Doug Decants: Balgera

by blog on March 26, 2021

Vini di Balgera, Lombardia

Cultured Chiavs

Balgera is a small family winery located in Chiuro, one of the winegrowing villages of Valtellina area, in the region of Lombardy. The winery dates back to 1885, when it was founded by Pietro Balgera, who began the trade in Valtellina wines to neighbouring Switzerland through Valposchiavo, the tradition was carried on by his descendants, Leone and Gianfranco, who dedicated themselves to developing the business, dealing with both production and marketing, progressively refining the winemaking process and expanding the production spaces.

Paolo Balgera drove the quality even higher and the next generation, represented by the brothers Luca and Matteo, are already active in the business.

These are classic old-style highly fragrant Valtellina wines made from the Chiavennasca variety, also known as Nebbiolo in Piedmont region. Valtellina is a vast mountainous area dotted with various sub-zones dedicated to vine growing. Balgera makes a range of wines from these sub-zones, namely: Sassella, Grumello, Inferno and Valgella. These Valtellina Superiore wines have achieved DOCG status.

The vineyards are cultivated on terraces, which are generally south facing. While protected from cold winds, they allow a microclimate within the valley for perfect ripening of grapes.

A fine bottle of Valtellina wine is elegant and well structured, and tends to improve through long bottle ageing. The Riserva wines spend a very long time in barrels before bottling – these wines demonstrate vividly the exceptional ageing potential of the grape.

The rigorous activity in the vines is key to the entire process. The vineyards are terraced with the typical dry-stone walls and all hand-built, just like they used to be. This is heroic viticulture. No herbicides are used or other chemicals.

The harvest, usually in the first week of October, is the culmination of the work and a precise undertaking. The best bunches are sorted and picked into the 15 kg boxes, ensuring that only good quality fruit makes it to the winery.

Back at the winery the crushed grapes are spontaneously fermented in tank for around 20-25 days. At the end of fermentation, the juice remains in special old vitrified concrete tanks to achieve a natural decantation. The lees settle in the bottom of the tank and the wine is transferred to Slavonian oak barrels of 50 and 100 hectolitres, to age for an average period of 10 years. It is during this period that the wine acquires its characteristic organoleptic complexity.

At the end of the barrel maturation the wine spends a period of about a year in the bottle to refine yet further. After having been in contact with wood for a long time, assuming its characteristic scents and fragrances, the wine weaves a relationship in the bottle that leads it to reach the definitive maturation, completing its structure and its aromatic range.

2015 Rosso di Valtellina 450 was made in both 2013 and 2014 but was not released for sale until Balgera were happy with the results of their experimentation. The 2015 thus was the first vintage to be commercialised. The idea of this cuvee was to be fresh and young without losing the elegance and the balance that is characteristic of Balgera’s wines.

The grapes come from vines planted in 1960 at 450m of altitude with south east/south west exposure. No chemicals are used in the vineyard, only organic manures.

After a strict manual harvest, destemmed grapes undergo controlled fermentation in stainless steel vat with indigenous yeasts, followed by maturation for one year in 5hl barrels. There is a light filtration but pretty minimal use of sulphur. The wine has a pale garnet colour and delicate aromas of plums, ripe cherries and dried herbs. The palate delivers red berries, crushed stones and light spice, developing notes of leather and tobacco. Nice bite of balancing acidity ensures a fresh finish.

2007 Valtellina Superiore Sassella is named after a little church from the 15/16th century. The terroir here features a crunchy amalgam of limestone with decomposed morainic rocks, including granite, serpentite and gneiss. Here the vinification starts in big cement chests built in the 1950’s. The fruit is soft pressed with subsequent maceration on the skins for about 15 days. A year in tank and then up to ten more in large Slavonian oak barrels plus 6 more months in the bottle before its release. A ruby red, full-bodied wine, expressive with aromas of roses and wild strawberry with hints of raspberry and hazelnut.  The tannins are quite lovely.

Age shall not wither the 2004 Valtellina Riserva Grumello (which derives its name from the local 12th century castle). Here we are at slightly higher altitude – up to nearly 600 metres in parts. 25-days maceration then a year in concrete tank, 14 years in Slavonian oak and six more months in bottle. The wine has more structure and tannins. It’s very approachable with aromas of matured fruit, raisins, smokiness, anise, liquorice and cured meats.

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Interested in trying the wines of Vini di Balgera? Contact us directly:

[email protected] |  [email protected] |
01483 538820

*Note: We are still open for business, doing deliveries, and keen
to help everyone with their booze needs in this difficult time.
Natural wine lovers can visit our online shop and order online!

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