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Valtellina’s wine: Nebbiolo

The vine grows everywhere, but only here the Nebbiolo is perfect

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by Syusy Blady

I am at the castle of Grumello, in Valtellina, protected by FAI (Italian Environment Facility). A geologist, Siro, is telling me that the centre of the ruins of this castle represents the ideal position to look at the whole valley and understand its geological characteristics. At the bottom there is the hump of the Sassella and there is a depression on the right that shows us the insubric line, or the junction line between the Paleoafrican tectonic plate and the European one. The castle is located right on the junction of this fracture. It is from its pushing that the Alps and the Pre-Alps raised. We’re in it right now, in perfect balance! And this perfect balance produces the typical wine of Valtellina: the Nebbiolo, which originates from this lucky slope, bathed by the sun all day long. On the other slope the sun is much less warming.

Castello Grumello

Castel Grumello by Flickr user mauroghilardini

The other side of the sun warms much less, in fact there is not much less life and above all there is the wine! The Nebbiolo originates on the sunnier side and the tradition dictates that it is grown on these terraces created over the centuries by the patient work of the peasants. All the vineyards here in Valtellina are hand-built terraces that extend for 2500 km, a real Chinese wall in Lombardy! Formerly the vines used to grow up to 900m, now it reaches 600m at most.

The Nebbiolo chooses its territory, the vines grow everywhere, but they express their peculiarity only where the territory allows it, and Valtellina is the perfect place. So in the end it is true that it’s the Nebbiolo who choses its territory! Men provide it with terraces where it can grow, and this heritage, the landscape of Valtellina, which took hundreds of years to be formed. However, this territory would shutter if it wasn’t maintained by the work of the winegrowers who climb up here to take care of the walls and the vines. Despite the rocks, the vines manage to grow, like does the olive tree in some parts of Italy.

Actually, it doesn’t take a lot of effort, it doesn’t need a very fertile soil, but the Nebbiolo does need a lot of light and the terraces south-facing have a gradient of 30° and look like natural solar panels! The vines bathe in the sun all day long, but even too much warmness is nocive. Fortunately the Lake Como and the Alps create an optimal temperature gradient. A pleasant breeze seep through the valley, a steady wind that ventilates the vineyards during the day. Indeed, I fell like the Nebbiolo: I enjoy staying in the sun, but without it being hard to breathe. In the end, I love the ideal weather of Valtellina!

Syusy Blady

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