Recommended Growing Regions:
Big, bold, tannic red wines
Grilled meats and stews; dry, aged cheeses
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Relatively unknown to North Americans are the wines of Valtellina, in the far north of Lombardy, at the foot of the Alps near the Swiss border. These steeply sloped, terraced vineyards were originally home to a host of indigenous varieties but today the wines made here are almost universally based on Nebbiolo (called Chiavennasca here). As might be expected from a relatively cool area, the wines are brighter and more vivacious than their Piedmont counterparts, with less weight and alcoholic richness. Sfursat is a wine made in Valtellina from dried Nebbiolo grapes, a la Amarone.
Of course, some of the best Nebbiolo's come from the Alba area. These Nebbiolo wines may be partly or entirely declassified Barolo and Barbaresco (i.e., juice from young vines or lots that are not up to the producer's standards for its flagship bottlings), or they may come from vineyards outside the closely delimited Barolo and Barbaresco zones. In either case, those Nebbiolo wines are bottled and released much earlier and are suitable for drinking young. Consistently good and often surprisingly affordable Nebbiolo's come from producers like Elio Altare, Aldo Conterno, Paolo Conterno, Bruno Giacosa, Elio Grasso, Prunotto and Produttori del Barbaresco, just to name a few.
2009 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra
In the 1980s, a group of maverick winegrowers determined to change the face of Barolo. Led by Elio Altare, Domenico Clerico, and Angelo Gaja, the "Modernists" eschewed the hard-edged, dried-flower characteristics of Nebbiolo, opting instead for a richer, more fruit-forward take on the variety.