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Innovations

Pioneers in vineyard and cellar

As early as the Seventies we began improving the quality of our grapes, steadily reducing operating costs at the same time.

To this end, we studied a meticulous selection of Nebbiolo clones with the aim of achieving higher levels of glycerol and extracts, rich and harmoniously integrated tannins as well as a more intense red colour. There are now 7500 plants per hectare of rows with these new selected vines—more than before but with fewer grapes per plant. Quality is improved but with a lower yield.

As a result of terraces following the hill's contours, mechanization has gradually replaced hard manual labour. Transport of the grapes has also become easier by using funiculars and a monorail in the Sassella zone.

Wine production and cellaring are state of the art. Much of the wood has been replaced by stainless steel. Temperature control is an integral part of the process. Our best wines mature and develop in wooden barrels of between 225 and 500 litres.

Further information on the selection of clones, horizontal terracing and oenological innovations

Our company has lavished attention on injecting viticulture in Valtellina with new ideas. This was necessary given the fact that during the Sixties the traditional method of making adjustments to the cultivation process required 1500 hours of labour per hectare. This made Valtellina grapes the most expensive in Italy and threatened the survival of viticulture in this area rich in tradition.

This led us to set ourselves some specific objectives in the Seventies:

  • To improve the quality of the wines by means of our own Nebbiolo clones.
  • To lower operating costs by using the 'girapoggio' planting method (where the rows follow the contours of the hill for maximum exposure to the sun) and by adopting a sustainable level of mechanization.
  • To develop a system of training vines to maximize the exposure to the sun on the slopes.
  • To introduce modern technology in the cellar, enabling the production of full-bodied and harmonious wines.
  • To age some wines in oak barrels (barriques).

Selection of clones

This process took several decades. We began by closely observing 213 vines, examining their strengths and weaknesses. During this selection, unsuitable vines were discarded until only four remained: the best of the best that the Nebbiolo variety could provide. The four selected vines created the reproductive basis used to replant new vineyards. Today 17 out of 40 hectares of vines have been planted with these clones and we shall continue to follow this route.

The marked warmth of the resulting intensely red wines is attributable to above average levels of glycerol and extracts as well as the richness of tannins of a harmonious character.

Horizontal terraces

The girapoggio arrangement (parallel, horizontal rows of vines following the contours of the slope to achieve maximum solar exposure) was a revolutionary measure that few among traditional viticulturists endorsed. This cultivation method makes it completely natural to mechanize cutting the grass, mulching, fertilizing, treatments and transport between the rows in the vineyard.

The cableways are another aid, now indispensable, facilitating the rapid transport of the harvest into the valley and cultivation materials up the hill. The hours of labour have been almost halved from 1500 to 700 today. Arduous labour in the vineyard has been transformed into an easier occupation. Our young and motivated team of viticulturists can vouch for that.

Training system

The vines on the slopes enjoy intense exposure to the sun, comparable with that on the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria. The rarefied mountain air doesn't filter the light and a benefit of the Rhaetian Alps is that the valley is protected from cold northerly winds. This compensates for the low average annual temperature at this altitude. These natural advantages are reinforced on the terraces by the new cultivation system. A wall of foliage, 3 metres high, at an incline of 15° is like a solar panel in the way it takes full advantage of the light for the vines and stores heat.

Cellar technology

During fermentation in the new steel vats, tannins and pigments are extracted using the controlled temperature method. The acidic grapeseed is removed in such a way that only the sweet and desirable tannins from the skins remain in the must.

Barrel ageing

Autumn in Valtellina is characterised by consistently sunny days but, above all, by the absence of fog. The new cultivation system makes it feasible to dry grapes on the vine by cutting some canes with mature bunches of grapes and leaving them there for 3-4 weeks. The clusters shrivel, the juice becomes concentrated and, as a result of extreme variations in temperature, these grapes bestow the wine with interesting fruity notes.

These clusters are rich in extracts and fruity aromas, excellent for maturing in small oak barrels. The maturation area is in the deep, cool cellars at La Gatta, the former Dominican monastery. This is where we age Prestigio, our top-of-the-range wine, full of character, that unites tradition and innovation, past and future in our family business.

Querterrassen

The hillside terraces have changed the countryside and viticulture for the better

Klonselektion

The quality has improved as a result of our clonal selection

querterassierung-neu

The arrangement of terraces following contours was revolutionary for viticulture

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