The Valtellina has been known and appreciated as a territory dedicated to the production of great red wines for ageing since remote times. It was probably the Celto-Ligurians, having learnt the techniques from the Etruscans, who began vine cultivation in the valley. Later, in the Carolingian period, the Germanic populations began to trade wines along the Roman roads that crossed the Alpine passes and travelled along the Rhine valley to reach the major centres such as Zurich, Hamburg and the cities of northern Germany. The Viscontis and the Sforzas, to ensure that they would not be without this precious nectar of Bacchus, extended special privileges to the inhabitants of the valley. Leonardo da Vinci himself, speaking of the Valtellina wines, defined them as "fairly powerful wines".

In the course of more than ten centuries of enological history and tradition, men of letters and poets, among them Carducci, have found a way of extolling the virtues of the Valtellina wines in their immortal works. This of the Valtellina is a mountain viticulture, where every square metre dedicated to the vine has been painstakingly created, the bare rock covered with earth laboriously carried up from the valley, and then protected by an infinity of dry-stone walls known as "murachi".

The DOC wines

Many indigenous grapes have been present for centuries in Valtellina, but Nebbiolo proves to be the historically selected variety. Nowadays it is used pure in the classic Valtellina Docg and Doc wines.

Valtellina Superiore (D.O.C.G.)
The four sub-zones:

  • Sassella. The name comes from the church of the Sassella (from "sasso" cliff, rock) lying at the foot of the promontory of the same name. Like all the Valtellina Superiore it reaches maturity through an aging of 3-5 years.
  • Grumello. Produced in the area to the northeast of Sondrio, this wine takes its name from the fourteenth-century "Castello di Grumello" which dominates the valley.
  • Inferno. The singular name probably derives from the extremely high temperatures reached in summer on the small terraces carved out of the slopes m the rocky gorges. The resulting wine is dry, and full of character.
  • Valgella. Valgella is distinguished from the others by a greater initial mildness. These wines are the perfect accompaniment for the more or less mature cheeses of the Province of Sondrio: Valtellina Casera Dop, Bitto Dop, Scimudin (Consorzio formaggi Valtellina tel. 0342 210247) and with the Valtellina Bresaola; they are excellent with red meat and game, as well as with the traditional Valtellina dishes: pizzoccheri, taroz, sciatt, etc.

Valtellina (D.O.C.)

  • Valtellina. Valtellina is produced in a more extensive area than the Superiore DOCG.
    Less full-bodied than the above wines, it is consequently easier to drink.
  • Sforzato. Sforzato owes its name to a traditional procedure which consists in a "forcing" of the Nebbiolo grapes, a process which boasts ancient origins. It is an ideal match for tasty, rich mature cheese (like the Valtellina Bitto Dop). It is al-so a great wine of meditation, to be warmed in the hand and sipped slowly before a blazing open fire.

IGT wines "Terrazze retiche di Sondrio" The various types included in the IGT (typical geographical indication) "Terrazze retiche di Sondrio" are ready to drink red and white wines: being lighter, with more subtle aromas and perfumes, they are more popular with the young and for everyday drinking.