It’s been a long time since my last post on the blog.
With Instagram growth and the liquid society effect, people keep saying no one wants to read a long article anymore. Though, how can you tackle an argument in a few lines only?
I was looking for the right topic to be back on track, and I guess the passion of the guy I met during my last wine tour gave me an excellent opportunity.
A couple of weeks ago, with the autumn breeze arriving, I got the will to make a tour in Valtellina region. You may know Valtellina above all for Bresaola cured meat and Pizzocheri pasta; but as Val d’Aosta or Liguria, the region is quite known for its heroic vines growing.
The first time I read about Valtellina wines was more than 10 years ago. I was reading Drops of God, a Japanese manga about wine, when they came to mention Nino Negri 5 Stelle Sfursat. 4 years ago, while attending the sommelier course, I got the opportunity to taste it; still, my drinking knowledge of Valtellina wines has remained reduced.
I assume one of the reasons is it’s not that well distributed. Having expensive operative processes, the selling price is above average for a not easy instant drinking wine (tannins), paired with a poor marketing (think about the promotional campaign for franciacorta or prosecco)…
So I asked a sommelier friend of mine if he had some tips, and among the various names he gave me, one struck me, as less famous.
Marsetti is a family that has been making wine for more than a hundred years; to prove it some bottles in the cellar with the mark 1913 and a lot of spider nets.
They managed to stay in Sondrio historic area thanks to the genius of the grandpa that invented a fix for any limit encountered. This is what I love calling functional design.
We managed to book a tour as the vintages had not started yet. The vintages in Valtellina do not initiate usually before beginning of October even if the area has the equivalent sun exposure of Pantelleria. If you don’t believe me, just check around you when you go there, you will find some “fico d’india” cactus in the village.
Our tour started in the vineyards. The main grape there is the nebbiolo (famous in Italy for the Barolo) and called here chiavennasca.
But where in Barolo area, the viticulture process will be the equivalent of 100 hours by acre, in Valtellina, we reach 1000 hours due to the slopes verticality and the “archetto valtellinese” style of the foot.
The picking is exclusively handmade, and in order to bring the grapes to the cellar, they use a helicopter. Crazy isn’t it? Well actually, if not, they would need 20 additional persons to support a quite complex and long carrying process. Sadly the customer is not ready to pay for that extra cost...
The wine picking happens from 4am to 10am as the South Prealps protect the area from the cold and if they pick the grapes later, the warm grapes could suffer from an unplanned fermentation.
The red wines are authorized to have a blend of indigenous grapes like rossola, pignola and brugnola. But when you tackle to Valtellina Superiore DOCG and its 5 “ sotto zone”, 90% of nebbiolo must be used; while the ageing will have to reach a minimum of 24 months in oak barrels.
But let’ s go away from the disciplinary.
Marsetti has a small products range:
. The rosso di Valtellina where you can find a percentage of indigenous grapes.
. The Grumello, who does 2 years in barrels, 1 year in bottle.
. The Prudenze who does 1 year in barrel, 1 year in tank.
. And the Sfursat, which has a process similar to the famous Valpolicella. The vintage starts with the collection of the best grapes, before making them dry on trays for 3 months: It’s called “appassimento”. The grape will lose half of his weight and the sugar will concentrate.
After the vinification, the sfursat will then age exclusively in new oak barrels when the other “denominazione” will rest in used barrels or chestnuts tanks , some of them being 130 years old.
If you have the possibility to visit their cellar, you will be amazed how small it is, clustered and what they had to invent in order to realize the wine making process properly. You will discover they use pipe to communicate from one point to another (cell phone and talkie don't get signal), that everything is studied to be removable for space optimization.
A not so common genuine wine house when you see the nowadays super technological wine houses you can find around and the astonishing cellars that look more like churches.
This place shows you can still find humility in some wine even if not natural.