Per importer Frederick Wildman:
Established in 1897, Nino Negri is the premier estate producing wine in the Valtellina DOCG in Italy’s Lombardy region. The estate specialty is Sfursat (“strained” or “forced”); a wine made from grapes harvested by trained pickers and dried for 100 days in the cool, dry, alpine air. This winemaking style combines the opulence of Amarone with the elegant complexity of Barolo. The success of Nino Negri is due largely to the efforts of winemaker Casimiro Maule who has worked at the estate since 1971, his entire professional life. In 2007, Casimiro was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Gambero Rosso, the magazine authority in Italian wine.
The star and primary varietal here is Chiavennasca, the local name for Nebbiolo. The variety has been cultivated in the area for over 1,000 years and all Valtellina DOCG wines must contain at least 90% Chiavennasca.
Basically, you’ve got Lombardy’s answer to Amarone, and those dried grapes really shine through here. (This is a reserve bottling of sorts from Nino Negri, using the best of its harvest.) Quite sweet on first blush, the drying process really softens up the normally aggressive nebbiolo, giving it a bright blueberry note with hints of mixed flowers. Lots of baking spice emerges as the palate develops, with a kick of licorice and dark chocolate on the back end. Really grows on you, but give it time and air.
A- / $58 / frederickwildman.com