It may surprise you to know, the most radical group of architects in the late 1960s came from the Duomo-dominated horizon of Florence. Calling themselves Superstudio, they critiqued the dominant idea that architecture is a benevelont force in society and questioned the impact of built environments on politics. Radical at the time, with their surreal landscapes and montages, now their concerns are considered core ideas for many architects today.
I was thinking about this as I had the disorientating experience of tasting a distinctly low-resolution Nebbiolo from the Alpine region of Valtellina in an ultra-modern space outfitted by designer Phillipe Starck. It made me wonder: Does where you taste a wine affect the taste?
If that is the case, then this rustic Nebbiolo did not stand a chance.
Valtellina is a small DOC high up in the Alps on the Swiss border and has four sub-districts, the most famous being Inferno. The wine of the evening was a 2002 Valtellina Superiore from the Sassella area. Up in these parts, Nebbiolo is called Chiavennasca.
Even though the perfume has (what I like to call) the same madness of roses as Barolo, compared to its sleeker Nebbiolo cousins in Piedmont – with tannins which are like digital, high-definition television in comparison – the palate is soft and rustic. The bottle in question was from 2002, slightly oxidised and tasting a little tired despite the exquisite Baroque opulence to the perfume: this could never be can be mistaken for any other country than Italy, but without the tannins, it could have been mistaken for an Alto Adige Pinot Noir.
Up in the mountains on the border of Switzerland, Valtellina DOC has escaped the pressures of the market and fashion. Perhaps it did taste more rustic in this environment rather than at a picnic with friends beside a mountain stream.
As another expression of Nebbiolo, it is worth seeking out and, in the right conditions, has the ability to age for over 40 years. Even within the incredible biosphere of Italian grapes, this Nebbiolo cuts a solitary figure on the wine landscape. And like all Nebbiolo, it is designed for living.
Image: Superstudio poster