Why is this Wine so Yummy?
Boffalora: Giuseppe Guglielmo was a mechanic and part-time beekeeper whose small stand vineyards had long been tended by his father-in-law; when the older man passed away, Guglielmo and his wife took the wine plunge in 2002, originally selling their grapes to others. The first wines under their own label came from the 2009 vintage, and here we are just a few years later, with about 10 cases of their minuscule production to share with you.
His bees help him practice integrated pest management and all farming is carried out naturally and, of course, by hand—the vineyards are so steep that he uses a funicular to transport crates of harvested grapes down the slope. The name “Boffalora” is meant to evoke the interplay of breva winds that swoop up from Lake Como in the morning and the evening tivano breezes coming down from the Alps.
From soils of sand, silt, and stone (much of it hauled up from the valley floor to construct the terraces) and harvested in late October/early November, the Nebbiolo/Chiavennasca for “Pietrisco” is fermented in stainless steel and macerated on its skins for about two weeks. It is aged in large, used oak casks for 12-15 months and then rested in tank and later bottle for about six months before release. “Pietrisco” is textbook Valtellina Nebbiolo through and through!
Nebbiolo, pronounced NEH-bee-oh-low, is such a unique variety. The name is derived from the Italian word Nebbia meaning fog. Two theories for the name exist. The first that it refers to the fog that the vineyards of the Langhe are often immersed in. Second that the natural bloom that covers the grapes gives them a foggy appearance. Given the latter applies to most red grapes I prefer the former! There are 4 main clones of which Nebbiolo Lampia dominates over Nebbiolo Michet, Rosé (now proven to be a different variety), and, Bolla.
Where is it grown?
Southern central and north Piemonte: Langhe including Verduno, Roero, Ast, Carema, Biella, Novara and Vercelli. It is also grown in the lower parts of the Valle d’Aosta where it is known as Picotendroi, and, Valtellina in Lombardy where it is known as Chiavennasca, among others.
What does it taste like?
The ultimate case of not judging a book by its cover, Nebbiolo, at first appears pale in colour, old wines can have the appearance of rusty tap water.
Then you smell it! The aroma of most red wines is dominated by fruit characters. In contrast, Nebbiolo’s aroma is typically a mix of complex secondary aromas, earthy, tarry, spice, rose, citrus peel, woody herbs like rosemary, liquorice, phenol, dark chocolate, tobacco, truffles, leather, and, dark cherry fruit, often more evident on the palate. You’ll see this difference immediately by comparing it two the other two main Piedmontese varieties Barbera and Dolcetto.
Good Nebbiolo has a core of fruit running the length of your tongue, along with layers of those same secondary characters. Nebbiolo’s grape tannins give it a distinct texture, that for those who have not tried it before can seem hard, and, unyielding. Look for the quality and depth of tannin.
Achieving well balance tannin, alcohol, and, acidity makes for great Nebbiolo.
More than most other Italian wines, Nebbiolo, demands food to be at it’s best. A little fat and salt, enhance the texture and bring out the flavours.
Nebbiolo from Valtellina tends to be more feminine, tannin management more critical during the winemaking process. Well managed vineyards produce wines with a great core of vibrant fruit and fine texture.
Where in the World is Boffalora?
Piedmont is not the only Italian region to produce Nebbiolo! Valtellina is a thin horizontal strip in the very north of Italy above Milan.
Boffalora’s vineyard is just to the west of the sub-region Sassella on the Rhaetian side, at Contrada Balzarro (municipality of Castione Andevenno).