Arpepe | Family-owned estate in the Valtellina DOC region of Lombardy. It makes red wines in Inferno, Grumello and Sassella, three of Valtellina’s five sub-zones (Maroggia and Valgella being the others). The wines are made from a biotype of the Nebbiolo grape, here called under its local synonym, Chiavennasca (‘Nebbiolo of the Alps’). Red Valtellina DOC and Valtellina Superiore DOCG wines are made.

Owner | Pelizzatti Perego family since 1860. Contact: Isabella Pelizzatti Perego. The traditional Valtellina method adopted by the Pelizzatti Perego family has been written down in the company books since 1860, just prior to the Unification of Italy. It is with these hand-written books that Mamma Giovanna taught Emanuele, Isabella and Guido. Arturo set the example of the tenacity needed to face the challenges that a vintner is faced with in the Valtellina and, as fate would have it, just when 2004 came to an end, the fifth generation of the family took over at the helm of Arpepe. Now in the sixth generation. Isabella handles sales. Her parents were Arturo (racing driver, tailor, winegrower) and his wife Giovanna (they married in 1969).

Estate vineyards | 13 hectares. The vines are dotted around Sassella, Grumello and Inferno, in the heart of the Valtellina Superiore DOCG area.

Viticulture | Completely by hand. It can take up to 1,500 hours to cultivate a single hectare (2.47 acres) of vineyard. The vinetards are grassed. powdery mildew and peronospera are the main threats. IPM rather than organic.

Red wines

Rosso di Valtellina DOC, Il Pettirosso | Pettirosso is the Italian name for the robin. Robins rarely enter the cellar, but one day one came in and alighted on an old wooden barrel, as if warning of something. A few days later, while she was tasting the wine, Isabella noticed there was a slight leak from one of the acacia staves. The wine appeared to be ready for bottling, but the barrel unfortunately needed replacing. There wasn’t enough to warrant a new label so she and Emanuele chose a few barrels of that ’97 – the most mature – and it became Il Pettirosso. | 2003 First vintage, Hot season.

Valtellina Superiore DOCG Grumello, Rocca De Piro  | ‘Castel Grumello, the property of the De Piro family in the fourteenth century, is a twin fortress, consisting of two separate complexes once joined by walls, overlooking the hill with Nebbiolo from the Alps vineyards. It gives its name to this wine, which is made with grapes from the two company-owned vineyards in the Grumello area. In years when low levels of tannins suggest brief ageing in large barrels, the Valtellina Superiore Grumello Rocca De Piro DOCG is always surprising for the speed with which it becomes ready to drink,’ (Source: estate website).

Valtellina Superiore DOCG Grumello Riserva, Buon Consiglio | In the Via del Buon Consiglio 4, where Sondrio meets Montagna in Valtellina, at the foot of the Grumello, the vines seem to swallow up the underground cellar. Here the Nebbiolo from the Alps goes back into the womb of the mountain that generated it. At 370 metres above sea level, the vineyard extends towards the city, over the Ca’ Bianca district, where the terraces have dry-stone walls in excess of 7 metres. When the considerable temperature variations in the autumn begin to form the aromatic profile of the grapes, the skin becomes thicker and the mineral salts come together. We need the right level of acidity to create the Valtellina Superiore Grumello Riserva Buon Consiglio DOCG. Long maceration times in wooden vats, even over 100 days if necessary, in large barrels for up to 60 months, or even more,’ (Source: estate website).

Valtellina Superiore DOCG Grumello Riserva Sant’Antonio | ‘The church of Sant’Antonio a Montagna in Valtellina lies to the east of Rocca De Piro. For centuries, it has protected from on high the vineyards that stretch down along the Risc di Sassina, one of the most generous areas of the Grumello, 450 metres above sea level. Valtellina Superiore Grumello Riserva Sant’Antonio DOCG undergoes a long maceration and malolactic fermentation on the skins. It matures in large barrels of chestnut wood. Like the church of Sant’Antonio, Giovanna, our mother, looks out at dawn every morning from her terrace to make sure the wine growers are taking proper care of these marvels. She decided to marry Arturo in that church on 4 September 1969 and, 40 years later, the amazing 2009 vintage meant we could celebrate the anniversary with the birth of a new wine brought up to appreciate the art of patience – a virtuoso who knows when the time has come to perform a solo,’ (Source: estate website).

Valtellina Superiore DOCG Inferno, Fiamme Antiche | ‘Nebbiolo. From steep, sun-drenched slopes in the municipality of Poggiridenti comprising granitic rock. This heats up in the sun, hence inferno. Accessed by the steep Arboleé road,’ (Source: estate website)

Valtellina Superiore DOCG Inferno Riserva Sesto Canto | ‘Dante’s Sixth Canto describes the punishments inflicted on gluttons. The local landscape is flailed by eternal rain and Cerberus barks horribly, baring his teeth, but Virgil silences him by filling his mouth with earth. Here we are in the third circle, just as our vineyard, 450 metres above sea level, is on the third curve of the road known as the “Inferno Circuit”. A circuit that saw Arturo many times racing, in the Valtellina Cup Rally. This was his other great passion and it inspired him to dream of an Inferno Riserva that would celebrate the power, the roaring sound and the discordant growl of a harsh land that leaves one speechless. In 2009 we decided that the time had come to make his dream come true with this wine,’ (Source: estate website). | 2009 ‘An amazing vintage. Long ageing in chestnut barrels,’ (Source: estate website).

Valtellina Superiore Sassella DOCG Stella Retica | ‘Nebbiolo. As children, we always hoped to find edelweiss when walking in the mountains, but the excursion would always be longer than our legs were strong, and we were generally exhausted before we found one. The wonderful thing was that we never lost the desire to go back and look for one, even at the cost of walking all the way to the glacier. Just like the mountaineer who dedicated a climbing route to our wine: you’ll find it on a map, on the Rhaetian side, for it’s the one with the name Sassella carved into it,’ (Source: estate website)

Valtellina Superiore Sassella DOCG Riserva, Nuova Regina | The cadastral maps had borne the name for generations, probably even before that our ancestor Giovanni Pelizzatti started selling his wine across the border with Switzerland in 1860. Close to the Rocce Rosse (vineyards), the ‘New Queen’ rises to over 450 metres, as far as the road that leads from Sant’Anna to Triasso. There seems to be more rock than earth in this vineyard and here we have kept the greatest number of old vines: a collection of ancient genes that, in the best years, create one of the longest-lasting, most precious Riserva, as only a completely manual process can give. 1991 was an amazing vintage but it’s harder to find one today on a restaurant wine list than it is to meet the Queen herself. Needs bottle aging,’ (Source: estate website)

Valtellina Superiore Sassella DOCG Riserva, Rocce Rosse | ‘Arturo stubbornly decided to create his Riserva right in the heart of Sassella. Gets gentle breeze rising up from Lake Como. He completely renewed the vineyard at 400 metres above sea level, which he had inherited from his father, and decided to make the only wine he could there, Nebbiolo from the Alps, called Chiavennasca in those days. The year was 1984. Six years later, he decided the time had come to find a name for it and he and his wife Giovanna opted for Rocce Rosse. The colour of these “red rocks” [granite] was that of the passion that fired him to search for the bloody, iron-like flavour of the land of his ancestors,’ (Source: estate website).

Valtellina Superiore Sassella DOCG Riserva, Ultimi Raggi | ‘Ultimi Raggi means last rays of sun. Not making Sforzato di Valtellina sounds rather odd [for this region]. Like the Sforzato, this wine plays on the super-ripeness of the grapes. The game is played out not in the cellar, however, but in the vineyard, up to 600 metres above sea level, in the Ere zone at the highest point in Sassella. The right waiting time to reach the right degree of phenolic ripening of the grapes can take some weeks later than in the vineyards below. The variations in temperature between day and night during the harvest add strength to the skins and concentrate the sugars. The fruit slowly dries in the wind, while still attached to the vine, as it prepares for its winter rest. Just before the snow comes, between the middle and end of November, the grapes are picked, gently crushed and pressed in a wooden vat. At the first racking, it is completely dry and acidity levels are quite pronounced. The super-ripeness mitigates the nervous tannins of Valtellina Superiore Sassella Riserva Ultimi Raggi DOCG and ageing in large barrels smoothens out its rich texture. After ageing in the bottle, Ultimi Raggi becomes the wine with the highest alcohol content in the company’s  production, while losing none of the freshness and mouthfeel of Nebbiolo from the Alps,’ (Source: estate website).