I was recently introduced to the wines of AR.PE.PE. (pronounced are. pay pay) from Valtellina. The name is an acronym for Arturo Pelizzatti Perego , the son of the founder of the winery. Today his three children Isabella, Guido and Emanuele continue to make wines of exceptional quality from the region of Valtellina.
The winery is located just east of the town of Sondrio in the heart of the Valtellina valley where they have terraced vineyards in Grumello, Sassella and Inferno. All work has to be done by hand as machines can not ride the slopped hillsides.
Valtellina is famous for red wines made from the Nebbiolo grape, which the locals call Chiavennasca, named after the town Chiavenna in the province of Sondrio. There is some debate about whether Nebbiolo originated around Valtellina in northern Lombardia then moved to Piedmont.
Historians can trace the grape nibiol in articles as far back as 1268 in Torino, while Chiavennasca is not seen until 1595 in Valtellina. DNA research on the origin of Nebbiolo confirms that the variety is so old, the parent grapes may be extinct. There are at least eight offspring clones from southern Piedmont to Valtellina where they have names like Negrera, Rossola Nera and Brugnola. With this research, Nebiolo could either come from Piedmont or Valtellina.
Regardless of where it originated, it is important to point out that the wines made with Nebbiolo can be very different. In Valetellina the grape can struggle to ripen and produce the distinct tannin found in Piedmont. I find that the wines are lighter, more perfumed and still have that mouth watering acidity the grape in known for.
AR.PE.PE is one of the stand out producers, making many different wines from three of the subregions.
Tasting through some of the wines today, I found them very gentle and elegant.
The 2009 Rosso di Valtellina is a blend of grapes from Grumello and Sassella zones with a short time in large chestnut botti and bottle aged. The nose has fresh raspberries, herbs, cured meats with firm tannins on the finish.
Grumello Rocca de Piro 2006 was quite delicious in that is a current release from the winery. Over six years aging allows the wine to integrate the tannins, aromas, acid and oak in the bottle. Wild strawberries, roasted plums, cinnamon stick with sweet brown tannins.
Sassella Stella Retica 2006. I could easily mistaken this wine for one of the best cru Barolos or a ripe Pommard from a classic vintage. The color is deep mahogany with amber highlights, toasted chestnuts, drying tobacco leaves, roses and a sweet red apple mouth feel. Not your everyday Nebbiolo. However, I could drink this everyday.
Grumello Buon Consiglio 1999. As with the Rocca de Piro and Stella Retica, the label reads “Riserva”. Isabella said they should call it a “Gran Riserva”, but it is a term not allowed by law in Valtellina.
The wines are aged for an extended amount before release. This wine is just wonderful. Layers of spices, flowers, wild alpine fruits and distinct terroir from the region. I haven’t had a wine this old, this fresh in a long time. Keeping the wines from travel is important for the quality. The wine shows that it can age another 20 years without changing dramatically.
I was very pleased to taste the wines of AR.PE.PE. and will begin working with them at Tenzing Wine & Spirits. I will definitely have to put some of these in my personal cellar for those occasions to drink great Nebbiolo.