Join us on Thursday December 5 at 6:30 as our tastebuds travel to one of the most heralded, but least known, winemaking regions in Italy to taste the amazing wines of NINO NEGRI. Established in 1897, Nino Negri is the premier estate producing wine in the Valtellina DOCG in Italy’s Lombardy region.
The estate specialty is Sfursat (“strained” or “forced”); a wine made from grapes harvested by trained pickers and dried for 100 days in the cool, dry, alpine air. This winemaking style combines the opulence of Amarone with the elegant complexity of Barolo.
The success of Nino Negri is due largely to the efforts of winemaker Casimiro Maule who has worked at the estate since 1971, his entire professional life. In 2007, Casimiro was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Gambero Rosso, the magazine authority in Italian wine.
The star and primary varietal here is Chiavennasca, the local name for Nebbiolo. The variety has been cultivated in the area for over 1,000 years and all Valtellina DOCG wines must contain at least 90% Chiavennasca.
The Nino Negri winery owns 31 hectares under vine in the most prestigious zones in the heart of such an important wine growing area. The vines here grow in marvellous terrains, on the mountain slopes, protected from the cold north wind, sun-kissed from dawn to dusk, supported by the contour farming method applied.
- SASSELLA: two hectares in the subzone taking its name from the eponymous chapel.
- GRUMELLO: eleven hectares of stunning wine country producing prized grapes thanks to the southward aspecting and the perfect altitude (450 metres).
- INFERNO: eleven hectares in the smallest of the four subzones of Valtellina Superiore, a name tied to the steep slope and high summer temperatures.
- FRACIA: seven hectares in the Valgella subzone.
The Valtellina is just north of Lake Como, in the province of Sondrio, protected from by northern chill by the massive mountain chain of the Rhaetian Alps.The valley covers 60km from east to west and sunny from morning to evening.There are four subzones that give their names to the different types of wines produced: Grumello, Sassella, Inferno, and Valgella.There are two DOCGs in this district: the most popular is the Valtellina Superiore and the other is the Sforzato di Valtellina
We will taste five of NINO NEGRI’S latest releases, paired with a five-course menu. Cost for this dinner is $65 per person, including all food and wine. RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED! Please call Stellina in person at 617-924-9475 to insure prompt confirmation.
CA’ BRIONE Bianco Alpi Retiche IG
A unique Valtellina white, the Nino Negri Ca Brione is a blend of late harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Incrocio Manzoni (Pinot Blanc/Riesling) with a small percentage of Nebbiolo vinified as white (10%).
Terroir: Ca Brione is selected from vineyards that sit at an elevation of 1200 feet within the commune of Tresivio. Due to the extremely steep and sandy/ gravelly soils yields are naturally very low.
Vinification: The earlier ripening Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes are harvested in late September and placed into wooden crates where they will dry until the Incrocio Manzoni and Chiavennasca are harvested in early October. Vinification is carried out separately for each varietal with a gentle pressing and fermentation and aging in a combination of 50% new and 50% older oak barriques. After eight months in barrel the wine is blended and bottled. 18,000 bottles produced.
The grapes for this particularly vigorous white wine were first harvested in 1986 in the vineyards of the Fracia cru in the municipalities of Teglio and Chiuro and the Tresivio basin.
Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chiavennasca
Tasting notes: This wonderful blend resembles Chardonnay the most, with a rich-and-creamy body and toasted notes throughout. Very light in color. Aromas recall crisp pear, lemon, coconut and creme brûlée. The first few sips are wildly tart yet elegant. The wine seems to get better with time: we re-corked it and discovered that it was even better on the second night
QUADRIO Valtellina Superiore DOCG
Quadrio is named for the 15th century Castello Quadrio di Chiuro that houses the Nino Negri cellars.
Terroir: Nino Negri Quadrio is sourced from the finest estate vineyards within the Valtellina Superiore DOCG. These south facing hillside vineyards sit at elevations above 1,100 feet and consist of soils of gravel, loose sand and silt.
Vinification: Grapes are allowed to hang until ultra-ripe and are finally harvested in early to mid October. The wine is traditionally vinified seeing 10 days of maceration on the skins followed by a cold fermentation in stainless steel. The wine is matured for 18 months in large French and Slavonian oak vats prior to bottling.
This wine is named after the 15th-century Castello Quadrio in Chiuro, which houses the Nino Negri winery. It belonged to Stefano Quadrio, the governor of Valtellina in the 1400s.
Tasting Notes: The 2015 Nino Negri Quadrio Valtellina Superiore DOCG opens with a bouquet of dark berry fruit beautifully intermingled with baking spice. It’s a fabulous aroma that also features some nice floral touches. Licorice and mint round it out nicely and we haven’t even take a sip yet. Doing so does not disappoint as this is a beauty of a wine. It’s smooth and savory with all the flavors from the nose combining beautifully in the mouth as well. Fine, slightly grippy tannins lead into the dry, really long, complex finish. Licorice and more berry fruit linger for quite a while after taking a sip. This is wonderful, really lovely stuff
LE TENSE Sassella Valtellina Superiore DOCG
The name “Le Tense” originated during the domination of the Swiss Three Grey Legions from 1512-1797. The best vineyards were “tense”; protected by the guardians of the vines, the “arbostrari.”
Terroir: The Nino Negri Le Tense is sourced from 20 acres of vineyards from the top crus of the Sassella subzones of Minè, Longini and Chiesa Sassella which are home to some of Valtellina’s oldest vineyards. Situated at elevations above 1200 feet these steep, terraced vineyards are made up of shallow, stony soils. Vines are very densely planted and yields are kept to a minimum.
Vinification: The ripe grapes are sorted and macerated for 4 days in temperature controlled tanks. Following fermentation the wine is aged for 18-20 months in a combination of large and small french oak casks. 70,000 bottles produced
During the rule of the Swiss Three Grey Leagues (1512 1797) and particularly under the terms stressed by the Statutes of Grosotto (SO) in 1544, the finest vineyards were referred to as tense, i.e.“protected” by the guardians of the vines, the arbostrari. This is the origin of the name “Le Tense”, which is representative of the finest vineyards of Sassella.
Tasting notes: Already shifting toward that lovely orange-brick color of aged Nebbiolo, this red wine simply blew me away. An impressive and intense nose offers notes reminding me of cherry, raspberry, smoked meat and black pepper spice. The aromas alone made me want to dig and start eating. Smooth and surprisingly elegant on the palate for a relatively young Nebbiolo, with the tannins already integrating nicely. The finish lasted like a long piano note. A brilliant wine, and likely the best Nebbiolo I’ve sampled this year.
INFERNO Valtellina Superiore DOCG
Terroir: The Nino Negri Inferno is sourced from the best crus of the Inferno subzones of Calvario, Sopragironi, Sottogironi and Ca Rossa. Grapes are densely cultivated high on the terraced hillside in poor, sandy soils and a due-south exposure.
Vinification: Grapes are hand-harvested in early October and transported to the winery where they are sorted and macerated at cold temperatures for five days in stainless steel vats. Aging occurs over a period of 20-24 months in a combination of 80hl and smaller 50hl French oak barrels.
Inferno is in the steepest slope of the five Valtellina Superiore DOCG subzones, in the municipalities of Poggiridenti and Tresivio in the province of Sondrio, on the Rhaetian Alps, along the right bank of the River Adda. Its name is derived from the ardous incline and the high summer temperatures caused by the sun reflected off the rock. “Bacchus’ Paradise is that red Inferno of embers and flames, with a scent infused with plums and blackberries, which is preferable to Paradise”, Abbot Morelli wrote in his short poem entitled “Dionisos”. Negri started producing Inferno in 1945
SFURSAT Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG
The Nino Negri Sfursat is a limited production of Valtellina’s best grapes that are naturally dried using traditional methods.
Terroir: Sourced from some of the finest vineyards in the appellation including Inferno, Grumello and Fracia sitting on the steep slopes of the Retiche Alps along the bank of the Adda river. Vineyards have a due-south exposure and sit in loose, gravelly soil at 900-1200 feet in elevation.
Vinification: The grapes undergo scrupulous sorting both in the vineyard prior to harvest and upon arrival at the winery after which they are placed in small crates to slowly dry through the autumn and early winter for a period of 100 days. The dried grapes are then crushed and macerated for 12 days followed by a short resting period in stainless steel. The wines are aged in French oak casks for 20-24 months before bottling.
Sfursat is derived from a selection of Valtellina’s finest grapes that are subjected to “forced” natural drying. The resulting wine is particularly beefy and alcoholic, and is produced in limited quantities only in the best vintages.
Tasting notes: A significant step-up on intensity and density compared to “Le Tense,” this Sforzato di Valtellina drinks like a young Barolo with shades of Amarone’s ferocious alcohol. The color is already a beautiful rust-red, with the nose recalling cooked strawberries, ultraripe raspberries, licorice and balsamic vinegar. Shockingly dry, dense and concentrated, yet somehow defensive at this age. The tannins reminded me a bit of black tea.