The valley faces east to west and is the only one of it’s kind in Italy. The vineyards here are located at between 300 – 600 metres and  are south facing to catch as much sun as possible. They are a series of stonewall supported terraces that climb high up the sides of the mountains. It was hard not to be impressed by the patchwork of vines scattered on the hillsides. Wine has been made here since at least the 5th century and the wines have been famous within the region for almost as long but they haven’t achieved much renown beyond Switzerland or Middle Europe which is a pity because outside of Piedmont, the nebbiolo (or chiavennasca as it’s locally known) grape thrives in the long, cool growing season of Valtellina.       There are 4 classes of wine in the valley but we were lucky enough to be treated to some of the best, the Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG and Valtellina Superiore DOC. The criteria for the wines for the DOCG and DOC that they must be 90% nebbiolo and the other 10% can only be non-aromatic red grapes. The Sforzata has an added condition in that the grapes are air dryed until Dec 10th and must come from Valtellina Superiore and/or rosso di Valtellina. The Sforzata wines have often been compared to Amarone because the process is the similar but the wine that is produced is very different due to factors such as climate, terroir, clones, etc.       Lorenzo, our guide for the trip, wanted us...

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