A few weeks ago, I visited one of the wine bars in Munich downtown. There I tried an interesting red wine from Nebbiolo grapes, which are locally called Chiavennasca. Nebbiolo is mostly associated with the Piedmont – many great wines like Barbaresco, Barolo and Gattinara are produced with this noble grape variety.
Nebbiolo likes the alpine terrain and cold climate of the Piedmont and also made its way to the Valtellina, a valley in Lombardia bordering Switzerland. Producing wine in the Valtellina is tough and costly because the vineyards are located on steep hillsides. These unique vineyard are now a UNESCO World Heritage site The result wines are of high quality and have a good aging potential – but of course there are exceptions. There are reports saying that wine making tradition of the Valtellina dates back to the 5th or 6th century (depends on the source).
The two most important types of wines of the Valtellina are Sforzato and Valtellina Superiore. Both are classified as DOCG wines. The difference between the two is that Sforzato is a very powerful wine similar to Amarone. It’s produced with dried Chiavennasca grapes (passito-style) but the resulting wine is dry and not sweet. During the appassimento process, the grapes lose about 40%-50% of their weight making Sforzato even more expensive to produce than Valtellina Superiore. A Sforzato has to age a minimum of 24 months but most wineries age their Sforzato a bit longer.
Valtellina Superiore is also produced with Chiavennasca grapes (at least 90%) and also ages a minimum of 24 months. However, the grapes used to produce Valtellina Superiore don’t undergo an appassimento process. Valtellina Superiore can be as powerful as Sforzato but also lighter versions exists.
2009 Agricola Fay – Costa Bassa – Valtellina Superiore DOCG
Agricola Fay was founded in 1973 by Sandro Fay and in present-day operated by his two children Marco and Elena. The winery owns 14 hectares of vineyards and cultivates mostly Chiavennasca grapes to produce traditional red wines that represent the territory.
Costa Bassa is one of the winery’s entry Valtellina Superiore wine but they also produce a more basic Rosso di Valtellina. Wines at restaurants tend to be quite a rip-off anyways so I decided to settle with something “reasonably priced”.
According to the technical sheet, Costa Bassa is produced exclusively with Chiavennasca grapes which were harvested in the second half of October. The wine’s appellation is Valtellina Superiore DOCG.
After a two-week fermentation process in steel vats and a 7-day maceration, the wine aged for twelve months in large oak barrels and for another twelve months in the bottle before being put into commerce (that’s the minimum to comply with the DOCG requirements).
In the glass, Costa Bassa had a garnet red color with orange hues. 13% was the label listed alcohol by volume.
On the nose, there were aromas of blueberries, tobacco leaves and marasca cherries. The nose was rather closed though.
In the mouth, dry and warm with smooth tannins and a typical acidity. Costa Bassa had notes of chocolate, bitter almonds and was slightly mineralic. The wine had a medium body and an intense, medium-long finish.
Wine Searcher says that the Agricola Fay Costa Bassa has an average price of €19 and it appears that the wines of Agricola Fay are also available overseas.
Costa Bassa was served with an charcoal-grilled entrecôte, a variations of tomatoes (some were grilled) and a delicious pine nut avocado creme. The meat was one of the best I ate in a long time and Costa Bassa paired perfectly with the dish. Nebbiolo/Chiavennasca tends to be always a safe and good choice with steak.
That’s all for today! Cheers!