2016 Sandro Fay Sforzato di Valtellina Ronco del Picchio (750ml)

Nebbiolo from Sforzato di Valtellina, Lombardy, Italy

B-21 Top Recommendation
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Imagine an ethereal wine that combines the exceptional aroma and structure of great Nebbiolo like Barolo and Barbaresco with the texture and body of a powerful Amarone. Sound impossible? Look no further than this 2016 Sandro Fay Sforzato di Valtellina Ronco del Picchio, from the Valtellina Superiore DOCG tucked along the Alpine border of Italy and Switzerland. If you haven't heard of Valtellina, there is good reason – until recently nearly 80% of the wines produced here have historically been consumed within 100 miles of the surrounding valley. Like nearby Piedmont, the red wines in Valtellina are produced from Nebbiolo, but here it is a localized clone called Chiavennasca. Rising up south facing slopes in what is Italy's largest terraced wine region, the vineyards of Valtellina are held together by stone retaining walls called muretti (or "little walls"). At altitudes of 750 to 2,500 feet above sea level, the scenic yet death-defying steep slopes are reminiscent of Germany's Mosel and Portugal's Douro. It is at these high altitudes that the grapes for Sandro Fay's top wines are grown.

Sandro Fay established his winery in 1973 and steadily began acquiring prized terraces with different soil compositions in the Valtellina. Sandro's young son and winemaker Marco is steadily improving quality with an emphasis on sustainability and is perhaps best known for this top notch Sforzato di Valtellina. The name Sforzato derives from the verb sforzare (or "force" in English), referring to the process of allowing grapes to dry before being crushed and vinified. Here the partially dried grapes are pressed 3 months after harvest, yielding an intensely aromatic and concentrated wine in the style of Amarone. But make no mistake – the rich flavor profile combined with well-structured tannins will remind you over and over that this is pure Nebbiolo.


The beautiful Sandro Fay 2016 Sforzato di Valtellina Ronco del Picchio is a pure expression of Nebbiolo that goes by the name Chiavennasca in these parts. The grape is believed to have traveled to this special alpine site in the far north of Italy through the Chiavenna Valley that lends its name to the variety. Sandro Fay's terraced vineyards are depicted on the wine's front label, and you can see the protective wall of mountains behind them. This wine offers the power (with a 15.5% alcoholic content) and the velvety texture of air-dried fruit with cherry and redcurrant confit. Those dried fruit aromas (or the "Sforzato" part of the wine) lead to crushed rock, mountain herb, crushed stone and dried blue flower. The trick here is the altitude (this vineyard is located at an impressive 750 meters above se level) that maintains the acidity in the grapes needed to contrast the concentrated sugars of the appassimento process. Some 7,800 bottles were released.

96 points, Monica Larner, Wine Advocate (Issue # 253 - Feb 2021)

50 bottles in stock. Ships in 1 to 2 business days.