Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lombardy: Vines and Views of Valtellina Valley

Looking at Lombardy

Milan, Italy (Lombardy)
Lombardy is a large region in the north of Italy that borders Switzerland.  The region is comprised of the Bergamo, Brecia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Mantua, Milan, Monza, Brianza, Pavia, Sondrio and Varese provinces.  Milan is not only the capital city of Lombardia, but it is also the industrial, commercial, financial, and according to most, the fashion capital of Italy. Milan is also where you'll find the duomo, Santa Maria della Grazia.  Lombardy's port is Darsena.  Several UNESCO World Heritage sites are in Matua and Sabbioneta is considered the Renaissance city in Lombardy.   Lombardy is also the home of beautiful Lake Como, Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore.  From the alps, mountains and rolling hills to its lakes, parks and small towns, Lombardy's landscape is diverse in many ways.
Bellagio, Lago di Como, Lombardia

Gastronomy di Lombardia
Brisola 
The cuisine of Lombardy is rather diverse, as it is a mixture of several different cultures.  For the Costoletta alla Milanese or Veal OssoBuco (sometimes referred to as Veal Osso Bucco), which translates to vitello or veal 'bone with a hole in it,' is a dish that is originally from Milan, but known all over. Every part, including the calves, brains, lungs and liver, of the vitello is enjoyed in Lombardy, whether its fried, stewed or prepared another way. Brisola is salted beef served in thin slices with lemon juice and olive oil. Milanese, staples include veal, beef, polenta, rice, and buckwheat. Cold roasted beef or veal is thinly sliced and often served along with lemon juice, and served as an appetizer.

Pizzoccheri (Buckwheat pasta)
Pizzoccheri Pasta Dish
Veal, beef or pork is prepared along with vegetables to flavor either the rice or polenta, where these are eaten more than pasta dishes.Nevertheless, pasta is also enjoyed. Lombardy is known for cooking with buckwheat, and the flour is used to make pizzoccheri, or a brown colored buckweat pasta.  Typical and unique forms of pasta for this region are tortelli de zucca, ravioli (casonsei), marubini and agnolini.   Soups and stews are also made.

Linguine allo Scoglio
Bellagio Italy
Fruitti di mare, or seafood is not typically eaten in Lombardia, although it is readily available near the lakes and port areas.  There, you will find an abundance of fish and other seafood dishes, like linguine allo scoglio.  In terms of dolci, or sweets, the sweet bread, pannetone, is eaten regularly along with other desserts like offelle and bussolano.  As with all regions in Italy, olive oil (Garda PDO and Laghi Lombardi PDO) cured meats and cheeses are staples. Lombardy is known for its Salame Brianza PDO, Zampone di Modena PGI, Mortadella Bologna PGI, Bresaola della Valtellina PGI, and other salume.  The region is also known for it's delicious Bitto, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano, Provolone Val Padana, Valtellina Casera, Parmigiano Reggiano and other cheeses, all with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.

Lombardy is a great region for wine production.  There is the world famous Franciacorta, which is the best known for its top shelf, remarkable sparkling wines.  The Lombardy region produces five DOCG wines: Franciacorta, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico, Scanzo or Moscato di Scanzo, Sforzato di Valtellina or Sfursat di Valtellina and Valtellina Superiore.

Lombardy's Valtellina Valley




Bormio Ski Resort &
Thermal Spa
The Valtellina Valley is the alpine region located in the far north of Lombardy, Italy and bordering Switzerland. Therefore, it is considered a prime area for trade and a gateway for travel and business between Italy and central Europe. Valtellina boasts diverse landscapes, as it is not only a green region, but it also has snow-top mountains peeking out left and right.  Naturally, the Valtellina Valley is very pleasing to the eyes, as it has numerous parks, waterfalls and nature preserves. Moreover, Valtellina is home to some of the best skiing resorts, such as Bormio (Ski Resort & Thermal Baths), Livigno and Madesimo.  This geographical variety lends itself to the Valtellina being an ideal destination for nature lovers as well as sports enthusiasts, as one can also enjoy hiking, horseback riding, biking, canoeing and more.
Downtown Valtellina

Duomo, Tirano,
Valtellina, Italy
We spent some time in one of Valtellina's main towns, Tirano, where we ate lots of pizzoccheri pasta and visited mele (apple) farms.  Tirano, and other towns and villages in Valtellina offer something for everyone's taste. There are medieval castles, palaces, churches, museums, artsy areas, vineyards and more.  But wait...did we say vineyards? Ah, Valtellina is also famous for something else: Wine.

Valtellina is most conducive for wine growing for several reasons.  First, there's location, location, location.  The alpine location allows for prime exposure to the sun due to the slopes and the temperature range between day and night are excellent for the vines.  Due Valtellina's geography, the wine is grown in a terrace-farming-like fashion. As such, machines cannot be used.  Each grape has to be handpicked. While the hills, slopes and terraces create good soil condition, they only allow for limited yield. In fact, the average vineyard age is over 60 years, which makes for strong, quality yields.  Hand-picked wine requires lots of time, effort, attention and care. Therefore, quality is emphasized, and not quantity. 
Terrace style growing in Valtellina

Ultimately, the optimal wine growing climate and conditions make Valtellina the region where the most viticulture on hilly slopes occurs in all of Italy and most of Europe. Valtellina is the second largest area in the world to produce Nebbiolo.  Valtellina has a produces a DOC and a DOCG for its Superiore wines which must contain 90% Chiavennasca grapes (the local name for Nebbiolo) in the four sub-districts of Grumello, Inferno, Sassella and Valgella. Due to the climate and soil, Valtellina's Nebbiolos are quite different from the ones in Piedmont.  Nevertheless, these Nebbiolos are excellent, quality wines.  
Photo Courtesy of Vineyards at Aldo Rainoldi
The Wining Hour's Regional Selection:
As Valtellina is Lombardy's premiere red wine region, we decided to taste three wines from the award-winning vineyards of Aldo Rainoldi.  From Casa Vinicola Aldo Rainoldi, we tasted Sassella Riserva, Inferno Riserva and Sfursat di Valtellina, all from the 2010 vintage. Naturally, each of these wines were made from the nebbiolo grape, locally known as the chiavennasca grape.  As we were in the region that is enamored with vitello, or veal, we paired our wines with a delicious Milenese veal chop.  


Rainoldi Sassella Riserva Valtellina Superiore DOCG is one of the best known nebbiolos in the area. This wine had an intense ruby appearance and a nose of prunes and spicy vanilla.  On the palate were notes of prunes and leather.  This wine was dry and tannic with good structure and a lasting finish. Sassella Riserva went through malolactic fermentation in stainless steel, aged 2-3 years in Slavonian oak barrels and then was bottled and remained in a dark, cool cellar for at least 9 months. Sassella Riserva would pair nicely with red meat and regional cheeses.  13.5% ABV.




Rainoldi Valtellina Superiore Inferno Riserva DOCG was quite delicious! This ruby wine was very aromatic, with a floral rose bouquet. It was a juicy, very fruit forward wine with stewed prunes, spiced cherries and chocolate on the palate.  Inferno Riserva went through the same vinification and aging process as the aforementioned Sassella.  This wine would be excellent with red meat, game meats rich pasta dishes and hard local cheeses. Rainoldi Inferno Riserva was velvety smooth with a lingering finish.  As this wine could age much more, it was very tasty as is.  This 13.5% ABV wine was definitely my favorite from the Valtellina region. One can only wonder if this wine is called "Inferno" because it was hot as hell!


Rainoldi Valtellina Ca'Rizziere Sfursat is an award-winning, bold and audacious wine, full of flavor.  This full-bodied, yet elegant wine is made using only the best nebbiolo grapes. Fermentation and maturation occurs for 16-18 months in French oak, followed by bottle aging for at least another 24 months. Sfursat di Valtellina is full of character and sweet tannins.  Garnet red to the eye, intense fruit and tobacco aromas on the nose and ripe, drunken fruits and licorice on the palate. This wine is well-balanced with a persistent finish.  Ca'Rizziere Sfursat is an Amarone-style wine, which definitely has its place in the wine cellar. This is a wine to drink now or to age a bit more and enjoy with a hearty steak or the regional Bitto PDO cheese. With 15% ABV, Sfursat is definitely a heavy-hitter.  Anyone who enjoys a hearty, powerful wine will appreciate this one.

These Rainoldi Valtellina Superiore DOCG wines, along with a tasty veal chop was the way to go!
Costoletta di Vitello Alla Milanese

Have you been to the Lombardy region of Italy?  Do not miss the Valtellina Valley and it's wines.
Also,

Join our Twitter chat Saturday May 7th at 11am EST @ #ItalianFWT to chat about Lombardia. Plus, don't miss next month as we feature our last region of Italy, Liguria.  This will complete our first full tour of ItalySee you June 4th!

Vino Travels -  Chiavennasca of Lombardia vs. Nebbiolo of Piedmont
The Wining Hour -  Vines and Views of Valtellina Valley
Culinary Adventures of Camilla - Sbrisolana and Cantina Casteggio Barbera
Girl's Gotta Drink -  Visit Franciacorta Wine Region: Italian Sparkling Wine For the Win!
Enofylz Wine Blog- Franciacorta: The World Class Italian Sparkling Wine of Lombardy #ItalianFWT
Food Wine Click - Valtellina: Another Expression of Nebbiolo
Orna O'Reilly -   Sirmione: Pearl of Lake Garda
The Palladian Traveler - Spritz Campari: Milan's Passionate Red Cocktail
Cooking Chat - Grilled Halibut with Parsley Pesto and Wine from Lombardia
L'Occasion -  36 Hours in Lombardy
Vigneto Communications - Lombardia: A Wealth of Wine

About The Wining Hour

The Wining Hour writes about wine, Italy and global travel.  The Wining Hour boutique caters to wine-lovers across the globe by offering all wine-related items.  The Wining Hour markets unique wine décor and furnishings, accessories, glassware, barware, wine racks, storage and cooling options, games, gifts and more. The Wining Hour also hosts #wininghourchat on Twitter (@wininghourchat) on Tuesday's at 9 p.m. EST.(For more, see links at the top of this page)
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