Sorry, for my radio silence during the last couple of weeks but it has been a crazy two months packed with interesting and fun wine travel and events. All wonderful experiences but also very tiring… Therefore, there has been a short break in my writing. I apologize for that.
Today, I will talk a bit about an amazing tour to Valtellina I did some year ago thanks to the ever-great organizer Carlo Vischi. We visited several local producers of dairy products, cheese, an animal farm and combined agritourism, and wine producers. Here, I will focus mainly on the wine producers Arpepe and Mamete Prevostini.
This month, February 2018, the theme in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group will be about the Valtellina area in Lombardy. This is a perfect opportunity to talk more about this interesting mountain area in northern Lombardy producing fantastic wines with the Nebbiolo grape, here called Chiavennasca.
Valtellina is an area just north of the Como lake which is known for its Bitto cheese, bresaola, skiing slopes, and wine, of course. In the past, it was an important alpine pass between Germany and Italy, especially during the Thirty Year War back in the 17th century.
In this article, I will talk a bit about the 2-day trip I did to Valtellina some time ago, among other things, tasting the wines of Arpepe at a dinner at the 1 star Michelin restaurant of La Fiorida and visiting Mamete Prevostini winery the day after.
The journey begins toward Valtellina
A sunny day in May some year ago, I thus jumped on a train in direction Milano where we had our gathering point at Sciatt a Porter in Milan. This is a bar and restaurant just next to Porta Garibaldi in Milan where you can enjoy Valtellina delicacies in the heart of Milan. You can, for example, try yummy things such as a paper cone filled with Sciatt or a plate of Pizzoccheri paired with a nice full-bodied red Valtellina wine from a selection of wine producers.
The bus was then waiting for us to take us to Sondrio in Valtellina where #SaporeinLombardia had organized a seminar on local wine and food tourism. The seminar was held by Carlo Vischi, Andrea Casadei, and Gianni Gaggiani who are key figures at both Grow the Planet and H-Farm.
We then visited some other local business such as the Latteria Sociale in Chiuro before heading to the agritourism La Fiorida to relax a bit before the dinner with local food and wine. All with an amazing view of the surrounding mountains.
Arpepe – A ‘New’ Winery with a long history
Arpepe is a winery that was founded in the era of the Unification of Italy and thus is truly rooted in the history of the ‘new’ Italy. In 1973, due to various family disputes regarding the heritage, the winery and its brand name were sold off to an American-Swiss company.
In 1984, Arturo Pelizzatti Perego got hold of some part of the family vineyards and started up a winery again with the name Ar.Pe.Pe. This is an acronym of his name. His idea was to bring back the tradition of making Nebbiolo wines in Valtellina by focusing on long maturation and aging periods in order to bring out the terroir in the wines.
In 2004, the children and present generation of owners, Isabella, Emanuele, and Guido, took over the management of the winery. They are continuing with the aim of producing wines that are a result of long maceration and maturation times. The wines are only bottled when the moment feels right.
The vineyards are on steep terraces which have been built on the mountain slopes thus destroying the rocks underneath and erecting walls. These terraces have then been filled with soil from the valley just next to the river banks. It is thus a quite particular soil consisting of fermented rock soil, sandy, with a high acidity level. It can be said to be a light, poorer soil than the one in Piemonte where Nebbiolo, of course, is also grown.
The soil is, therefore, very rich in mineral and gives this lovely minerality to the wine, but not only. It also gives distinct floral notes as well a ‘crystal clear’, bright color, as Isabella herself told me. (Learn more in the #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream at the end of this article.)
The vineyards of Arpepe are located in three of the Valtellina subzones, namely Sassella, Grumello, and Inferno. The altitude ranges from 300 m to 600 m.a.s.l. The grapes for their Rosso di Valtellina wines are cultivated at the lower parts of the vineyards, on 300-400 m altitude. On 400-600 m altitude, they instead grow the grapes that are harvested later for the wines with longer maturation periods.
Here they decide what to do depending on the situation of the year in question, whether to do standard or very long macerations (up to 50-70 days) followed by standard aging or very long aging periods (up to 4 years in big old chestnut barrels for the Riserva wines).
Tasting Rocca De Piro at La Fiorida
Let’s now go over to look closer on one of the Arpepe wines, the Grumello Rocca De Piro Valtellina Superiore DOCG 2011. This is a 100% Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo) wine that did 4 days of maceration in wood casks followed by two years of maturation in big barrels of 50 hl (5000 l).
Trying to remember the particular traits of this wine now, looking in my old notes, I had written down the freshness, good acidity, and minerality that is evident in the wine. Also, I noticed a green, a bit balsamic undertone, the floral notes of dried roses, as well as a bit of a spicy touch.
This wine went very well with the traditional local food that the chefs Gianni Tarabini and Franco Aliberti had prepared for us. Below you can see some examples of the dinner we had during our stay at La Fiorida.
The Valtellina experience was, of course, made even more extraordinary by the mountains that were all around you. There is something special about going to bed, waking up, having breakfast, lunch, or dinner, tasting wines and much more with a view of the mountains.
And I am normally not much of a mountain person, I rather prefer the seaside. However, I must admit that every time that I go to Alto Adige, Trentino, or Valtellina, I am drawn to the special atmosphere of the surrounding mountains.
The morning after we had a tour of the educational farm at La Fiorida where they breed cows and pigs, then making their own dairy products as well as meat production.
A Visit to Mamete Prevostini Winery
During this trip, we also visited the Mamete Prevostini winery in Mese close to Sondrio. We had a quick tour of their winery that is connected to their restaurant Crotasc. Their new innovative and environment-friendly winery CasaClima Wine is located Postalesio close their vineyards and we did not visit that part.
The lunch selfie today at Crostasc, the restaurant of @mameteprevostini_valtellina Thank you @marcopersenico for being our host. We were enjoying a lunch with typical dishes from #Valtellina such as #pizzoccheri and lots of excellent Valtellina Superiore #Sassella wines. Thank you to @growtheplanet and @in_lombardia @valtellinaofficial for inviting me to these 2 fantastic days in Valtellina to discover #SaporeInLombardia Hugs and thank you’s also to @CarloVischi @andreacasadeiVE & @giannigaggiani #grapevineadventures
We had a lunch with all the fantastic local dishes and tasted their wines together with Marco Persenico from Mamete Prevostini. As Susannah Gold has written specifically about Mamete Prevostini for this month’s theme, I will not go any deeper into this winery. She has done a fabulous job talking about their wine production, so head on over to her article to learn more here.
To learn even more about Mamete Prevostini, you can listen to my #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream where Marco was my guest some time ago. Just click on the link HERE.
So much to learn about Valtellina
Valtellina might be a geographically small area but there are so many things to learn and enjoy there. The food is exceptional with its local cheese, dairy, and meat production as well as wine production. The viticulture is heroic as the grapes are often grown on terraces built on the mountain slopes. Everything is done by hand, as at the Arpepe winery, which means a lot of hard work on the terraces.
Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed my short overview of the trip to Valtellina and that it made you curious about this fascinating area. Would you be interested in learning more about Arpepe winery you can listen to my #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream with Isabella Pelizzatti Perego HERE.
See what our Italian Food Wine & Travel Enthusiasts have to offer about Valtellina:
Susannah Gold is sharing “Exploring the wines of Mamete Prevostini in the Valtellina” on Avvinare.
Jennifer Martin is sharing “The Valtellina: Home of Chiavennasca” on Vino Travels
Camilla Mann will be dishing on “Short Ribs + the Balgera Valtellina Superiore Inferno #ItalianFWT” on Culinary Adventures with Cam.
Martin Redmond writes “A Taste of Valtellina: 2014 ArPePe Rosso Superiore with Wild Mushroom Ragout over Creamy Polenta” on Enofylz Wine Blog
Jeff Burrows shares “Double Secret Winery: Giorgio Gianatti in Valtellina” on Food Wine Click
Wendy Klik brings “Celebrating Love: Pork Filet Mignon with Valtellina Wine” to life on A Day In the Life on the the Farm
Li Valentine shares “A taste of Valtellina with Nino Negri and Carpaccio” on The Wining Hour
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