Valtellina is an Italian valley at whose centre runs the River Adda, in the northern end of Lake Como. Valtellina is one of the most important wine-growing areas in the Lombardy region, and its name is derived from Teglio, an ancient town which has been most likely inhabited since Prehistory.
It is a unique territory, rich in biodiversity and variability as to environment, geology and morphology. The success of this largest terraced area of Italy (820 hectares that turned into 2,500 terraced kilometres), is incredibly ancient, thanks to a well-built viticulture tradition in the Rhaetian Alps, representing a natural amphitheatre. This tradition became a source of self-consumption and income, also due to the proximity to the Swiss border. The wines produced in such area were successfully exported since the Middle Ages. Protected by the effects of the Alpine currents, properly exposed to the light, orographically rich, also caressed by the breeze coming from the Lake Como, the Valtellina region has always shown its great potentialities. Late grape harvests, rigorously carried out though manual processes, take place during the second half of October, with the particular “gerle”, that are a sort of pack baskets used by the “portini” (men moving along steep plots of land).
Wines produced in the Valtellina region can be labelled as Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio IGT, Rosso di Valtellina DOC, Valtellina Superiore DOCG and Sforzato (or Sfursat) di Valtellina DOCG.
The wines of the appellation Rosso di Valtellina DOC must be composed of at least 80% Nebbiolo (called “Chiavennasca” in Lombardy region) to which can be added a 20% of other grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Rossola, Prugnola or Pignola. The Rosso are most often from vineyards near the Adda River, which are also the lowest in altitude. They are also often from young vines.
Terazze Retiche di Sondrio IGT includes reds, whites, sparkling Nebbiolo and late harvest.
The wines of the DOGC Valtellina Superiore must contain at least 90% of Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca) and they must undergo at least a 24-month ageing in barrels. Riserva require at least 36 months of breeding. The wines of this appellation come from 5 subzones: Grumello, Inferno, Maroggia, Sassella, and Valgella.
- 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.
- Maroggia – The smallest of the zones. Here you will find balanced wines of acidity, tannin and ripe red and black fruits.
- 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.
The Sforzato (or Sfursat) di Valtellina DOCG is a wine made from passerillas grapes. The drying process called “appassimento” is the same as that used in Veneto for the production of Amarone della Valpolicella. The grapes, coming from the highest vineyards in altitude, must undergo a minimum drying of 110 days. By the end of January, they will have lost between 35 and 40% of their weight and will have concentrated in sugars. They are then fermented and then aged for a minimum period of 20 months in barrels. Their minimum alcohol level before marketing must reach 14%
Valtellina is undoubtedly one of the most iconic places in the Alps, and undoubtedly represents a great challenge for winegrowers, who through the terraces have been able to shape and shape its profile. Thanks to the beauty of its mountains and the many tourist resorts that dot the entire territory, the Valtellina is a land that offers a lot to travelers, in all seasons of the year.