Double Secret Winery: Giorgio Gianatti in Valtellina #ItalianFWT

Chiavennasca from Valtellina is the same grape as Nebbiolo

In Valtellina it’s called Chiavennasca, but that color gives it away – Nebbiolo!

Valtellina, Do You Mean Valpolicella?
Ask most wine drinkers, even serious enthusiasts, where is Valtellina? You’ll get a blank stare or a shrug of the shoulders. You need to be a pretty serious Nebbiolo enthusiast to have heard of Valtellina.

Valtellina map courtesy of Tasting Panel and Somm Journal.

No, I Mean Valtellina
Valtellina is tucked in the Adda river valley in the foothills of the Swiss Alps in far north-central Italy. It’s a shorter drive to St. Moritz than to Milan. Even the grape variety is secret: Chiavennasca.  Except that Chiavennasca is more commonly known as Nebbiolo.  The vineyards are carved out of terraces on the steep south facing slopes North of the river. It’s a small area with a narrow strip of vineyard land. All the vineyard work must be done by hand. It’s no wonder that the wines of Valtellina may be little known. Surprisingly, they are not overly expensive given the amount of hand labor required!

Azienda Agricola Giamatti Giorgio Valtellina Superiore

Valtellina is a lesser known home for Nebbiolo. The wines show their region beautifully

Nebbiolo: the King of Grapes in Valtellina
Valtellina produces almost exclusively red wines, made of Chiavennasca, the local name for the Nebbiolo grape. Local wines made with Chiavennasca have developed different characteristics from their cousins in Barolo or Barbaresco. Less tannic and powerful, the nebbiolos of Valtellina are more delicate, with a lot of elegance. Because of the topography and the terraces, mechanization is impossible and everything in the vineyards is done by hand, from growing the grape to harvesting.

Key Valtellina Wine Denominations
In Valtellina, you’ll find the following main DOC and DOCG wines:

  • Rosso di Valtellina DOC (made with at least 90% nebbiolo); and
  • Valtellina Superiore DOCG (at least 90% nebbiolo, and a minimum aging time of 24 months in barrel)
  • Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG, an appassimento wine (like Amarone). The grapes used in the Sforzato di Valtellina come from the highest vineyards in altitude. The minimum level of alcohol has to reach 14 percent and the wines need to be aged a minimum of 20 months in oak.

Valtellina Wine Growers
Nino Negri (previous posts here, here, and here) and Arpepe (previous post here) are both good size producers in the region, and you may have some luck finding their wines in many markets. Giorgio Gianatti will be more difficult to find. He farms just 2.5 hectares (5.5 acres) of steeply terraced land in the Grumello vineyard in Valtellina. His wines are imported by Balanced Wine Selections, so you may be able to track some down if you’re interested.

Here’s a bit of information from Balanced Wine Selections on Giorgio Giamatti:

“Giorgio Gianatti has been in the vineyards since 1978 when he began making wine alongside his father. In 1983 Giorgio put out his first vintage. The Nebbiolo for Gianatti’s Grumello comes from a two-hectare parcel known as Vigna Sassina. La Sassina is on the eastern side of Grumello near the border with Inferno. Giorgio’s vines sit east of a large portion of Ar.Pe.Pe.’s Grumello vines in the lower, historic section of Grumello at the foot of the Castel Grumello.  South and east facing the two hectares today appear as one contiguous parcel — something of a rarity in the hills of Valtellina — but it is in fact the amalgamation of over 35 different tracts; some as small as 100 meters.  Years of piecing small plots together.

Like most of the terrain in Valtellina, Giorgio’s Grumello vineyards are frighteningly steep slopes on which to grow grapes. Each day is a true test as this is a hard place to make wine. Add to the rigors and stresses that come with winemaking on flat terrain the need to rebuild rock terraces by hand in order to keep from seeing your vines slide off the hillside. This is a place where true character comes through in the wines because without it, you wouldn’t make wine here.

Traditional in style. Not as a matter of fashion but as a way of life.”

Az. Agr. Gianatti Giorgio Valtellina Superiore “Grumello” 2009 ($23 at Sunfish Cellars)
Eye: Clear, pale ruby with a classic Nebbiolo orange rim
Nose: Clean, initially a bit smoky with shy cherry fruit behind. After being open a few hours, ripe, sweet cherry fruit (Julie called cherry cough drops) comes to the front with smoke behind.
Mouth: Dry, medium body with medium acidity and medium tannins. The tannins are elegant and not at all rough. Sweet cherry fruit with a firm tannic backbone and nice long finish.

When You Visit Valtellina
If you haven’t already guessed, I have marked Valtellina on my future “must visit” list. In case you decide to join me or precede me, here’s a little information to get you started:

Italian Food Wine and Travel Group Shares Valtellina Secrets
Our Italian Food Wine and Travel group has been searching out Valtellina gems and shares their findings below. Want to know more? Join our chat on Twitter on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 10am CST at the hashtag #ItalianFWT. We’d love to have you join us!

A Dish to Enjoy with Your Valtellina Superiore
Valtellina wines are a little higher toned and less tannic than their cousins from the Langhe region in the Piedmont. They pair beautifully with a wide range of meat and pasta dishes. This braised beef with capers was a delicious partner for the Giorgio Giamatti Valtellina Superiore.

Braised Beef with Capers

Valtellina is in Lombardia, not Piedmont, but I love Matt Kramer’s Passion for Piedmont cookbook when it comes to foods which naturally pair with Nebbiolo. You might think this sauce is similar to beef bolognese or other pasta sauce, but it isn’t really a pasta sauce, it’s a braised beef sauce.  I think it tastes best over egg noodles or even farro.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. sirloin steak, cut into very small, walnut size pieces
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgion olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 – 14.5 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)
  • 8 oz. dry red wine
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, plus more for final garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp salt-packed capers, rinsed and smashed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Cooking in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan), brown all the steak pieces in the EVOO over medium heat.
  • Reduce the heat, add the onions to soften, then finally add the garlic.
  • Add the wine first to deglaze the pot, then add the tomatoes, sage and bay leaf.
  • Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 1 hour.
  • Add the capers and cood for another hour.  Add water or a little stock if needed.
  • Adjust final seasoning with salt and pepper
  • serve over egg noodles, rice, farro, or polenta
  • Garnish with finely sliced fresh sage leaves

Delicious braised beef & capers with Valtellina Superiore at www.foodwineclick.com

Comments
8 Responses to “Double Secret Winery: Giorgio Gianatti in Valtellina #ItalianFWT”
  1. Very interesting. You have peaked my curiosity about the Sforzato. Thanks for the Valtellina introduction.

  2. Wendy says:

    The Nino Negri is what I was, finally, able to locate. My source also found another bottle but it was pretty pricey. I don’t know which winery that was from. I should have paid closer attention. I can’t believe you have been able to find so many wines from this region. I had a heck of a time. PS…Loving that braised ragu.

  3. culinarycam says:

    I didn’t know – till reading this – that we both went with beef and capers! I guess I wasn’t so far off in my pairing. LOL. Can’t wait to track down more bottles from Valtellina.

  4. Great information about the Valtellina wine region Jeff and your dish looks great. Beef and capers? Who knew?

  5. Jen Martin says:

    Looks fantastic! Had you had wines from this region before? I know you also enjoy Nebbiolo like me

  6. I absolutely love this pairing. My mout is watering. I’m a fan of Nebbiolo, although I don’t have any experience with Valtennia. I like it’s brightness and acidity in the glass. So perfect with pasta! Cheers!

  7. Nice article, hope you manage to visit Valtellina soon…it is a beautiful place. Have not tried this wine yet, but will look for it here next time I go for a Valtellina wine. 🙂

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