1999 Rosso di Valtellina
In the backdrop of the beauty of the Swiss Alps lies one of Italy’s least-explored wine regions. Located in the far northern reaches of Lombardia, Valtellina is an Alpine Valley that has been producing wines for over 2,000 years. The rugged terrain, which is some of the most challenging viticulture in the world, has helped to keep these wines a secret among wine enthusiasts until the last decade.
Chiavennnasca (also known as Nebbiolo) is by far the most widely planted and important grape in this emerging wine region. If you are a Barolo-phile, Valtellina offers wonderful, undervalued wines worth exploring. Valtellina infuses its own personality on Italy’s grandest grape. For those adventurous drinkers, the unique terrior of the region creates distinct but delicious examples of Nebbiolo.
These wines have only just begun to hit our shores now. Because it’s too dangerous to use machinery on the steep hillside, the winemaking process is almost entirely manual. It’s a labor of love. The winemaking also costs nearly five times as much as it would with modern technology.
One of the first wineries to export wine from Valtellina to the US was Cantine Balgera. The winery dates back to 1885. Today, it’s run Paolo Balgera, the fourth generation of the family to make wine. Balgera owns land in key subzones: Sassella, Grumello, and Valgella. The Rosso di Valtellina is a blend of the estate’s holdings as well as some purchased fruit from growers that the family has been working with for generations. The choice to blend from multiple vineyards ensures a more balanced and harmonized wine.
One of Balgera’s undervalued offerings is the 1999 Rosso di Valtellina. The wine has a garnet core with significant rim variation, fanning out to an orange rim, which harkens back to before technology took over. The nose is bursting with classic scents of mushrooms, truffles, iron, cured meats, dried flowers, tart and ripe red fruits, and spice. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with great focus and a long lingering finish.
The wine can be enjoyed all month long paired with Beef Carpaccio with Fresh Black Truffles. The wine’s brightness, fruits and tertiary notes do well to handle the salt, fat, spices, and are a classic pairing with the pungent truffles in the dish.