Siro Buzzetti


I am enthralled by the beauty of the Valtellina valley – its high alpine, forboding ruggedness juxtaposed against the gentle and welcoming spirit of the people who make this place home. Say nothing of the awesome expression of Nebbiolo (known locally as Chiavennasca). If you’ll indulge me here on Siro Buzzetti’s write-up to talk generally about Valtellina, I promise I won’t repeat it when we bring you several other wines from friends of Siro in the coming weeks.
The Valtellina valley runs from Ardenno on the West to Tirano on the East. It’s about a 45 kilometer trip from one end to the other. Right in the middle sits the bustling (and largest) town of Sondrio. Given the East/West orientation of the valley, all the vineyards are found on the North side and face the South. The Southern exposure provides the vineyards long, sunlit days that help ripen fruit that without this perfect orientation would struggle to reach maturity this far North. The photo here shows the sun coming up in the valley at about 7:00 am.

This entire East/West expanse has been designated Rosso di Valtellina DOC, and wines from this zone are considered to be at the first quality level in the region.   Within the Rosso di Valtellina DOC is the next and highest quality level known as Valtellina Superiore DOCG. Valtellina Superiore DOCG wines must come from certain specific areas in the valley. Several of the specific Valtellina Superiore growing areas, have been designated as special and have their own names that precede the Valtellina Superiore designation.  You can think of these areas as "classifed"or the Grand Cru vineyards of Valtellina Superiore. They are Maroggia, Sassella, Grumello, Inferno and Valgella. Each of these designated vineyard areas have been separately named based on the specific style of wine that is perceived to come from them.
 

But there is something else that makes these gravelly, stony, shallow soil vineyards special – the truly frightening angle of the slopes on which these grapes grow. I’m not exaggerating when I say that as you make your way up the vineyards, wondering if you should be roped and harnessed, there is an overwhelming feeling that you’ll make your way down by falling “off” the mountain. This is a hard place to make wine. For example, add to the rigors and stresses that come with winemaking on flat terrain, the need to rebuild rock terraces by hand in order to keep from seeing your vines slide off the hillside. The men and women who spend their days nurturing and working in these vineyards deserve to be commended. Without the overwhelming sense of tradition and history, it would be an easy call to instead look for a safe desk job.

 

So thank you Siro Buzzetti for taking the time to share with us today’s wine from Terrazzi Alti – aptly translated to “High Terraces.” Check out the photo of a portion of Siro’s vineyards. That’s true dedication.   Siro’s vineyards are the highest ones in the photo right in the middle and are located in the rocky Sassella Valtellina Superiore DOCG. Alessandro Masnaghetti’s exceptional map of Valtellina notes that Sassella is noted for its elegance and mineral character. This is the only wine Siro makes. All of his energy and passion are channeled into this bottling. As I spent time with Siro over lunch and in the vineyards on a beautiful January afternoon, I began to understand his dedication to his craft. He’s in touch with nature, seeing things that others take for granted, or perhaps even miss. He feels that Nebbiolo has chosen Valtellina as its special place and not the other way around – it’s no accident in his mind that Chiavennasca makes its home here. It’s the little things in life and winemaking that matter to Buzzetti. Take for example, the pride which Siro takes in pointing out these ancient rock carvings that he discovered. These had surely been walked on and walked over by people for years until someone with Siro’s attention to detail and sensibility passed over them. That attention to detail and sensibility is reflected in his wine.

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