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AR.PE.PE. - Nebbiolo from the Valtellina Alps

Updated: Mar 9

Imposing terraced vineyards characterize the granite slopes of this glacial valley. Thousands of kilometers of man-built stone walls run through and support the steep, south-facing rhaetian slope, a mosaic, a symbiosis between man and nature, the largest terraced wine-growing region in Italy.

AR.PE.PE. - Meet the Pelizzatti Perego family in Sondrio, in the middle of the Valtellina Valley in northern Lombardy, where Valtellina DOCG of top league is grown in the fifth generation. Father Arturo was not only a pioneer here, but also named the winery using his acronym.

Familie Pelizzatti Perego Standing infront of the winery
Familie Pelizzatti Perego

The family cultivates 13 hectares of the red grape known in Valtellina as Chiavennasca, which has long achieved cult status as the "King of Wines" internationally as Nebbiolo, quite the sought-after grape variety, planted to only 6,000 hectares globally. For comparison: Sangiovese can be found on around 70,000 hectares worldwide.

What the Pelizzatti Perego family has learned over five generations of working with the Nebbiolo grape is patience. The younger generation also swears by traditional principles: work is done entirely by hand, in balance with nature and the unique terroir. Innovation, yes, but not short-lived trends in fast fashion style - rather an attempt to perfect historic traditions. Each wine is given the time it needs. This means that after a long, gentle maceration, the wines rest in large wood, concrete and steel for up to 5 years until they are bottled in accordance with the rhythm of the moon phases. Then more rest, in bottle. The goal of AR.PE.PE. is a puristic, unadulterated Nebbiolo from the Veltliner Alps, a terroir-ambassador that ranks among the greats. But how does such an Alpine Nebbiolo taste? Fortunately, within their variations from the superiore areas Sasella, Grumello and Inferno, AR.PE.PE bottle not only wines that have to be forgotten in the cellar for a decade before they are ready to drink.

Man carrying grapes,
In the vineyards

"Rosso di Valtellina" is the name of the winery's base wine, a cuvée of on average 50-year-old Nebbiolo vines from terraces at 350-600m altitude. After 2 months on skins and half a year in barrels and concrete, the wine is given another year of self-discovery in bottle before it reaches our longing hands. The 21 is therefore the freshest product from the winery, but is now incredibly fine. Maybe it's that vibrantly bright color, scent of fresh red fruit, or this extremely elegant presence on the palate - Very fine tannin structure, great acidity, pure drinking flow, even at 13.5%. Absolute class food pairing, even in summer, in which case even more important: chill it a lil'.

"Petirosso", translating to the robin bird or Rotkehlchen is the big brother of Rosso, a blend of the Valtellina Superiore vineyards Sassella, Grumello and Inferno. The name is dedicated to an actual robin who called attention to a leaky barrel in '97. This cuvée spends over 100 days macerating, where this complex structure and depth really become part of its core identity. After a healthy barrel and bottle rest, this beaut shows itself elegantly red-fruity and balanced, but also cozily spicy, with star anise, allspice, cloves.

At DOCG level we find the winery's single-vineyard bottlings, which are developed as Riserva in selected years and spend many years in the cellar of the Pelizzatti Perrego family before they are finished.

Grumello Riserva "Rocca de Piro" is probably the winery's most approachable Superiore, which forms the transition to Grumella Riserva "Buon Consiglio" with fine fruit intensity and almost light-footedness. That one grows on slightly lower terraces of around 400m height, which are usually harvested a little earlier. In return the grapes are given even longer in the cellar, 3 months of maceration, 3 years in the barrel, then bottle maturity, 2016, the current vintage, has an incredible spiciness.

The Sassella Riserva "Ultimi Raggi" soaks up the "last rays" of the sun until November, before the slightly dried berries go into the cellar, where a completely dry, yet more concentrated and deeper Nebbiolo is created in the barrel for over 39 months. Umami!

Cable system to transport grapes
Grape transport

With the Sassella Riserva "Rocce Rosse", you really drink yourself into the philosophy of the winery... Arturo completely replanted these parcels in the heart of Sassella in the 1980s and named them after the high iron content. Rocce Rosse appears almost Pinot-like, but really it is simply puristic near-perfection, original, self-confidently expressing its origins... Valtellina Grand Cru, or simply Sassella Riserva, why call it anything else!

Incidentally, the grapes are transported to the cellar in the valley by a specially installed cable car. :)

P.S.: AR.PE.PE. recommends drinking this wine at ~15°C.

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