ARPEPE - Arturo Pelizzatti Perego
Friday, October 5, 2018 in News
ARPEPE is an abbreviation of the name Arturo Pelizzatti Perego, an Italian tailor, a race car driver and a visionary grower and winemaker. Today his children Isabella and her two younger brothers Emanuele and Guido continue to make Alpine Nebbiolo that’s a bit like Burgundy and a bit like Barolo while, at the same time, entirely its own style.
ARPEPE Pettirosso, Valtellina 2015
The Alpine Nebbiolo of Valtellina
You’ll find ARPEPE in Valtellina in northern Lombardy at the foot of the Alps. If you leave from Milan you’ll have to pass Lake Como. Most tourists don’t ever quite make it. The region is a patchwork of small vineyards terraced by centuries-old stone walls along the northern banks of the river Adda that feeds the lake. So far north, this area was once owned by the Swiss. So isolated and self-sufficient that Mussolini even mooted it as a final point of retreat at the end of the Second World War. Even after changing flags to the Tricolore of Italy, these wines were for a time still considered Swiss and the majority of exports went in that direction. Geographically halfway between Turin and Zurich, vinously it is a midway point between Barbaresco and Burgundy.
The terraced vineyards, on the northern slopes, face south. The sun rises In the east and set in the west. The vines in Valtellina, some 400-500 metres above sea level, enjoy long cool days in the sun. Exceeding even Mt Etna, the region sees more sun than any other wine region in Italy. The roots go deep. They dig down through soils that have no natural business being there. Since Roman times, the topsoil has been brought up by hand and the terraces made of local schist and granite. Beneath the soil, the roots dig through layers of minerally complex stone and shale ground and compacted by ages of glacial action. This long strip of introduced soil it finite and hard to work. The steep slopes and precarious terraces, collapses are frequent, defy heavy machinery. It’s all done by hand. One person per hectare, that’s the guide. Brothers Emanuele and Guido are strict traditionalists when it comes to their wines.
ARPEPE Grumello Rocca Piro, Valtellina 2015
In Valtellina, they call it Chiavennasca
In Valtellina, they grow Nebbiolo or, as it is called locally, Chiavennasca. A sister or perhaps a grandmother vine to Nebbiolo, the famous grape used to make the king and queen of Italian reds, Barolo and Barbaresco. Those familiar with the great wines of Piedmont will know the flavour profile of the Barolo and Barbaresco respectively are ‘tar and roses, roses and tar.’ ARPEPE’s Valtellina Chiavennasca wines are a departure with iron-edged minerality but drop of familiar rosehip. If the description of Barolo/Barbaresco is memorable then the signature flavours of Chiavennasca is unforgettable, ‘blood and roses.’ Evocative as that is, it is by no means the limit with the wines cover cherry, cherry cola, anise, fennel, orange, cloves, a touch of salinity and on and on. Through each wine tasted (see below), there was a consistency on the nose and palate that grew more complex through each level. However, it’s the tannin and acid that make this wine stand out and apart from Piedmontese Nebbioli. The tannins are much softer and the acid while linear and taut isn’t as pronounced as its Piedmontese cousins. It’s as though they have leapt forward in time and aged the tannin alone, leaving the fruit in a youthful state.
ARPEPE Rosso di Valtellina, 2016
Tasting the wines from ARPEPE
The acid, the mineral quality and the approach to winemaking are why Valtellina wines, at least those produced by ARPEPE, invite comparison to Burgundy, and 1er to grand cru Burgundy at that. ARPEPE produces wine from small, low-yielding plots in three of the Valtellina sub-zones: Grumello, Sassella and Inferno. The wine from the latter sub-zone is called Fiamme Antiche or the ancient flame from Hell – ‘blood and roses’ seems tame by comparison. Grumello sits higher up than Sassella and Inferno and produces more elegant, perfumed wines while the latter two have more Piedmontese quality, though only hinting in that direction.
The entry-level wine in the portfolio is the ARPEPE Rosso di Valtellina, the definition of a posh pizza wine. It was the only wine ARPEPE produced in 2014 when growers across the north of Italy had a thoroughly miserable time. Spending 90 days macerating in 50 hL wooden vats before six months of ageing in 50 hL barrels, concrete and bottle. There’s a tendency to describe wines like this as ‘smashable.’ Don’t. It’s not that wine. It’s the wine you open and talk over. When it’s done and you look to open another bottle, you’ll reach for another Rosso di Valtellina.
Langton’s hosted a tasting for our Wine Brokers with wine importer and restaurateur Giorgio de Maria to tasting the wines from ARPEPE. The line up included Rosso di Valtellina 2016, Pettirosso 2015, Grumello Rocca Piro 2015, Sassella Stella Retica 2015 and Inferno Fiamme Antiche 2015.
To find out more, contact your Langton’s Wine Broker or buy online.