Valtellina is a splendid mountain wine region situated in the Rhaetian Alps in Northern Lombardy, with its vineyards on steep slopes overlooking an extraordinary and unique landscape.
The wine region has been producing wine for more than 2,000 years, and today it is renowned for its excellent cherry-scented wines made from Chiavennasca, or the Nebbiolo grape variety. Viticulture was brought to the region by the ancient Ligures and Etruscans even before the Romans arrived.
Leonardo Da Vinci once wrote about the Valtellina wine region: ‘circondata dalle montagne alte e minacciose dà vini potenti e in gran numero’ (valley surrounded by tall and fearsome mountains that produce heady and strong wines).
The vineyards are located on the south-facing slopes on the Adda river, mostly between 230m and 765m above sea level. The nearby Alpine peaks give protection from the cold and wind, and they help to retain the heat in the valley. The stony soil also helps to keep the heat, which warms the vines during the night. However, the steep slopes make mechanical harvesting difficult, so most of the vineyards are tended to by hand, which roughly means 1,400 man hours per hectare per year, increasing costs and limiting production.
Valtellina has two DOCG wines: the Valtellina Superiore and the Sforzato di Valtellina.
The Valtellina Superiore – which was granted the full DOCG status in 1998 – generally contains 90% Chiavennasca and has to be aged at least 23 months, with at least 36 months for the Riserva.
The Amarone-style, dried-grape Sforzato di Valtellina has a minimum of 90% Chiavennasca content and is aged for at least 18 months.
Some recommended wine producers whose wine is worth tasting: