Chiavennasca wine guide
Chiavennasca is the red grape variety that dominates throughout the Valtellina, the one from which the great immortal wines of the Valtellina Superiore DOCG are produced, such as Sforzato l’Inferno, Valgella, Sassella, Grumello.
But perhaps what not everyone knows is that Chiavennasca is a clone of Nebbiolo, certainly, it is not simply a mutation of Nebbiolo, because it has been cultivated in total isolation for more than 500 years in Valtellina, so it has taken a different evolutionary path, yes it developed by adapting to particular conditions and the clonal selection was also particular.
Therefore to say that Chiavennasca is only a Nebbiolo would be an understatement and would plan the small but incredibly large nuances of which the wine is made. And we are not just talking about this noble vine from Valtellina, but about all the vines in general.
Organoleptic characteristics of Chiavennasca
The bouquet is ethereal, a cornucopia of berries, violets, watermelon, juniper and flowers, there is no shortage of earthy scents that recall the leaves, suggesting the undergrowth, the truffle and the scents of autumn. If they are simple and young wines, delicate fruity-floral aromas prevail, if the wine ages in wood and matures for a few years, one of the most incredible magic in the world of wine takes place: tertiary aromas are developed ranging from lacquer to wax, balsamic and spicy notes emerge, the fruity sea condenses, but always remains austere, third, crystalline.
And since we are in Valtellina, the soils, the altitude and the temperature range play a fundamental role: the aromas are sharper, clearer, but also delicate and rocky. There are less density and “earthiness” compared to Nebbiolo from Langhe and Roero, and that is why we cannot dismiss Chiavennasca as a simple clone of Nebbiolo. Because it has developed a unique bond and harmony in Valtellina, not because it is a squeeze of rocks, but also because of the tireless and painstaking work done by the winemakers.
They have dug the mountains, built terraces and walls to support the vineyards and dare to go to high altitudes, where yields are lower, the cold risks burning the buds, but where only eagles dare. For this reason, viticulture in Valtellina is defined as heroic because you have to work twice as much with triple the effort, the harvest is an ordeal and sometimes helicopters carrying the chests full of bunches are used to bring the grapes down to the valley.
On the palate, it is like the nose, a perfect continuation. Austere, but rich in nuances, a symphony of earth and wood that take on a large-scale structure. The skins of the berries are quite thin but consistent and rich in anthocyanins and the seeds are no joke, the tannins are consequently vigorous and give strength, thrust and depth to the sip, opening like a rainbow with a thousand flavors of roots, cinchona, rhubarb, licorice with fresh fruit as aside.
The peculiarity of wines made with Chiavennasca which distinguishes them from the Langa Nebbiolo is the presence of a marked salinity due to the soils, not to mention that altitude and temperature range helps to give great freshness to the grapes. The polyphenolic maturation takes place at least in mid-October, not earlier and is quite slow, not to mention that it varies a lot from area to area, from exposure and therefore in some vineyards it is harvested even in late November.
Chiavennasca production area
Its cradle, its elective area has been Valtellina for more than 500 years, since Nebbiolo, originally from the Langhe, made its first appearance here. But it is not just a question of adaptation of the vine or migration, it is real domination, practically all the red wines of Valtellina are based on Chiavennasca-Nebbiolo, among which we remember the most important such as Sfurzat and the reds of Valtellina DOCG like Inferno, Valgella, Sassella, Grumello.
History of the Chiavennasca grape
Ok, now we have said it and it has been established, Nebbiolo arrived in Valtellina before 1500, a period in which it was already widespread, why was it given this particular name? There are various hypotheses, the first is the locals considered the city of Chiavenna, in the Chiavennasca Valley, its place of origin and therefore gave it the same name. Others launch into dialect linguistic theories and note the similarities between the form ciu venasca, which means vine with great vigor and lymph, and ciu vinasca which instead means good vine for making wine.
There are three different types of Chiavennasca: Chiavennasca Intagliata and Chiavennascone are similar to Chiavennasca and boast minimal differences only in terms of leaf shape, while the Botti variety differs for a higher vigor. Be careful not to confuse the Chiavennaschino with this family with which he has nothing to do since in reality, they are from Grignolino.
Chiavennasca Food Pairings
It depends a lot on the wine in question: there are flat and fragrant Valtellina wines that are perfect for cured meats or even pasta with pesto or Sfurzat of unprecedented size that can tame any meat dish, gnocchi with meat sauce, grilled chicken, ribs with barbecue sauce, baked lasagna, truffle risotto, pulled pork, Argentine meat empanadas, burgers, Wellington-style fillet.