Saturday, 25 March 2017

The wines of Lombardy

Terraced vineyards in Lombardy

Moving a bit too fast to photograph the vineyards en route.
We just got back from Italy, skiing in the Alpine resort of Livigno. It's a 4-hour trip from Milan's airport. Along the way, we saw grapes being grown on the tiniest of plots, and terraced up the steep hills. They grow the grapes vertically, tied to individual sticks until the vines are strong enough to stand up on their own. That's a recommended technique for Chardonnay which keeps air passing through thereby reducing mold so, was interesting to see. We saw a sign up on the hill with "Inferno" written on it and learned later that it is one of the typical wines of the region, and the first we were able to sample.
Lake Como on a hazy winter's day
Lombardy’s most popular mountain destination is Valtellina. Bordering with Lake Como in the south and with Switzerland in the north, Valtellina extends for 200 kilometers in a varied landscape beginning at an altitude of 200m, reaching an height of 4000m at Bernina. The sun-bathed valley floor is cultivated with apples, replaced by woods and terraced vineyards as you ascend. Here the Nebbiolo grapes produce excellent red wines. The interesting history of winemaking here dates back to before Roman times when the Etruscans and Ligurians produced wines. It is thought that the Nebbiolo grape was introduced to the region by the Benedictine Monks in the early Middle Ages. .
The regional wine selection at the SandiMarket in Livigno.

Beautiful vistas across the alps

The Nebbiolo grape, from which all red wine in the region is made, is known locally as the Chiavennasca. The area boasts two DOCGs — Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (controlled and guaranteed designation of origin): Valtellina Superiore and Sforzato di Valtellina.

The area’s largest wine producer, Nino Negri, was founded in 1897. Located in a valley exposed to sunlight all day and sheltered from the cold northern winds by the magnificent Retiche Alps, the Nino Negri vineyards produce four types of wine: Grumello, Sassella, Inferno and Valgella, sub-denominations of the Valtellina Superiore.

Alex at the top of the Carosello lift in Livigno

We had the pleasure of sampling the Inferno and Sassella vintages before progressing to house wines. As far as I know, we did not sample the Sforzata as we did not know about these wines before coming, shame on us. The Inferno we tasted had a dark red hue and more than a hint of chocolate and a bit of tobacco that was very pleasant. The Sassela Riserva was perhaps a bit more refined with a distinctively fruity tone. There is a good article about this region's wine here.

Of course, the other drink the region is well known for is its grappa, and we happily had our samplings of that as well. Perhaps grappa will be our product of choice in the end.

Valtellina’s most famous winter resorts include Livigno, Bormio, Santa Caterina Valfurva and Madesimo. Madesimo is supposed to have the most beautiful but challenging slope in the region. Perhaps we'll have to visit again just for the view and a taste of the Sforzato.
Wine and grappa, he'll have one of each please

Rainoldi Sassela Riserva, deliciously fruity and smooth
Inferno, very interesting with a hint of chocolate