Allegrini 2024

Mountains and wine, deep relationship. And now Nino Negri ages wine at 3,000 meters, in Valtellina

The project is by the historic Gruppo Italiano Vini (GIV) winery. The reflections of Paolo Cognetti, author of the book “The Eight Mountains”

“Wine in the mountains is perhaps the cultivation that more than any other tells us what the land that valley is made of, we do not have one wine equal to another although the vines are more or less always the same, Nebbiolo is grown in Valtellina as well as in Valle d’Aosta, but always different wines come out. It is as if the grapes have this power to extract from the earth its smells, its substances, its minerals. It's very nice to smell the wine, because especially in the territories you know you feel the rock, the earth, the grass, the underbrush, the soil where that grape grew”. Words, to WineNews, from Paolo Cognetti, author of the book “The Eight Mountains”, which, in a way, explains well the spirit of the new project of Nino Negri, a winery founded in 1897, now owned by Gruppo Italiano Vini (GIV), which has contributed in no small way to the international fame of Valtellina wines. And which, in addition to producing wines at high altitudes, now also wanted to put them in aging “at the summit” to see if the mountains, in addition to giving unique characteristics to the wines that are born in the terraced vineyards of the Dolomites, also have peculiar effects on wine aging. And so, the Vigna Fracia Valtellina Superiore Docg 2016 produced from Nebbiolo grapes from vineyards located in an alpine area close to the glaciers, will dwell in a new cellar carved out of the spaces of the Heaven 3000 refuge, one of the most famous in the Dolomites, in Bormio, with the bottles to be opened on the occasion of the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics with a special toast that will reveal the effect of high mountains on Valtellina’s Nebbiolo.
“We liked the idea of playing on our whole valley, so to our 300-meter altitude winery, we added a zero, and made the 300 meters become 3000 meters. At Heaven 3000 we found an ideal location to make a small winery where we age 1,300 bottles of Vigna Fracia 2016, which, did five years of aging at 300 meters and will do five years of aging at 3. 000 meters to arrive at the time of the Olympics, so in 2026, ready to be tasted”, Danilo Drocco, winemaker at the Nino Negri winery, explained to WineNews in recent days in the “Ice Waves Experience”, in which the project was explained, complete with a high-altitude concert by pianist Alessandro Martire, a young composer known his performances in the midst of nature, which then preceded the meeting, staged in Milan, with at its center a dialogue between literature and viticulture with the writer Paolo Cognetti himself, Danilo Drocco and the essayist Massimo Zanichelli (in the coming days the story in a WineNews video).
A project, that of Nino Negri, which wants to enhance even more the uniqueness of mountain Nebbiolo, “which manages to express the terroir of our area. A little rich soil, where the mother rock is close to the roots and therefore has a natural minerality of strong expression. And then, the climate: we are in an alpine area anyway, with a continental climate, which feels very much the cold of Northern Europe, so often when it happens that in the rest of Italy the climate is of a certain type, it is not necessarily the same in Valtellina. More importantly, in addition to having a bit more basic cold than in other areas, we have a great fortune: we still have large temperature ranges. We have mountains up to 4,000 meters, still rich in glaciers, so what happens during the night? That the air, which is cold, gets heavy and comes down into the valley, creating this alternation of temperatures that is really a great recipe for Nebbiolo”, Drocco further explains, adding: “we have been producing grapes and wine, in Valtellina, for over 2,000 years, and if for 2,000 years these vines have been maintained, it is because the wine has a unique and special expression. Yes, the place is difficult, doing viticulture is difficult, however, we manage to get a wine of very great elegance, of a very great drinkability that definitely meets the taste of the current consumer and that, fortunately, thanks to the natural climatic conditions of this place, we manage to maintain, because, anyway, I repeat, the alternation of cold and warm for us is still a certainty”.
A project, that of Nino Negri, which links even more viticulture, agriculture and mountains, and which is also a cue to reflect on the relationship between man and mountain, as writer Paolo Cognetti further explains. “Life in the mountains is a memory of the harmonious relationship between man and nature. What we are experiencing today, this tremendous environmental crisis is also a sign of a growing rift between man and the land. We should learn from peasant memory”, Cognetti explains, “in which this relationship was harmonious, it was a taking from nature without destroying it, rather, taking care of it. It seems to me that we gradually unlearn to do that, we exploit the land more and more without caring so much for what we leave behind. But agriculture, where it survives, or where it can be enhanced again, is one of the best ways to regain that lost harmony”.
Vision that finds living and physical representation in mountain vineyards. “Life in the Alps, at least since the Romans came there, for 2,000 years, has been “traversed” by the cultivation of vines. If you go to our alpine valleys, one of the first signs you see are the terraces, the vineyards. A side effect of climate change”, Cognetti further reflects, “is that agriculture is going higher and higher. I have friends who have vegetable gardens at 2,000 meters above sea level. Vines in the Aosta Valley, which is a hot and dry region, at least where I live, go up to 1,300 meters. At least, that is a possibility in the times we are living. The future of the mountains is certainly tourism, which is the favored economy, but we have already seen during Covid that where this becomes the only economy, the effects are disastrous. Because tourism means passing through, exploiting and leaving. Agriculture means staying, knowing the land, taking care of it, thinking about the future, not just next year’s. Whoever plants a vine thinks about what will happen there in 10, 20, 30 years, and therefore has a more virtuous vision”.

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