The landscape of Valtellina reminds me of bit of some quiet corner of Scotland; remote, under-populated, criss-crossed with dry stone walls, mountainous and snowy in winter. The vineyards here are certainly off the beaten track and the climate and landscape are not what I think of as typically Italian. Summers are warm but not hot and winters are very cold: perfect for making fine, cool-climate wine. There’s a large diurnal variation in daily temperature too which helps produce grapes with good acidity as well as stylish fruit. The local grape is Chiavennasca which, outside of the valley and throughout the rest of Italy, is better known as Nebbiolo.
Valtellina is in the very far north of Italy, nestling against the Swiss border. St Moritz is only fifty miles away by road and closer as the crow flies, when it can be bothered to fly over mountains. There’s a railway link from Valtellina to St Moritz, the Bernina line which tracks through a stunning mountain landscape. The scenery here is fantastic, on a par with the Douro and there’s a similarity too with terraces precipitously cut into the steep hillsides and contained by low, dry stone walls.
The Rainoldi winery Rainoldi Winery traces its family history back to 1925 and began near Chiuro and back then used to transport wine in chestnut barrels across Lombardy and Switzerland. Grapes for their wine that I tried are still hand harvested from vines planted in soil which is rich in ferrous rock. The vineyards are planted high up on really steep slopes and the challenge of then getting the grapes down to the winery has been solved by using a helicopter.
There are four especially notable villages for red wine production in the region and Sassella is arguably the finest. I tried the Nebbiolo Sassella 2013 from Aldo Rainoldi and I found this wine presented me with a new expression for the Nebbiolo grape variety which really caught my attention.
Tasting notes: pale red colour; tobacco and leather on the nose. Menthol, herbs and cherry notes as the wine opens out in the glass. Great flavour with fruit, acidity and tannins all nicely balanced. Medium bodied, long finish. Curiously rustic and elegant at the same time. Intriguing and very enjoyable.
Aldo Rainoldi wines are shipped by Bacco Wines. Bacco Wines Edinburgh
Bacco Wines have a great little portfolio of interesting, unusual and quality driven Italian wines and whilst they supply to trade they also sell to private customers and have a charming wine shop and bar on Dundas Street, Edinburgh. Well worth checking out.