On Saturday night, Tracie P and I had the great fortune to taste some older vintages of Ar.Pe.Pe., including this 1999 Sassella Rocce Rosse, thanks to a generous distributor rep who dropped off the wines for us after a trade tasting.
Ar.Pe.Pe. has generated a lot of buzz in the U.S. over the last year and a half after making a landing and a big splash in New York, where it’s been a favorite among buyers and bloggers.
But Ar.Pe.Pe. has been around for a long time. It’s one of the oldest continuously operating wineries in the Valtellina.
When the “real wine” pioneer Mario Soldati wrote about the estate in the early 1970s, he notes that Pellizzati family had been bottling there since 1860 and that Arturo Pellizzati (son of the winemaker at the time, Guido) represented the fourth generation of family’s winemaking legacy.
The current winery is named after Arturo and an amalgam of his children’s surnames: Ar[turo] Pe[llizzati] Pe[rego].
Arturo also appears in Sheldon Wasserman’s landmark Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1985), receiving good, if not outstanding, marks from the author (who openly states his preference for Langa and Novarese expressions of Nebbiolo).
Today, the wines are still made in large chestnut casks, the same way Arturo made them.
Where the great wines of Langa tend toward earthiness, the best Valtellina — in my experience — are defined by nuanced spice.
It was such a thrill to get to taste older vintages of some of Ar.Pe.Pe.’s top wines.
And while we also loved the 2001 Grumello Buon Consiglio, it was the 1999 Sassella Rocce Rosse that contained the “unbearable lightness” that I look for in the greatest wines of the world.
Delicate in its aroma and nuanced in its flavor, the fourteen-year-old wine had that ineffable balance of power and elegance, with notes of faded cinnamon that played against wild berry.
Its fruit was bright and its acidity very much alive: this wine, I imagine, has many more wonderful years ahead of it in its evolution.
What a wine!
The wines aren’t here in Texas yet but they’re on the way (and will likely be here by the fall).
It’s another example of how trade forces and a new national awareness among Texas wine professionals are opening up our market.
I can’t go into details of how the wines will get here (because it’s not my place to reveal such information) but I can say that young Italian winemakers continue to search for alternatives to the monolithic channels of the past.
The Texas wine culture is only going to be better for it and I can’t wait to get my hands on some more of this superb “mountain Nebbiolo.”