2015 Balgera ‘Alpe Retiche’ Nebbiolo
Region: Valtellina > Lombardia > Italy
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming; soils are decomposed morainic rocks, including granite, serpentine and gneiss on a south facing, steep slope, 300 – 400m altitude; grapes destemmed and lightly crushed, 7-10 day maceration, 1 year in tank, 4 years in large barrel; 12% ABV
Winemaker: Matteo Balgera
Family owned winery, Balgera, is located in the Valtellina region of Lombardy, a high-altitude mountain region nestled between Lake Como and the Swiss Alps, where vines are planted on 100 year old terraces built into the sides of a steep amphitheater. The family has been there since 1885, and Matteo is the 5th generation to make wine from their grapes. With just six hectares forming the estate, the family used to supplement their own grapes with purchased fruit from neighbors, and father Paolo followed convention at the time which was lutte raisonée farming, meaning they would occasionally use herbicide if necessary (the climate in Valtellina is very cold and wet – much more so than neighboring Nebbiolo-focused regions like Barolo and Barbaresco). However, he also continued the unique Balgera tradition of aging the wines for years – sometimes up to a decade in barrel, until they were drinkable and ready to release. But, when son Matteo became involved in the business, he had a different idea for the next generation of Balgera wines. He immediately converted the family vineyards to organic farming and stopped purchasing fruit. He also started experimenting with winemaking methods that would allow them to release wines earlier.
The Alpe Retiche is the first example of the new Balgera to hit the market. Harvested early and vinified with much shorter maceration, it emerges at 12.5% - a chillable, chuggable Nebbiolo. And it’s the 2015 vintage, so we get the benefit of some barrel aging -- this is their version of an early release, but we'll take it! The best thing is, it still tastes like Nebbiolo, with rose petal, fresh strawberry, and a smoky note that marks all of the Balgera wines. The tannin level is moderate and the structure is quite fine so this one is ready to go right out of the bottle, paired with barbeque, hard cheeses or bean stew. We're loving this crushable, easy Nebbiolo for this winter to spring transition season -- chilling is optional, but we think the slightest chill (20 min) enhances the pretty floral character of the wine.