Nino Negri, Inferno Valtellina Superiore 2011 (about $23)


Italian Wine for march, 2018

Inferno wines are made exclusively from grapes grown in the Inferno sub-zone of the Valtellina Superiore DOCG. The Valtellina Superiore DOCG is a quality wine-producing area in the northern reaches of Italy’s Lombardy region just south of the Alps that border Switzerland. As one of the most northerly wine-producing regions in Italy it is an unlikely but ancient wine-producing area and grapes have been grown here for thousands of years. Valtellina became a DOC in 1968 and the Valtellina Superiore received DOCG status in 1998.

The primary grape variety here is a local clone of Nebbiolo called Chiavennasca and all Valtellina Superiore wines must contain at least 90 percent Chiavennasca. Valtellina wines in general are sturdy and structured but not overtly tannic and powerful like the more famous Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco wines in the southern Piedmont. Instead, Valtellina wines impress with their bounteous aromas, rich textures and complex flavors.

The high elevation, steeply-sloped, terraced vineyards in the Valtellina appellation present an exceptional challenging terrain for cultivating vines. On the plus side, the mountains shelter the vineyards from the cold northern winds and the south-facing vineyards bask in abundant sunlight from morning to night during the summer months.

The appellation is characterized by tiny vineyard plots spread out on south-facing slopes along the valley at altitudes ranging from 500 to 3,000 feet elevation. The varying elevations of the vineyards play an important role in the body and richness of the wines produced.

Inferno is the smallest of four sub-zones that comprise the Valtellina Superiore DOCG appellation. As you might Nino Negri, 2011 Inferno Valtellina Superioreguess, the name “Inferno” is Italian for “hell”. There is no definitive history of how this name came about but local folklore has it that the term reflects both the back-breaking work required to grow and harvest grapes from vineyards on nearly vertical inclines and the high summer temperatures that are exacerbated by the bright sunlight reflecting off the terraced stone walls, all of which make the harvest harder and hotter than you-know-what. In any event, the “Inferno” name refers to the difficulty of growing and harvesting grapes in this adverse environment and not the wine itself.

Founded in 1897, the Nino Negri winery is located in a 15th century castle in the town of Chiuro. The castle includes extensive underground cellars for vinifying and ageing wines. The estate’s diverse vineyard holdings include about 27 acres of prime, south-facing vineyards in the Inferno sub-zone of the Valtellina Superiore appellation.

Nino Negri’s Inferno Valtellina Superiore consists entirely of Nebbiolo/Chiavennasca grapes sourced from estate vineyards. The grapes are harvested in late October then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats. The wine is subsequently aged in a combination of large and medium-size French oak barrels for 2 years and then spends some additional time in the bottle prior to release.

The 2011 Inferno Superiore has a deep garnet color with an orange tinge and ethereal aromas of dried flowers, kitchen spices and raspberry jam. The wine is dry and full-bodied with good texture, some tannic grip and lively acidity. It has deep, rich raspberry and red cherry flavors while notes of toasted almonds give lift to the long finish.  The wine impresses with its richness and personality as well as its strong sense of place.

This wine already has 7 years of age under its belt and will age well for at least another 5 years. The 2011 Inferno makes an ideal dinner companion, especially when beef tenderloin, flank steak or mushroom risotto is on the menu.


©Richard Marcis
March 8, 2018

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