One Italian region whose wines I would like to know better is Valtellina
. It is an Alpine valley running from West to East at the extreme North of Lombardia close to the Swiss and Austrian borders. The ownership of the valley which was of considerable strategic importance in the past has passed between Switzerland and Italy.
The climate here is Alpine with warm days and cool nights in the summer and cold winters. Nebbiolo (known locally as Chiavennasca) is planted and makes wines like Inferno and Sassella, which I first met in visits to Italy in the 70s and found often thin, acidic and tannic. Those which I have tried recently were much better with the class of Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara, if lighter bodied and more austere. On a higher plane IMO is the local speciality, Sfursat or Sforzato, which is made in the same way as Amarone; personally I find those which I have tasted very successful with the Valtellina austerity toned down yet with the structure and class of Nebbiolo lending a distinction which I don’t often find in Corvina based Amarone.
Here are WTNs on both styles from the estate Conti Sertoli Salis. The family owns a splendid palazzo to which a virtual visit can be found on the attached link http://www.sertolisalis.com/index2_eng.html
. I used to enjoy meeting Cesare Sertoli Salis on his visits to tastings in Belgium but, alas, he died in 2005 at the early age of 53; I do not know whether the estate still maintains the same standards.Valtellina “Sassella” 1997 – Conti Sertoli Salis
, made from Nebbiolo (chiavennasca) 95% together with Pignola, Rossola and Brugnola valtellinesi, was bin-end picked up for €5; it was a distinguished bottle with a very original flavour profile in a somewhat dark savoury register; colour was a quite light but vigorous garnet, the palate was classically shaped with good length, the body was also quite light at first but seemed to round out somewhat, the flavours were intense and the structure sufficient with aromas that were of sour, even slightly bitter, cherry mingled with minerals, fine herbs and tar; 16/20++. (November 2008)Canua Sforzato Valtellina 1997 - Conti Sertoli Salis
. Deep, rich and complex and long, hints of fruit cake and slightly marred for me by an alcoholic finish, but the others thought that the rich fruit covered this well. It definitely has more elegance and class than any Valpolicella Amarone which I have tasted (due to Nebbiolo?) and also outclasses two recently tasted Amarone style Bordeaux blends from JOSEPH South Australia. Another wine which sang fully and more beautifully as the evening advanced. Fine 17/20++. (November 2006)