21 November 2015

Almost 500 years ago, the expert palate of Leonardo Da Vinci determined –

…”the discovery of a good wine Is becoming increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star.”

Who are we to disagree. And as the world prepares itself to embark on further discovery of our neighbouring ‘Red Planet’, whatever Da Vinci might have thought of it, it’s safe to say our search for ‘Native Grape’ beauty remains a little more grounded….but not by much.

On this occasion we’re focused on the heart of Lombardia’s Alpine region ‘VALTELLINA’. With vineyard altitudes up to +900 metres, in our own way we too are reaching for the stars. And it’s here, in the form of the Rainoldi winery that we believe we’ve found one.

75km northeast of Lago di Como (think northeast of Milano) is where you’ll find the Valtellina, famous the world over for being that 40km stretch of vineyard perched high above the River Adda, on whose south facing mountainous slopes you’ll find some 2,500km of dry stone walls holding the whole shooting match in place. ‘Unique’ is the word, so much so, it’s now a UNESCO heritage site.

Tending your vines here requires an heroic effort, at least 4 times that which fellow grape growers & winemakers need to manage their vineyards in the plains down below. Bearing in mind the only machine that’ll make it’s way easily to the top of these vineyards is a ‘helicopter’, very often they’re pressed into action during the harvest to ferry the hand picked grapes directly the cellar door.

Needless to say, such dedication is extreme, reserved as it is for a native grape of rather noble extraction. None other than ‘ Nebbiolo ‘ – or as it’s known in these parts – ‘Chiavennasca’.

Here, the altitude of the vineyards offer significant variances in day & night temperatures ensuring ideal growing and maturing conditions for these precious grapes. High in the valley, ‘Chiavennasca’ ripens late (early to mid November), so these longer hang times allow the fruit achieve its much desired maturity. In this part of the world, it’s as though the vines and their thin skinned berries realise the commitment being made on their behalf. And what they offer in return is the finest fruit that this vine delivers anywhere outside of its native home, Piemonte. Tribute indeed to all local producers who, like Peppino Rainoldi, have learned to coax such elegance from this red powerhouse of a grape.

Our Rainoldi tasting selection comprised of :

Garnet red of medium depth, on the nose it’s complexity is evolving nicely with, in particular, floral notes of viola, mature black fruits, tobacco and a pleasing warm caramel note. It’s medium+ body is perfectly balanced and well structured offering both great length and elegance. Due to relatively small vineyard size, the Sassella Riserva is not produced in every vintage. Grab a bottle, if and when you can.

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A typical garnet, one you’d expect of a Nebbiolo / Chiavennasca. Predominantly floral on the nose, while on the palate it’s medium bodied youthful vigour still continues to prevail with fresh acidity and active tannins. Young and persistent, perhaps this vintage could do with a little more bedding in time to smooth out its path. Would like to give it a shot in another 2-3 years to chart its progress.

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Medium intense garnet red. A little slow to open on the nose, mostly floral with light fruit. On the palate it’s still quite fresh and tannic. Yes, it gives us the impression of youth and the suggestion that it needs more time to better integrate itself. That said, some nice herbal and mineral notes. Worth checking it out again in a couple more years to see what bottle evolution can deliver.

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Deep garnet red in appearance, it has an intense nose where initial floral and cherry notes give way to greater complexity. As it opens, you encounter lots more spice, liquorice, orange zest and tobacco together with evolving etherial notes. On the palate its medium to full body is very well rounded with a pleasing freshness that’s well balanced with soft tannins. Good length with a nice little touch of graphite towards the end. Elegant with perhaps more to come.

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Intense garnet with orange hues and light amber reflections. On the nose it’s very intense and complex too. Mature black fruits. On the palate its medium to full body is fresh with supple, soft, velvety tannins. Really beautiful balance with spices, rich forest fruit preserves and etherial notes that linger persistently. Sforzato Cà Rizzieri 2010 is a unique, elegant and important wine. Worthy of its STARLIGHT status. Definitely the best of a great bunch.

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So yeah, we’re happy to say some pretty interesting results all round. While naturally understanding that Nebbiolo is reknowned more for its ageing potential than its youth, every once in a while, we like to re-calibrate our perspective, together with our palate. Of the 5 Rainoldi wines, in particular, we’d mark out the air dried grapes of the ‘DOCG Sforzato 2010 Cà Rizzieri’ as the one making a serious challenge for ‘heavenly status’. Definitely one to get your hands on. Together with the Sassella Riserva 2009.

By the end of this taste adventure we got to thinking. Whether or not it’ll ever be possible to create ‘Life on Mars’, one thing is for sure. It will be many, many moons before the RED PLANET will be able to offer anything close to what we discovered in VALTELLINA .

So if you are looking for grape adventure at altitude, (no spacesuits needed), just lace up a good pair of hiking boots and make the ‘star trek’ to Valtellina…..and may the Sforzato be with you !

here you’ll find a serious galaxy of stars

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