It was last Thursday mid-day when we pulled into the driveway of Mamete Prevostini, a producer of high altitude nebbiolo wines in the valley of Valtellina. We had been driving all morning from Milan to reach the head office of the famous winemaker. It was a disastrous drive as our GPS had not been updated in years (damn rental car companies). So we took the wrong road several times. Luckily we arrived twelve sharp as agreed. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky and the sun felt roasting hot. I was grateful to step inside into the air conditioned shop. There we were greeted by Miriam, who handles the logistics of the wines and Alessia, who is responsible for sales. The purpose of our trip was to agree with the winemaker how to organize the exports to Sweden, as the interpretations of EU legislation by both countries is from opposite ends of the spectrum.
Business was discussed in the lobby, in five minutes, standing up. We all agreed. We will take these Italian gems in through our Swedish company and they will be on the list of products we sell to restaurants, or distributed via the monopoly. That’s not the best case scenario for us, but it is worth it to get these babies up and running. The rest of the day was dedicated to touring the production, vineyards and eating well at Mamete Prevostinis’ restaurant Crotasc. Btw. The restaurant is awesome and it has a bib gourmand to prove it.
During the lunch we sampled wine together with some local cuisine: local meats (eg. Breasola), pizzocchero, which are buckwheat noodles seasoned with melted butter, and gnocchetti (baby gnocchi) served with (again) melted butter, cheese and potatoes. It was a heavy lunch, but so delicious it was hard to stop eating. We skipped dessert though, as I don’t think I could have taken one more bite. Regardless of a full tummy, I could not help drooling over Alessias white chocolate cheese cake.
But we were not there just to eat. First and foremost we were there to try out the wines. I think it was very educating though to have them with local delicacies to have some ideas for food pairings. And the restaurant is actually where the Mamete Prevostini story started from. Wines where originally produced only for the consumption of Crotasc. We started by tasting the Monrose, a 2015 rosé wine made 100% from nebbiolo. The name Monrose means rosé of the mountains, referring to where the grapes come from, the valley of Valtellina. It was fresh with some acidity and mineral notes. Truly great for hot weather.
Second we tried the young Inferno DOCG Valtellina Superiore. “DOCG” means Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita which refers to is strong government guarantee of the origin of the wine. “Superiore” refers to limitation of the yields and “Inferno” is the part of Valtellina the grapes come from. The terrain in Inferno is particularly uneven and difficult to farm. The terraces are small and the rocky ground in heated by the sun. Inferno wines tend to be darker in color than their Sassella and Grumello cousins with ripe fruit, flower aromas and a hint of spice and tobacco.
The third wine we tasted was Sommarovina, which has been scored as one of the top five Valtellina Superiore wines. Wine Spectator gave it 91/100 for the vintage of 2009. The Sommarovina is made from 100% nebbiolo grapes from Sassella. The color of the wine is bright red with some brownish character that is the product of the aging. The nose has hints of raspberry, rose and spice. The taste is warm and elegant. This wine clearly stands out from the two first as the juiciest and most complex.
The last red wine that we tried was the Corte di Cama sforzato. Sforzato wines are produced by drying the grapes before they are made into a wine. The result is a rich, full-bodied red with intense concentration and relatively high alcohol level (16%). Amarone wines are made with a similar method. Only the best grapes are used for making sforzato. You can really taste this as the Mamete Prevostini Corte di Cama has retained an extremely fresh finish regardless of the intense production method. The high alcohol level does in no way take over. The wine offers complex aromas of sweet spices, fresh plums, prunes and raisins. It also has the Mamete Prevostini signature spicy finish which I so love.
Instead of dessert, we had a small glass of a sweet wine, the Vertemate Passito. I am usually not into dessert wines due to their intense sweetness. However, this fruit driven wine is not sugary at all and remains fresh. There is a hint of tropical fruits and honey on the nose, and pineapple, honeydew and melon in the taste. The wine is best served chilled. At least in hot weather.
After lunch, we headed to tour the vineyards in the Valtellina valley. In particular I was excited to be let inside the San Lorenzo plot, which is nested inside an old monastery’s backyard. Mamete Prevostini takes care of the property, and produces a beautiful Sassella nebbiolo from the harvest. The Valtellina valley is the largest terraced wine region in Italy and probably the most dramatic of terrains to produce wine. The vineyards are planted on steep hillsides facing the south, the only place in the valley with enough sun. Picking by machine is often not possible, and the terraces are continuously at risk of rock slides. These vines are cared for with love. If not for love for wine and the valley one would not take on growing in a terrain like this. The area has been nominated to be a UNESCO world heritage site.
Standing there at the San Lorenzo monastery we ended our tour, gazing down to the bright valley. There was a fresh wind blowing down the mountain cooling us down, and I felt a sense of belonging. Not the “I am moving to Italy”-type of belonging, but rather the feeling that this is just the beginning of our story with Valtellina. It will be some time before we can come back, but at least I will have some beautiful Mamete Prevostini wines to sip on to take me back in my memories. Every weekend (or weekday) if I so want to.