Italy’s Valtellina denomination, based in the region of Lombardia, offers some great, under-appreciated values. If you are a lover of nebbiolo, this zone is worth exploring! We have pulled our review of this denomination directly from the AG Wine app:
Although they do not quite reach the same heights as in Piedmont, nebbiolo-based wines from Lombardy are impressive and worth trying.
- The Valtellina. The best are from the Valtellina zone located in the mountainous northern reaches of the region, along the Adda river in the province of Sondrio, where rocky clay-based soils prevail.
- Classifications. The denomination’s basic wines — labelled as Rosso di Valtellina DOC — are made from a minimum of 80% nebbiolo and aged for six months in wood barrels. The premier wines — labelled as Valtellina Superiore DOCG* — are made from grapes grown on the premier plots within the same geographic area, comprised of at least 90% nebbiolo and aged for a minimum of 24 months (12 in oak barrels).
- Versus nebbiolo from Piedmont. As compared to those from Piedmont, Valtellina nebbiolos lack the same dark fruit punch due to the modestly cooler temperatures that make it challenging for this very late-maturing variety to reach optimal ripeness. What they lack in power and harmony, however, they make up for in finesse, aroma and earthy concentration. Further, they typically hit more attractive price points, which makes them worth checking out.
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.
Lombardia gets a lot more press for Milan’s fashion industry than its wines, and there is some reason for this. Lombardia produces a lot of wine, and much of it is good, but it does not have a high-quality grape variety in which it has taken a leadership winemaking role. Lombardia produces wines based on other regions’ signature grape varieties and does a respectable job while keeping prices low; however, these wines rarely surpass those of the home region. As a result, there are many tasty wines here, but few stars.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: Franciacorta sparklers, the red bonarda (croatina) variety, and the red chiavennasca (nebbiolo) from the Valtellina region.