31 January 2022

An ice cellar at 2,000 meters above sea level: the wines of Valle Camonica in a unique UNIMONT experiment

This winter has seen the start of a new project of the Pontedilegno-Tonale Consortium, involving the “Consorzio Vini di Valcamonica”, Cantina Bignotti and UNIMONT – the Mountain University at the Edolo Campus of the University of Milan: to complete the aging of 200 of the best bottles of Valle Camonica wine production in an ice cellar especially built for the occasion at Corno d’Aola. Objective: to study how the organoleptic qualities of wine change and to identify sustainable viticulture techniques.

Pontedilegno-Tonale (BS / TN), 27th January, 2022 – The context is worthy of Frozen or a fantastic legend like those handed down from generation to generation among the Alpine populations. The scenery is undoubtedly appropriate: Corno D’Aola in the ski area of ​​Ponte di Legno, in the Adamello Park, offers spectacular views all year round. Further down, in the Camonica Valley, an ancient wine tradition was rediscovered towards the end of the 20th century and, in a short time, has become a point of reference within the agri-food production of the area. So why not combine the two elements, snow and wine, to create a unique product? A new experiment was set up based on this idea: an igloo, created at 2,000 meters above sea level by the local artist Ivan Mariotti, to be used as an unusual aging cellar. About 200 bottles were placed inside at the beginning of winter. Cantina Bignotti chose its IGT reds and Supremo and Brut classic method sparkling wines for this special cellar, while Consorzio Vini di Valcamonica, which brings together 12 wineries, participated in the experiment with thirty labels including reds, whites and passito.

The experiment obviously also has a scientific purpose: it will allow to better understand how the high altitude and winter cold can contribute to improving the aging in bottle of local wines. The scientific aspects of the experiment are carried out by UNIMONT – the Mountain University, centre of excellence of the University of Milan which is based in Edolo, in the Pontedilegno-Tonale area, and therefore represents a further element that characterizes the territoriality of the project.

“This experiment aims to investigate the effect of the climate characteristics of the highest mountain altitudes – characterized by cold and ice – on the aging process of wines produced in Valcamonica. In fact, a series of chemical-physical and organoleptic analyzes will be carried out both on the wines placed in the igloo and on those left in the cellars of the companies on the valley floor, to make an initial comparison in order to verify the effect of altitude conditions and to better organize future research. The involvement of researchers and students of the UNIMONT centre in this experience is in full coherence with the “mission” of the decentralized campus of the University of Milan, that is to transform the specificities of mountain areas into strengths rather than weakness thanks to innovative approaches and strategic collaborations with local forces, from businesses to local authorities, the resident population and tourists ”- explains Anna Giorgi, director of “UNIMONT – the Mountain University”, Edolo Campus of the University of Milan.

“This study joins others, currently taking place, all aimed at enhancing the oenological products of Valcamonica also through the use of the specificities of this Valley. This innovative way of refining wines, if well used, could allow the creation of wines with unique qualities thanks to the very close link with their own “terroir”, enhancing the time-honoured “savoir-faire” of local winemakers.” adds Lucio Brancadoro, professor of Viticulture at the University of Milan.  

During the next summer season, the results will also be available for guests spending their holidays in the Valle Camonica who will have the opportunity to discover the distinctiveness and characteristics of local viticulture. “Tourism can be an extraordinary source of knowledge of a territory and its products. The agricultural sector can also be a valid ally of tourism strategies” explains Michele Bertolini, director of the Pontedilegno-Tonale Consortium. “We therefore believe that combining these two sectors can represent an excellent opportunity for economic development respectful, however, of local customs and our ecosystem.

“Thanks to the activity of the Valcamonica IGT Consortium, since 2004 the Typical Geographical Indication (IGT) of the wines of Valle Camonica has been recognized and a specific production protocol approved. The commitment of the winegrowers of the valley has led to a recovery of viticulture in the area in a short time. The uprooting of the vineyards has completely stopped and more and more young people are planting new vines, enhancing our territory, obtaining high quality products.”

“The result is, in addition to the undoubted benefits in the prevention of hydrogeological instability, a slow change in the landscape of Valle Camonica with the recovery of the authentic values ​​of wine. The territory is a clear example of mountain viticulture and heroic agriculture, characterized by crops on steep slopes and very low grape yields but which produce fine wines with great minerality and character.”

“We want to make our contribution to this evocative path thanks to the initiative of the igloo-cellar”, concludes Bertolini, “by demonstrating the possibility of perpetuating and strengthening the strong moral, symbolic and also economic bond that exists between these mountains and their people. A value that we are sure also represents an extra significance in the eyes of those looking for the most authentic aspects of the mountains”.

The wineries that belong to the Valcamonica Wine Consortium are the following: Azienda Agricola Concarena, Azienda Agricola La Muraca, Azienda Agricola Rodella, Azienda Agricola Togni-Rebaioli, Azienda Agricola Scraleca, Azienda Agricola Vi Bu, Cantina Carona, Cantina Flonno, Cantina Monchieri, Cantina Zanetta, Cascina Casola, Rocche dei Vignali.

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