I ask my friends about Valtellina. Most shake their heads; some say northern Italy but few make the connection to Lombardy. The talented and well-read smiles and ticks off nebbiolo combined with a comparison to Piedmont. An underdog with serious tannins and an obvious attractiveness to the wine nerds. Filled to last place, the seminar with Madeleine Stenwreth and 17 wine producers.
The obvious comparison with Piedmont is repeated endlessly. As if the area could not stand on its own legs. But at the same time, it may be the immensely popular Barolo and Barbaresco wines that have prepared a spot for Valtellina in the limelight. Piedmont is getting expensive and after all the books, podcasts and endless tributes, “influencers” are starting to look for something new to push for the next hype.
Looking at the basic facts there are some striking similarities. Nebbiolo is the main grape, high altitude, terraced vineyards and taste and aromatic similarities in many wines. The biggest difference is the price.
Stockholm’s wine writers are a spoiled crowd that during this period is overwhelmed with invitations to all kinds of tastings, releases and events. With that in mind, it was interesting to note that the event was packed and the waiting list was long. Today’s seminar top quality with 17 growers present and a very informative Madeleine Stenwreth as speaker.
The wines were served in three well-chosen flights where all growers were allowed to come forward and present their wines.
The first flight included five relatively light wines with youthful freshness and beautiful tones. Four out of five from 2013 to 2016 all with a very drinkable style. Arpepe, Triacca, La Perla and La Spia. The smallest producer, La Perla, only produces about 20,000 bottles a year.
The fifth wine, Le Strie Valtellina Superiore DOCG 2008, showed brown notes, gentle aromas with a slight hint of over-maturity. Tastefully detailed, super stylish grip, steady body and long and insanely beautiful maturity.
The second flight featured five heftier wines with distinctly more punchy attitude. Sandro Fay, Luca Faccinelli, Alberto Marsetti, Dirupi, and Walter Menegola. Have you heard of these producers before? No? Then you are hardly alone. All wines from 2013 to 2016 and consistently with slightly higher alcohol content than the first flight. 13-14% compared with the first series 12.5-13.5%. Here it was incredibly easy to get lost and end up in Piedmont. Consistently well-produced, longing for food food, stylish and eloquent wines with clear ageing potential. A price list could not be obtained, but Wine-searcher tells me that it is affordable bottles.
The third flight delivered seven quite extreme wines. The chosen order of the tasting was wise and well-thought-out. Fruit bombs with an alcohol content of between 14.5 and 16.5%. Aldo Rainoldi, Tenuta Scersce, Nino Negri, Fratelli Bettini, Mamete Prevostini, Plozza Vini Tirano and Caven Camuna. The heavy-hitter that delivered 16.5% was far from as fearsome as one could have imagined. Plozza Vini Tirano, Alpi Retiche IGT “Numero Ono” 2015 offered a ripe scent and a slightly brownish hue. In the mouth a well-directed and balanced punch with sandy and intense tannins and a sturdy and very long grip. A biodynamic grower who has mastered the art of presenting a balanced wine for the boys with abundant hair on the chest. It can be added that the Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG is produced from grapes dried before fermentation, just like amarone.
A very big contribution to the value of the event was Madeleine’s keen eye for timing as well as the enthusiasm and joy of the 17 growers from the region. I will definitely be picking up wines from Valtellina but exactly how I should go about picking the right ones remains to be seen.
The second series was a clear winner and perhaps the alcohol content could be a guidance to avoid the lightest and the most powerful wines. Depending on one’s personal taste of course. A poll gave a wide spread among the seventeen alternatives. Definitely no homogeneous and clear picture of the district as a whole. More a distinct style created by each grower.
The 45-kilometer long strip of land from east to west is Italy’s second largest producer of nebbiolo. An exciting district with something like 20,000 terraced vineyards and beautiful views of the white glaciers of the alpine peaks. We will undoubtedly hear more about Valtellina, both as a destination and as a supplier of good wines.
www.vinidivaltellina.it is the consortium’s page with more information about its growers.
Sven-Olof Johansson is a wine enthusiast in Stockholm with a long history of wine tasting experiences.