Chapter 2 – Lombardy and Valtellina
When Carlotta told me, I am going to bring a fried dish from Lombardy for our weekly regional virtual tour, I immediately thought “wow that’s perfect”!
Why? Because Lombardy is very well known for its lovely sparkling wines which are perfectly paired with fried dishes as the bubbles can clean up our palate from the oily sensation of the fry. An amazing marriage, indeed every bite calls for a sip and every sip prepares your mouth for the next bite.
The wine I choose is Pensiero (Thought) by Ca del Vent, Pas Operé 2014 a very interesting biodynamic sparkling wine, blanc des blancs (100% Chardonnay).
They are located in Brescia province, “so this is a Franciacorta!” you would say, well no, because also if they are inside the area of the denomination they decided since 2017 to not label as Franciacorta DOCG but just as general VSQ – Vino Spumante di Qualità – as their wines were often rejected by the Consorzio as they were considered too complex.
Maybe it is because they are so unconventional that I chose them at first but, when I tasted their wine after, it went straight on the top of my favorite Italian bubbles. The nose is very complex, a mix of different tropical fruits, just baked bread, yeasts notes, mineral notes, hazelnuts, and it evolves constantly in the glass, a very fascinating nose. In the palate the perlage is extremely smooth, the high acidity and minerality are perfect to be accompanied with food and the finish is very long.
So, perfect pairing! I thought, but then: what if we have some people who don’t really enjoy bubbles?! Of course I am so sorry for them, but I also wanted to give a different option and the origin of the dish chosen by Carlotta gave me the inspiration. Indeed Sciatt are from Valtellina and there they have one of my favorite red wines ever.
Well here it is:
For all the nebbiolo lovers: have you ever tried Nebbiolo from Valtellina, Lombardy? Maybe you tried a local variety called Chiavennasca? Well, that is exactly how local producers call their Nebbiolo.
Being a huge fan of this grape variety at first a was a little bit skeptical about trying a Nebbiolo from a region which is not Piedmont but I had to change my mind, because the wines I have tasted from Valtellina are great.
Like the Rosso di Valtellina 2018 from Barbacan, a typical Nebbiolo from the mountains, juicy and solid but with a light and slender body. It has a very pleasant nose, with a lot of cherries and violets, while the freshness given to the high acidity in the mouth, together with smooth but present tannin, helps cleaning your mouth after the fry and invites you for the next bite, the same sensation left by the effervescence of the first pairing with Ca del Vent.
Barbacan winery is in the heart of the Valtellina denomination and the grapes for the Rosso come from the sub-area of Valgella. The winery is pretty young (from 2006) and family owned. They are fans of low intervention both in the vineyards and in the cellar, the harvest is made all by hand and the fermentation with natural yeasts. The wine ages in part in stainless steel and in part in barriques (small french oak barrels). They bottle without filtration nor clarification. They have in total 6 hectares and produce 3 main wines, the Rosso, and two Valtellina Superiore Valgella from two different cru (single vineyards) of their estate: Sol and Pizamej.
OTHER PRODUCERS YOU MAY LIKE FROM VALTELLINA:
The area of Valtellina is right by the Alpi mountains in an area which is considered pretty inaccessible. How do they manage to grow vines in such a difficult situation? In the ages producers had to endeavour in order to create some terraces where they can cultivate and grow their vineyards. The area is managed 100% manually (or mostly), indeed no machines are able to access the steep slopes of Valtellina, so that is considered an heroic viticulture.
5 SUBZONES OF VALTELLINA SUPERIORE
The Valtellina Rosso is considered a DOC while the Superiore is a DOCG both made with 100% Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo). The area is divided in 5 subzones: going West to East we have: first Maroggia, the most recent, with only 25 hectares; Sassella, the historical and very vocate area with 114 hectares; Grumello, the most extreme area in 78 hectares; Inferno, the name which means hell stays for the difficulties the producers have to go through to make wine there and also the climate which is the hottest, with 55 hectares; Valgella, the biggest area and also the cooler climate where the Chiavennasca ripens bit later than the other area, 137 hectares.
If you didn’t know yet, Lombardy is Carlotta’s home ! She always likes to give herself a culinary challenge, this week was no different. Read below what she writes about this region and its traditions.
Lombardy is a region well known by a lot of people, especially when it comes to Milan and all the other large cities, or Lake Como. Consequently, I wanted to research and share with you a dish from an area of the region which isn’t as notorious: Valtellina, which begins at the tip of Lake Como and runs parallel to the border with Switzerland.
Buckwheat has been cultivated in Valtellina for more than four centuries, making this ingredient entwined with local flavours and recipes, from pizzoccheri – dark tagliatelle-like pasta which is the valley’s most famous food – to sciatt, the subject of today’s recipe.
The area of Valtellina is a mountain area, with meters of snow in winter and beautiful, bright green pastures in summer, so its traditional food is reflected in the low temperatures reached year round. In other words – they eat a lot of highly caloric, rich food, which often can be fried, as is the case for sciatt.
Crunchy fried balls with a molten cheese interior, made with a pastella made from buckwheat flour, beer, fizzy water and a drop of grappa – an ingredient you won’t find added to pastella anywhere else – giving the dough an enticing aroma. If you’re not really a fan of cheese then you can try the sweet alternative: with molten chocolate instead of cheese.
Why did I mention the eating rituals of the mountain communities in Valtellina? As it happens, until a few hundred years ago, sciatt would be eaten for breakfast, accompanied by a tall glass of milk. Yes – the cheese versions, not the sweet one. The combination of fried cheese and milk was the best way to face the cold day ahead.
An additional bonus of buckwheat flour is that it is gluten free, so if sciatt or pizzoccheri are made without the addition of other flours they can be enjoyed by everyone. If you happen to visit Valtellina, you can easily spot the numerous buckwheat cultivations, which surround all the towns, and have flowers all year round.
… Follow the link to see Carlotta’s recipe of the Sciatt : https://www.lapanzapiena.com/collaborations.html