Although vines have been planted on these slopes since at least the 5th century, Valtellina’s most prophetic grape, Nebbiolo (locally called Chiavennasca), was not planted until the early 1800’s. At 46 degrees latitude, this is the northern most area of Italy where the Nebbiolo grape will ripen and the only region outside of Piemonte to produce large quantities.
The east west Adda River forms a deep 27 mile long valley between the Rhaetian and Lepontine Alps. The vineyards occupy a narrow strip of land on the northern bank of the Adda river. Only the south facing slopes are warm enough to create wines that are not bitter or acidic. Vineyards start at 1000 feet, and go up to 2600 feet elevation.
Many believe that altitude plays a larger role in variation than the sub region. Vineyards at lower altitudes produce wines that are more plum and earth driven, while higher elevations have more minerality and tart fruit.