Due to its challenging climate and terrain, Valtellina was once regarded as the last frontier of Italian viticulture. Tucked up in the northern pocket of Lombardy hugging the Swiss border, Valtellina has come a long way in a short period of time and is steadily shaking off the ‘Piedmont’s poor cousin’ label. To the north are the imposing Swiss Alps, and to the south is the Orobie Bergamo National Park. The valley runs from East to West split down the middle by the Adda River and is broken up into 5 subzones. At the eastern end of the valley in the zone of Valgella, near the town of Teglio where you will find the tiny Estate of Sandro Fay.
Like many producers in this region, Sandro Fay focuses on Chiavennasca (named after the nearby town of Chiavenna) – the region’s specialty and their unique expression of Nebbiolo. In recent times, global pressures have encouraged Valtellina producers to re-label their wines as Nebbiolo. Almost all of Fay’s wines come from the Valgella zone which gets little tempering influence from Lake Como, resulting in a classic alpine vine growing area when coupled with the fact that their vineyards range between 400m and 800m. It’s also worth noting that the soil breakdown here is almost the opposite to the Langhe with literally no traces of clay or limestone. Here, it is mostly primary rock and sand which proves to work well with their climate and choice of vines.
Sandro Fay first commercially produced wine back in 1973, but in recent times, his son Marco (winemaker) and daughter Elena (sales & marketing) took over the reins, so it’s truly a family managed Estate. Although the region is regarded as one of the most challenging in Italy to make quality wine, Fay are highly regarded and produce an array of wonderfully food orientated wines that show vitality, racy acidity, salty minerals and lingering fine tannins. Maybe the closest Nebbiolo comes to Pinot Noir?
– Peter Johns, PrimaVeraSelections.com.au