The Valtellina

I am back from a little trip to Italy and visited an area North of Lake Como called the Valtellina, spectacular.  One of draws of the region is of course the wine.  The wine from this area is from the Nebbiolo grape but it is known locally as the Chiavennasca.  The classic Rosso di Valtellina wine is bright crimson in color, with an aromatic bouquet of dried cherries, tar and rose water. As might be expected for a mountain-grown wine made from Nebbiolo, the body is relatively light, and laced with grippy tannins. Valtellina wines are invariably lighter in body and power than their more famous and prestigious equivalents from Barolo and Barbaresco. With a few years of bottle age, gamey, leather-like notes will develop, and the crimson will turn to garnet with a brick-orange rim, the visual trademark of Nebbiolo-based wines.  But to put it simply, think cherries–ranging from fresh bright spring cherries to old ripe ones.

So what to do with a bottle of Valtellina? Well a lot… I enjoyed it with beef, lamb, fish and nothing.  It is light to medium bodied, so it is a great summer red–I like it with fish.  Keep in mind there are many different Valtellina(s) and this is just a general sketch.

While all Valtellina wines are of generally high quality, look for the following five Valtellina Superiore DOCG sub-areas for the best experience:

  • Grumello. Fruit forward and aromatic with notes of almonds due to small amounts of the local brugnola grape in the blend.
  • Inferno. Most powerful, concentrated and austere versions.
  • Maroggia. Lowest production with medium- to full-bodied, fruity versions.
  • Sassella. Viewed as the best of the Valtellina, richer and fuller-bodied versions requiring 3-5 years of aging.
  • Valgella. The most delicate, floral-perfumed expressions of nebbiolo.

Grab and bottle or several and enjoy.

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