Why is this Wine so Yummy?
The Carterìa vineyard covers an area of 3 hectares in the Valgella sub-zone at 500 metres; the name stems from the name of a small hamlet of the commune of Teglio, where the Fay family has always owned some plots of land. The winery has started incorporating this land into its estate and replanting of the vines is in progress.
About Sandro Fay
Like many producers in this region, Sandro Fay focuses on Chiavennasca (named after the nearby town of Chiavenna) – the region’s speciality and their unique expression of Nebbiolo. In recent times, global pressures have encouraged Valtellina producers to re-label their wines as Nebbiolo – In my opinion, a real shame! Almost all of Fay’s wines come from the Valgella zone which gets little tempering influence from Lake Como, resulting in a classic alpine vine growing area when coupled with the fact that their vineyards range between 400m and 800m.
It’s also worth noting that the soil breakdown here is almost the opposite to the Langhe with literally no traces of clay or limestone. Here, it is mostly primary rock and sand which proves to work well with their climate and choice of vines. Sandro Fay first commercially produced wine back in 1973, but in recent times, his son Marco (winemaker) and daughter Elena (sales & marketing) took over the reins, so it’s truly a family managed Estate. Although the region is regarded as one of the most challenging in Italy to make quality wine, Fay are highly regarded and produce an array of wonderfully food orientated wines that show vitality, racy acidity, salty minerals and lingering fine tannins. Maybe the closest Nebbiolo comes to Pinot Noir?
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 Sandro Fay?
Piedmont is not the only Italian region to produce Nebbiolo! Valtellina Superiore is a thin horizontal strip in the very north of Italy above Milan.
Sandro Fay’s vineyards in the sub-zone of Vagella, the most easterly of the sub-zones. Sondrio, Valtellina’s largest town is in the middle, Vagella is the green zone on the right.