Located in the heart of the Valtellina region in the village of Castionne Andevenno, on the western end of the Sassella zone historically known as ‘Grisoni’ behind the family cantina, Alfio Mozzi is the third generation contadino to work his family’s schist terraces, along with his nephew Alessandro. Nonno Domenico was already making wine from 1.5ha of vines during the 1940s & ’50s, selling it in bulk to the local cooperative, Enologica Valtellina in Sondrio, & they in turn to the neighbouring Swiss market. Alfio’s father Ezio (nato ’35) tended the vines at the weekend, along with his wife Bambina, but earned a living from transporting feed in the valley; he now helps his son in the vineyards, aided by their dog ‘Giubi’.
Born in 1972, Alfio grew up among the vines, although he became a ‘fabbro’ (ironmonger) first for ten years, before returning to the family estate in 1998. In 2009 he made the step-change from fruit grower to bottler, restoring the family’s old cantina. In 2010, he was joined by Alessandro, a passionate agronomist who studied at the Agraria Institute of Sondrio. The estate now stands at 3.5ha of Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo), all within the prized Sassella zone/vineyard, on friable, rocky, free-draining schist terraces at between 350 – 550m asl, facing SE for the Valtellina Superiore plots of ‘Ronchi’ & ‘Uratori’, & SW for the old vineyard of Mossino at 550m asl. They also grow some Rossola in the highest (550m asl) vineyard of Mossino. Some of their vines are 100 years old, especially in Mossino, while new plantings use a variety of Chiavennasca clones, such as CR34, 269, 275, 274.
They are in the process of converting to certified organic. Since 2010 Alfio & Alessandro have stopped applying fertiliser or calc to their terraced vineyards. And since 2012 they stopped using herbicides. Indeed, as a result Alfio has noticed three benefits: bunches have become looser & smaller; the grapes now have a distinctly richer bloom; & the fermenting wine throws less ‘fecce’, i.e. is cleaner.
In 2019 Alfio added a new vinification room to the family cantina, along with a new destemmer & pneumatic press. Spontaneous fermentation takes place in stainless-steel & fibre-glass, with pumping over of the Chiavennasca must taking place over c.20 days using spontaneous yeast. Unforced malolactic takes place in the spring following the harvest, in Garbellotto (French light toast) 32HL & 22HL botti grande that the family have been buying since 2010. Affinamento in botte is for c.20 mths for the Valtellina Superiore & c.32 mths for the Riserva. The wines are bottled with c.60mg of total sulphur. Production is limited at c.8k bottles of Valtellina Superiore & 2.5k bottles of VS Riserva
They produce three wines: Sassella Valtellina Superiore; Sassella Valtellina Superiore Riserva (in good years); & Sforzato di Valtellina (a partial passito wine).
The labels show the Opuntia Fico d’India, a wild variety that thrives among their schist rocky terraces.
Alfio is supported by his wife Monia, & children Sofia & Matteo.
Sassella Valtellina Superiore ‘Grisone’
Sassella Valtellina Superiore Riserva ‘Grisone’
Sforzato di Valtellina
2017 Sassella Valtellina Superiore ‘Grisone’ – tasted by DBG on 20 Febbraio 2020
14.10%abv, TA 4.53, pH c.3.70, 60mg total sulphur, aged for 20 mths in 32 & 22HL botte grande. Alfio chose not to release a Riserva in 2017, so all three vineyards of Chiavennasca & Rossola (in vyd Mossino high up), from 350 – 550m asl, are blended into the one Sassella Valtellina Superiore, hence 8k bottled Sept’19. Pale red garnet, the nose is very pretty, ethereal, spiralling up with little red fruit, fragole & cassis, along with a hint of sandalwood, of rose & fieno/hay. It’s racy, refined, streamlined, bright with crunchy fruit & a tight core. There’s a real sense of Sassella here, of bright, exciting aromatics, tingling energy & minerality. Uplifting indeed!
2016 Sassella Valtellina Superiore ‘Grisone’ – tasted by DBG on 20 Febbraio 2020
14.69%abv, TA4.80, pH c.3.60, 60mg total sulphur, aged for 30 mths in 32 & 22HL botte grande, having spent 20 days on its skins. A blend of Sassella’s Ronchi & Uratori vineyards (as the higher Mossino is for the Riserva). Unsurprisingly, given the 2016 vintage, the colour is fuller & more intense. Compared to 2017, it feels more complete & relaxed, aided by more time in bottle too, having been bottled in Sept’18. Less lifted & aromatic than the 2017 too, more of a middle-weight to a bantom, more rosa canina, composure, with that classic 2016 sotto-spirito, almost candied fruit & presence. Gorgeous, complete.
2016 Sassella Valtellina Superiore ‘Grisone’ Riserva – tasted by DBG on 20 Febbraio 2020
14.20%abv, TA4.64, pH c.3.60, 57mg total sulphur, aged for 30 mths in 32 & 22HL botte grande, 2.5k bottled Sept’19, from their highest Sassella vineyard plot, at 550m asl, called Mossino, sits in a alight amphitheatre gazing full south, drenched in light! Here there’s a mix of old & young vines, plus there’s some Rossola (pale, high acid, plentiful) in the blend. It’s more decadent, luxurious with a heavenly, silky tannin thread, more strawberry gelato perhaps, yet alive with racy acidity & pulse. There’s even a ‘bonbons francais’ feel to the fruit, sinewy yet at the same pieno di gioia! Shows great promise, more impegnativo/demanding, & a bit backward at present. Needs time in bottle to unfurl.