(2022) From Valtellina in Lombardy, just north and east of Piedmont, and home to some very fine Nebbiolo wines (known locally as 'Chiavennasca'), that's the major component here along with small quantities of the local Pignola, Rossola and Brugnola varieties. This is a charmer: soft and translucent in colour, there's a mature truffle and sweet earth and tobacco fragrance, then a palate where the gentle sweetness of the Nebbiolo pushes through. Cherry is the dominant impression, both the sweet pulp of the flesh and grip and tang of the skins, and though vinification is in steel, there's a little spice and hint of nutty toast plus some firmness in the finish of a delightful wine.
(2004) 13.5% again, and spends time in French barriques, about 30% new and 70% used. This has a very dark, black-coffee colour, and a definite hint of rot on the nose, though it does give a sous-bois, truffly Burgundian quality to toffeeish notes and red fruit. The palate has a thick texture with plenty of sweet, glossy damson and black fruit character, and a jammy sweet edge. It is balanced, though the tannins are soft, and good acidity freshens it up. Approachable now and very good.
(2004) The first of the Sforzato wines from dried grapes. It spends two years in small oak barrels, then six months in bottle before release. This has a heady 15% alcohol. It is quite dark in colour, but with some brick on the rim. It is quite elegant and perfumed, with notes of toffee and tobacco, dried fruits, clove and dried spices and herbs. The palate is concentrated, with a bittersweet quality and plenty of rich, meaty, stock-cube character set against curranty, dried fruit. There is more spice about this wine, and a savoury appeal through polished, warming tannins and smooth, balanced acidity.
(2004) Unusually, both fermentation and ageing takes place in lightly-toasted Alliers oak barriques for 15 months. This 14.5% alcohol wine then has another year in bottle before release. It has a very deep, dark garnet colour. It is quite closed at first, with a tight, muscular, concentrated character and glimpses of brown sugar, meat and a leathery, smoky note. The palate has a lovely tension between sweet, dried fruits (raisins and prunes) and a much juicier, firm cherry character. It is intense and mouthfilling, with a sheen of tannin adding grip and good cherryish acidity.
(2004) This is a selection of the best bunches from the vineyards, which spends a total of three years ageing, two in barrique and one in bottle. It has 14.5% alcohol. It is dark, with some lighter ruby at the rim, but quite dense. It has a really powerful, sweet, aromatic nose with loads of dried cherry and currant, sweet coffee notes, caramel and plenty of spice. Easily the most arresting wine on the nose so far. The palate is lovely too, with lots of freshness thanks to a crisp edge of cherry acidity and finely-wrought, bittersweet fruit. Good balance, with quite firm tannins and good length.
(2004) 14.5% alcohol, this wine is only aged in large oak botti for the first year, before transferring to barrique for a few months finishing. It has a solid, dark colour with a glow of ruby. Quite an elegant nose, with tight, sweet, glossy aromas suggesting muscular structure immediately, with a blue-black, polished quality. Palate is medium- to full-bodied, with lots of savoury, tart black cherry and a note of olive. There is cleansing acidity, and tight-grained, polished tannins with just a tiny suggestion of spicy oak into a long finish. Real elegance here, suggesting the superiority of this vintage perhaps?
(2004) "Sfursat" is the alternative name for the Sforzato classification. This 14.5% wine spends no less than five years in large oak casks, with no barriques. I would guess this is the traditional Valtellina way, much like in neighbouring Piedmont, where the move from botti to barriques by some top producers still splits fans into "new" and "old" style Barolo followers. It has a dark, dried-blood colour and lots of sweaty, dense, sous-bois and leather character: this is all about these game and vegetal aromas, with some dried fruit just showing through. As is often the case with such wines, this leads to terrific fruit sweetness on the palate, with currant, cherries and Christmas spices, and a fine sweetness and ripeness to both fruit and tannins. Good body and balance into a long finish, this is delicious.
(2004) This 13% alcohol wine spends six months in new French oak, then a further year in bottle before release. It is quite a pale, slightly browning ruby colour. The nose is gently hazelnutty, with a vegetal edge. Quite rich in the mouth, with full texture and a slightly cloying sweetness. A big, broad, juicy background of savoury leather and game fills out, and there is a bit of tannic structure, before plenty of crisp, tangy cherry acidity. This is very good, though a little overripe perhaps.
(2004) This 13.5% alcohol wine spends an extended period (over two years) in wood: 80% is one- and two-year-old French and American oak, and 20% is large Slovenian casks. It is much darker and denser in colour, and more modern in many ways, with coffee and toast and a big, prune-like character. Again a real sweetness of fruit on the palate suggesting raspberry and cherry, and then some kirsch and plum with notes of spices and leather. It has a dense, chewy mid-palate, and the soft, coffeeish flavour re-emerges, with softish tannins and balanced acidity.