We are in Valtellina, in the Sondrio province of Italy, in the extreme north of the Lombardy Alps, a few kilometres from the Swiss border. The undisputed reign of Nebbiolo grapes, which originated right here in these challenging Alpine valleys. Valtellina today offers some of the most elegant, complex and long-lived wines on the world wine scene.
We visited ArPePe, a historic family business in Valtellina that has recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. The family’s association with wine dates back to 1860. The company’s initials stand for the name Arturo Pelizzatti Perego, the father of the current owners, who in 1984 revived the family’s wine cellar that had been started by their father and grandfather. The slogan “Langsam, aber sicher,” which translated from German means “slowly, but surely,” came from the owners’ father, too, and best reflects the ArPePe family’s philosophy.
Valtellinese wines are elegant, having a good depth and minerality. Along with the wines of the High Piedmont, they represent a fresher, a more mineral-rich Alpine interpretation of the Nebbiolo vine with respect to its Langa cousins.
ArPePe family has distinguished itself over the years among the flagship companies in Valtellina, always remaining a family-run artisan business. The vineyards are at the centre of everything: it is there that the magic and soul of their wines is hiding, in those terraces where, during the harvest, grapes are carried in small baskets on workers’ shoulders along the paths that climb the slopes. Fermentation is spontaneous in order to best express the essence of the land, and maceration lasts a long time, up to 50 days for the Cru, to extract the most from the precious skins; refining happens in big durmast and chestnut barrels according to the tradition of the area.
ArPePe’s product line includes eight wines, all based on Nebbiolo.
It begins with Rosso di Valtellina, a fresh and fruity wine, easy to drink for everyday use, sourced from the Sassella and Grumello vineyard at the bottom of the valley at about 350-400 metres of altitude. Maceration and refining are brief so as to create a wine that is ready early, with a youthful, slim charm and an inviting flavour. It is a wine with an excellent quality/price ratio and very pleasing to the palate.
Moving up a level, there is the category of Valtellina Superiore Riserva, which includes wines from the company’s three historic vineyards, Sassella, Grumello and Inferno, and they represent the cornerstone of ArPePe. The company owns 9 hectares in Sassella, 3 in Grumello and 1 hectare in Inferno, and these vineyards produce the three Valtellina Superiore Riserva wines from our cellar: Sassella Stella Retica, Grumello Rocca de Piro, and Inferno Fiamme Antiche.
The Cru wines
At the top of ArPePe’s production, there are the Crus, rarities among wines providing intense and long-lasting feelings and sensations as only a few of the world’s wines can do.
The Crus are only made in the best years, when there is an exceptional harvest allowing for a perfect ripening to enhance the differences between single vines, creating harmony and complexity. There are three Crus by ArPePe: Grumello Buon Consiglio, Sassella Rocce Rosse and Sassella Vigna Regina.
The ArPePe’s wine product line includes also the Sassella Ultimi Raggi, made from grapes gathered slightly overripe from the highest slopes, around 600 metres, of the Sassella vineyard. Valtellines winemakers have been using the wine sun-wilting process for a long time and wines produced this way have always been called “sfursat.”
Sassella Ultimi Raggi is an intriguing wine in which the sun-wilted grapes provide more structure and alcohol, while the altitude confers elegance and freshness, maintaining a perfect harmony in the wine.
A visit to ArPePe should also include the beautiful tasting hall recently added, which is managed by the family, as well. The creator is the architect Enrico Massimino, Isabella’s husband. In a minimalist style, elegant and light-filled this hall combines modernity and tradition, giving a sense of lightness that enhances the pleasure of tasting wines in the environment where they are created.
For more information and to taste the ArPePe wines, contact:
ARPEPE S.r.l. Società Agricola