2018 Rivetti & Lauro, Uì Sassella 298, Valtellina Superiore DOCG, Lambardy, Italy.
Coming from one of Italy’s most picturesque and unique wine growing areas, the Rivetti & Lauro Uì Sassella, Valtellina Superiore DOCG is a beautifully expressive Alpine Nebbiolo, which is also known in this parts as Chiavennasca, it shows off a smooth layering of brandied cherry, damson plum, balsamic strawberry, brambleberry and blood orange fruits, all supported nicely by mineral and floral tones, sweet and sour herbs, cedar, loamy earth, briar spices, crushed roses and anise. This Rivetti & Lauro Uì Sassella Valtellina Superiore DOCG is not quite as concentrated as the last wine I tried from this producer, he 2012 Uì Inferno, which comes from an ultra steep sun soaked site, Vigna 117, a single terraced parcel, but definitely similar and remarkably elegant by nature. Over the years I’ve become a big fan of Valtellina wines and this beautifully textural and pure high elevation version really hits the spot with bright acidity and and depth, it is an excellent example of the Cru Sassella, which is set on combination of sand and clay soils with high density plantings on the classic terraces. This wine, 100% Nebbiolo, is hand harvested with small yields, and a careful selection of the grapes, which are all de-stemmed. The fermentation takes place in small stainless steel tanks with a cool maceration period and the aging, close to 24 months is done mainly large 30HL casks and some French oak barriques, after which the wine is rested in bottle for another couple of years. Valtellina also has an Amarone style DOCG Nebbiolo wine called Sforzato, where the grapes see a period of drying on straw mats to give a hedonistic density and richness of flavors, it is a fabulous rarity I highly recommend Nebbiolo fans search out. If you’d not discovered Valtellina, above Milan and the lake district, yet, it is a great time to get started and this wine should be one on your list of must try options from this intriguing part of Northern Italy. The wines here are age worthy with supple tannins and Rivetti & Lauro say the wines tell the tale centuries of history and local traditions, that are infused in the place. These vineyards are the largest terraced wine-growing area in the whole of the Italian mountains and its remote location make it an under the radar gem and a bit of a mystery to uncover with glorious rewards in the bottles.

The Valtellina region, as mentioned in my reviews from here and prior notes on Rivetti & Lauro wines, is a high Alpine valley in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland and renown for its mountain Nebbiolo wines, which have really gained worldwide attention in recent times, even though this area has flourished since Roman times. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the Valtellina region belonged to what was know as the Three Leagues (the “Grey Leagues”), which was then a mutual-defense zone that was independent of Switzerland, but was part the easternmost Swiss Canton of Graubünden. This remote area in which German, Romansh, Lombard and Italian languages are all spoken, the region became known variously as Veltlin, or Westtirol (West Tyrol) in the 1800s, but now proudly Italian. Interestingly, because of Valtellina’s remote location and easy to defend terrain, during the last months of World War II, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and other diehard fascist leaders of the Italian Social Republic (RSI) proposed making a “last stand” against the advancing Allied forces in the Valtellina, but their plans never got a chance to came into being and the area became much more well known for its wine culture. As noted, In Valtellina, the wines are mostly made from Chiavennasca (the local name of Nebbiolo), along with some percentage other local varieties such as Rossola Nera of which is permitted up to 20% in the DOC and just 10% for the DOCG bottlings like this one. Grapes, by local rules must be small yields for the utmost quality and the finished wines have to be aged for at least 24 months prior to their release or three 3 years if labeled a Riserva bottling, also they need to be at least 11% natural alcohol. The yields for the DOCG wines are restricted as well to promote concentration, with requirements of a minimum alcohol level for the DOCG wine at 12%. The Cru Villages for red wines in Valtellina are Grumello, Sassella, Inferno, where this Rivetti & Lauro comes from, Valgella, and Maroggia. I have added Rivetti & Lauro to my list of Valtellina producers to follow, along with another new favorite, Tenuta Scerscé, as well as long time favorites Nino Negri, Nobili, Alfio Mozzi, Conti Sertoli Salis and in particular Ar. Pe Pe (Arpepe), which are a bit easier to find here in the states.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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