Established in 1897, Nino Negri is the premier estate producing wine in the Valtellina DOCG in Italy’s Lombardy region. The success of Nino Negri and the greater Valtellina region is due largely to the efforts of winemaker Casimiro Maule who has worked at the estate since 1971, his entire professional life. In 2007, Casimiro was named “Winemaker of the Year”
by Gambero Rosso
, the magazine authority in Italian wine.
The Valtellina region, located at the base of the pre-Alps on Italy’s border with Switzerland, is an extremely challenging terroir. A narrow, 25 mile-long amphitheater of terraced vineyards that line the north bank of the Adda River, form a deep gorge amid mountainous terrain. This is Italy’s largest terraced area of viticulture: an impressive 1,500 miles of dry walls that support the terraces are distributed over the 25-mile strip. Working this land is a monumental, backbreaking toil.
Steep, nearly vertical vineyards from 2,400 to 3,000 feet elevation rule out the use of any mechanical equipment. All work, from removing soil to harvesting grapes is done by hand. The star and primary varietal here is Chiavennasca, the local name for Nebbiolo. The variety has been cultivated here for over 1,000 years and it is said that it was brought from here to neighboring Piedmont in the 14th Century. All Valtellina DOCG wines must contain at least 90% Chiavennasca.
Nino Negri controls 184 Ha (450 acres) of the finest Chiavennasca vineyards in the Valtellina Superiore DOCG subzones of Sassella, Grumello, Inferno and Valgella. The estate owns an exceptional 34 Ha (85 acres) and has long-term contracts (50-60 yrs.) from 220 growers covering an additional 150 Ha (370 acres). Eleven of the 34 Ha owned (27 acres) comprise the Fracia vineyard, an exclusive cru planted since 1995 to special clonal selections and vine stocks that are cultivated horizontally from west to east, an innovated planting scheme for this region.
The winery is located in the city of Chiuro in the 15th Century Quadrio Castle. The “castle” sits above an array of underground cellars which house thousands of barrels. The wines are aged here in medium-sized oak barrels, almost exclusively French. All Nino Negri wines age for at least two years before they are released to ensure optimum maturity at time of bottling.
The estate specialty is Sfursat (“strained” or “forced”); a wine made from grapes harvested by trained pickers and dried for 100 days in the cool, dry, alpine air. This winemaking style combines the opulence of Amarone with the elegant complexity of Barolo.