Nino Negri

About the Producer: 
Valtellina, the Alpine valley near the border of Switzerland, is one of Italy’s most scenic wine zones. Vines may have been planted there by the ancient Liguri or Etruscans, whose hand-hewn terraces remain as monuments to human fortitude. The principal vine for centuries has been Nebbiolo, known locally as Chiavennasca, though exactly when (or even if) it arrived from Piedmont is a mystery. The zone has a two-level appellation topped by Valtellina Superior DOCG for wines from the at least 95 percent Nebbiolo in the sub-districts of Francia, Grumello, Inferno, and Sassella. The superior wines are especially admired by the Swiss, who import a major share of them. The second level is Valtellina DOC of wines that contain at least 70 percent Nebbiolo with other varieties permitted: a normal red and a rich Sforzato (from “forced” in reference to drying of grapes in a process similar to that of Valpolicella’s Amarone). Sforzato, or Sfursat in dialect, has drawn most of the recent attention of the Valtellina, whose wines had long been overlooked by Italians. The making of wines from semidried grapes seens to have been practiced here as early as the sixteenth century, when Leonardo da Vinci described them as “very potent.” Carolo Negri, whose father Nino in 1897 founded what is today Valtenllina’s major winery, revived the practice in 1956. Casimiro Maule, who directs the cellars now owned by the Gruppo Italiano Vini, points out that Sfursat has improved remarkably die to new techniques and the use of small oak barrels, which enhances the uncommon array of scents and flavors. Maule began in 1983 to make the select Sfursat 5 Stelle, the “five star” reflecting its status as the most decorated wine of Valtellina. Sfursat excels not only in fine vintages but also in years when weather conditions remain dry and cold through months of drying. Nino Negri has 16 hectares of vines and another 20 hectares leased to produce about 700,000 bottles a year of the range of Valtellina wines.