Today, Valtellina is known for its ski center, hot springs, spasbresola, cheeses (in particular Bitto named after the torrent Bitto) and wines. In past centuries it was a key alpine pass between northern Italy and Germany and control of the Valtelline was much sought after, particularly during the Thirty Years’ War.
The most important comune of the valley is Sondrio; the others major centers are Aprica, Morbegno, Tirano, Bormio and Livigno. Although Livigno is on the northern side of the alpine watershed, it is considered part of Valtellina as it falls within the province of Sondrio.
In Valtellina the wines are produced mainly from Chiavennasca (the local name of Nebbiolo grape variety) with other minor varieties such as Rossola nera permitted up to 20% for the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and 10% for the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). Grapes are limited to a harvest yield of 12 tonnes/ha. The finished wine must be aged for at least 2 years prior to release (3 years if a Riserva bottling) with a minimum alcohol level of at least 11%. Yields for the DOCG wines are further restricted to a maximum of 8 tonnes/ha. While the aging requirements are the same as the DOC, the minimum alcohol level for the DOCG wine is 12%.
The most well-known villages for red wines are: Grumello del Monte, Sassella, Inferno, Valgella, and Maroggia. The village names are normally indicated on the label. Additionally there is an Amarone style DOCG wine called Sforzato (Sfursat).
The Grumello vineyard renders the lightest and most elegant of all Valtellinese wines. If the Sassella vineyard typically shows mountain strawberry aromas, Grumello cranks up the acid and lightness to arrive at a raspberry aroma. These are the lightest Nebbiolo you will find anywhere in the world — the antidote to overwrought modern Barolo that come across as chubby callgirls slathered in oaky makeup and extraction. These, to me, are true grand cru Nebbiolo — let’s set aside Serralunga’s awesomeness, this is the ‘Les Saint Georges’ of Nebbiolo. While retaining an exquisite sense of restraint, they still manage to Nebbiolo: leather, tar, roses, all in a remarkably lightweight vessel
Wine and Food
In the words of David Schildknecht from Vinous, “Austria’s 2013 Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners display exceptionally bright acidity, clear flavor definition and uncanny complexity.” 2013 has given us the stunning combination of healthy, ripe grapes that remain light on their feet as the alcohol levels stayed in check, married with focused, tense acidity.
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