A WOW! Valtellina (and not the one you think)

best valtellina infernoI recently received an exuberant e-blast from a respected colleague, a top wine professional in Los Angeles (for whom I have the utmost admiration). In it, he sang the praises of one of my favorite Valtellina producers.

It’s only available in a handful of New York restaurants, he wrote, and he was thrilled to be pouring it at an upcoming wine dinner at the super hip LA restaurant where he works as wine director.

He even made a very self-aware and bold statement: although it’s virtually unknown to American wine lovers, he wrote, it’s one of the best wineries in Italy.

Italian wine insiders know the wine he was talking about.

But few remember that ArPePe is the current incarnation of the historic Pelizzatti winery. If you leaf through Italian wine monographs from the 1990s, it’s often referred to as the “second label” of Nino Negri (see this 2007 post by Alfonso). Since that time, the new generations (Pelizzatti and Perego) have converted to chemical-free farming and have begun making some of the best Valtellina available today.

I love ArPePe and have written about it here on numerous occasions (the wine is actually available in a lot of states beyond New York, including Texas; and btw, locals pronounce it ahr-peh-peh and not ahr-peh-PEH with a false and hypercorrective stress on the last syllable).

But when I read my colleague’s email it occurred to me: most Americans simply haven’t tasted a lot of Valtellina. And unless they collect Italian wine tomes from the 1950s and 60s (like me), most Americans aren’t aware that Valtellina was the top expression of Nebbiolo before Langa wines — Barolo and Barbaresco — rose to prominence beginning in the 1970s.

On Saturday night, I opened a bottle that was sent to me by one of my clients (an importer for whom I compose tasting and background notes; he likes to keep a low profile and so I am not going to name him here). It was the 2006 Balgera Valtellina Inferno (above) and man, this wine knocked our socks off.

It was lithe and nimble in the glass and its confident eastern spice notes and elegant tannin were perfect for the griddle-fired medium-rare cheeseburgers that we served on toasty wholewheat buns.

We only drank half the bottle: the next night, it was even better paired with some fontina and crusty bread.

Our tasting note: WOW! The freshness of this wine and its depth and nuance of flavor just blew us away.

I don’t want this post to sound like too much of a plug for my client. But if you love Nebbiolo, you need to taste this wine. And it weighs in at less than $30 retail (if I’m not mistaken).

Sadly, it’s not available in Texas and I’m not seeing any availability on WineSearcher.com beyond an older vintage of their rosso at Chambers (one of the best wineshops in the U.S., btw) in New York. But I’m going to try to get my hands on some this fall when my wine club becomes active again.

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