Despite global warming is a problem to deal with, it is also a climatic condition that has allowed us to rediscover wines made from vines located in inaccessible and cold areas. I don’t think I’m revealing any secret if I say that, among them, there is undoubtedly Valtellina with its Nebbiolo.
Basically, the products of those areas were characterized by a great subtlety, magnified by the fact that Nebbiolo, by itself, is an essential wine. This meant that wines made in those areas were often almost impalpable.
Today, with warmer summers even in the mountains, and with milder autumns, Valtellina wines have begun to show a little more flesh, becoming increasingly sought after by demanding palates.
Among the producers who have managed to create a precise and qualitative identity it is inevitable to mention the Barbacàn winery. For its date of birth, it is necessary to go back a long way, to Domenico Sega, the great-grandfather, who began to embrace viticulture first. For the official way to the winery known by its current name, however, we have to get to the great-grandson Angelo, on a date difficult to determine with accuracy. This vagueness is to be attributed to the fact that the overlapping of generations was not a rigid and disciplined handover, and the ancient winemakers gave vineyards to the youing ones with great difficulty. Anyway, coming to our days, since the 90s the winery, located in San Giacomo di Teglio, in the Valgella sub-area, 15 kilometers from Sondrio, is led by the sons of Angelo: Luca and Matteo.
It is to Teglio that we owe the name of the entire denomination because Valtellina is a term that comes from the union of the noun “valley” and the adjective “Tellina”, or “of Tellum”, the ancient Latin name of Teglio.
To explain the importance of this wine-growing area, it is not enough to take into account the high average quality of the wines produced. The most recent ampelographic studies, in fact, seem to show that the Nebbiolo grape was born right here, where it takes the name of Chiavennasca. It would be the mutation and the spontaneous crossing of vines such as Rossola, Bugnola and Pignola.
The latter are the pride of the Barbacàn winery, which continues to carry out a valuable job of safeguarding, cultivating them even if now they are phenotypes almost completely forgotten.
In terms of work, the winery has a total of 6.5 hectares of land, arranged on typical terraces at a height ranging from 300 to 500 meters, managed with maximum ecology and minimal interventionism.
Respect for the inherited ampelographic heritage is a work to be carried out with dedication, preserving, taking care of and reproducing, by mass selection, all the biotypes of Chiavennasca present in the vineyards. Not to mention the commitment devoted to safeguarding plants over 100 years old and prefillossera present here and there in the vineyards.
The basis of this work is the choice to enhance biodiversity, to try to give wines a personality not homologated.
Ecology is a concept that, of course, also applies to the work of the winery, with the choice of spontaneous fermentation, without temperature control, by means of indigenous yeasts. Obviously they do not even proceed with the classic operations of clarification, filtration and stabilization.
One of Barbacàn’s iconic labels is Valtelina Superiore DOCG Valgella Pizamej, produced in the homonimous vineyard. Pizamej means “pointed”, and this says a lot about the great slope of the vineyards planted there, at 500 meters of altitude.
To produce this wine it alla starts from a careful selection of the best grapes, around mid-October, to be taken to the cellar for destemming and delicate pressing.
The must ferments on its indigenous yeasts with long maceration on the skins (up to 3 months), in stainless steel containers.
After the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, the wine is poured into large Austrian oak barrels, where it will rest for a year, before bottling and marketing.
The 2017 vintage is a discretely concentrated ruby, with a good consistency, and an olfactory range that opens on notes of date, mulberry, pomegranate and Tarocco orange, followed by lavender, Brise parfum rose, tobacco fire cured and carob, with final echoes of cowhide leather, myrrh incense, blood/ferrous hints, and musky undergrowth.
The mouthfeel is austere, almost icy; it is not a “one sip takes another” wine, but a delicious puzzle to solve. It is a wine that should be expected and that reveals, slowly and very discreetly, one detail at a time; a beautiful puzzle that involves the brain forcing it to connect the various clues collected sip after sip.
The opening is tannic and dark, then, slowly, there is a touch of glycerin followed, with the expectation of those who want to be espected, from the balsamic component counterbalanced by the blood/ ferrous, the penultimate tactile descriptor, which anticipates the iodine/mineral closure.
In the end everything comes back (it does indeed!), but it’s necessary to wait: this is a wine that is diametrically opposed to the so-called vin de soif, easy, immediate and, alas, often without nasal and palatal hardening.
The closure is on the dark fruit mixed with the blood/ferrous sensation, and has an almost excessive duration, considering that we are talking about a wine that costs around 20/25 euros.
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