Hidden treasures: Wines from Valtellina

I like wines from all over the world, I’m not a wine snob nor am I too chauvinistic but most of my preferred wines come from Italy 🙂 . That I’m a big fan of Valpolicella wines you already found out when I spoke to you about my wine trip through the Valpolicella wine region. The wine region that is on top of my list (and I have to admit also lays closest to my heart) is Valtellina! It is not only my preferred region because my family roots are here (most of my family lives in Valtellina), but also because this region produces the most wonderful wines!!

Valtellina

valtellina 2

For many people it is still an unknown region and lots of times a forgotten region, unfairly if you ask me. I’m also not sure why this region isn’t more well known? Valtellina is a small region in the moutains in the North of Lombardy somewhere inbetween the Como lake and the Swiss border. Valtellina is mostly known amongst ski lovers as Valtellina has some of the most renowned ski areas in the world with towns like Bormio and Livigno (also known as it is taxfree) as the most famous.  Every time I visit this region I fall in love with it over and over again.

Bormio bagni caldi

Bormio 2000

Bormio 2000 2

The wines in the Valtellina region are mostly made with the Chiavennasca grape that is better known as Nebbiolo… YES indeed the grapes used to make that other Italian beauty called Barolo 🙂 . In this region however the wines go with names like Sassella, Inferno, Valgella and Sforzato which are bascially the names of area’s between  Villapunta and Tirano with exception for Sforzato. The Sforzato wine is the Valtellina version of Valpolicella’s Amarone. Sforzato gets made in the same way by using partially ‘dried’ grapes aka the appassimento method (The drying process concentrates sugars and results in higher alcohol wines).

apassimento by consorziovini valtellina

vineyards by valtellina

The wine estate that has put the Valtellina wines on the map on an International level (and I think everybody agrees on this) is Nino Negri. I’ve known Nino Negri my whole life as my dad also used to sell their wines in his restaurant… mainly because back then you didn’t find any other producers from the region in Belgium, but also that to my opinion they were and still are one of the best producers in the area. I wouldn’t be able to name a favorite from their gamma as I like all, but if you are a wine lover do try their Le Tense, Mazer, Sfurzat and if the budget allows it the 5 stelle which is an indescribable beautiful wine. It does warm up my heart that more and more wines from other wine producers from Valtellina found their way to Belgium  or even to other countries all over the world. All or most Valtellina winemakers have joined forces and created a consortium that represents the whole wine region. I see this as a positive thing as together they are stronger then separately.

Nino Negri

5 stelle

When I am in the region I do always try to taste as many “new” producers (or maybe just ones that I didn’t know about). A few weeks ago (as you might have see on my FB or Instagram) I was in Valtellina for a family visit with my dad. Normally my babygirl was coming along, but unfortunately she became ill the night before leaving… so she stayed at home with my wife. I was sad she couldn’t come, but at the other hand this way we had the liberty of visiting some wine estates 🙂 🙂 If it were up to me I would have visited many more, but our main purpose for travelling to Valtellina was to visit family and the vineyard visits had to happen in between the family visits.

family time valtellina

Nonna

Initially I planned to visit 3 vineyards: Rivetti & Lauro, Balgera and Menegola. However we sadly didn’t manage to visit the last (Menegola) due to time issues, but I’m really sad about it because I was really looking forward to it… next time without any doubt!!!

menegola07

The diffrences between the Rivetti & Lauro estate and Balgera couldn’t have been bigger. Rivetti is only producing wines for 3 years, whereas Balgera was one of the first estates to make wine in the region and it now already the 5th generation of winemakers. Balgera is rather a classical style wine maker who respects the traditions, Rivetti on the other hand is a more modern estate that experiments with new methods and grapes…. I wouldn’t say that I prefer one over the other. They both have a different style of wine and depending on the circumstances I’ll prefer drinking one over the other 🙂 but I guess that’s the case with every wine

Balgera rivetti & lauro

To be continued….

Refined mountain food

The connection between mountains and food doesn’t lead to the thought of refined food (and surely not ‘light’ food), but it is possible! As you might know, my family in Italy comes from beautiful Valtellina (North of Lombardy) located in the heart of the Italian Alps close to the Swiss border. It is also nice to know that even after 31 years I travel here, my family always succeeds in letting us discover great new places in the area… thanks to my zia Loredana and Barbara this year’s discovery was restaurant Fracia. Ristorante Fracia thanks its name because of its location in the middle of the Nino Negri Fracia vines. As the vines are located in the altitude you can imagine the beautiful panoramic views you have up there. The moment arrived at the entrance of this restaurant, I already had a feeling it would be good (see picture below)

Fracia 3

Ristorante Fracia will prove to you mountain food can be lighter and more refined than you think! What ristorante Fracia tries to do is serve dishes most people in the mountains wouldn’t be eating every day and serves a few traditional dishes with a twist. The red wire between all dishes is the use of fresh ingredients, homemade products and if possible most of them local! FYI me and my dad enjoyed our meal so much we returned the day after we had our family lunch. So I guess we liked it 🙂

Fracia 4

Fracia 7

Fracia 9

 Fracia 16

Fracia 27

Fracia 11

Fracia 35

Fracia 43

A dish on the menu and you should try when you are in Valtellina is Pizzoccheri (slightly heavy) that also happens to be one of my favourites. I didn’t have at Fracia as I already had it at my aunt Barbara’s place, but if it is as good as the other dishes you’re safe. As we ate there 2 days in a row I think we tried almost all the dishes on the menu :-). Feast your eyes on the dishes we had…

Fracia food 2 Fracia Food 5 Fracia Food 7 Fracia Food 9  Fracia Food 15Fracia Food 10 Fracia Food 17  Fracia Food 11 Fracia Food 19 Fracia Food 22Fracia Food 13

Although all dishes might look simple, but if you want to prepare them in the correct way it is more difficult than you might think! Our compliments to chef Luca Cantoni as he did a really good job  of making us an even bigger fan of the region than we already were. The biggest surprise was definitely the fresh tuna, I liked  the fact that  Chef Luca combined this non mountain product with local ingredients like the the finferli mushrooms . BTW the tuna itself was cooked with perfection!! Damn, this is the reason why I don’t write as many blogposts anymore as I used too…I always become sooooo hungry when I write blogposts like this (especially seeing the pictures) with a result I will go out to eat more and my intent to eat less is all out of the window 😉 😉 Aaah well you only live once right?!

The cherry on the cake are the wines they have at ristorante Fracia (or in Valtellina in general). I don’t want to seem too patriotic, but the wines from Valtellina are in my top 3 of favourite wines (with as preferred the Sfurzat). Something many people don’t know is that the grapes used for the wines here are the Nebbiolo grapes. These are the same grapes used for the Barolo wine, only in Valtellina they call the grapes chiavennasca (just a synonym). For me the Sassella or Sfurzat is in my eyes a better price/quality product to buy than a Barolo as Barolo tends to be very expensive (what doens’t mean I don’t like them, as I do a lot!! Just a bit pricy from time to time if you want a good one). It is a fact that the other wines (from other Italian regions or Champagnes) on the winelist are also great, but I’m of the opinion it is always better to taste the local products… So go for a nice Sassella or Sfurzat (or a Sfurzat 5 Stelle, which is basically the top of the bill). We had the Sfurzat 🙂 just FYI 😉

I do hope you guys one day find the time to travel to Valtellina and enjoy the best this region has to offer of which Fracia is definitely one!! (Let me know if you want a few more) If I would be living in Valtellina Fracia would be what Pazzo is for me in Antwerp (somewhere I tend to be a lot).

Ristorante Fracia:

Address: Località Fracia – 23036 Teglio (SO), Italy

Phone n°: +39 0342 482671