They are a family of winegrowers and, for over 150 years, they have been passionately devoted to the cultivation of Nebbiolo. This is a rare grape variety that, over the centuries, has adapted to the Valtellina, a land like no other, where everything is still done by hand. For five generations they have always waited for “the right time” and it is this that sets the pace of their work. Time and humility are what make their wine the purest, sincerest expression of this land and of the people who cultivate it with such dedication. This was the lesson they were taught by their father Arturo, without letting theirselves be influenced by passing fashions and conventional tastes.
They are convinced that the outstanding qualities of Nebbiolo from the Alps means it is more than worthy of its place of honour on the international market of fine wines. Without this worldwide acknowledgement, this age-old activity would simply not be economically sustainable for it rejects any idea of modern mass-production.
Born in 1860. Reborn in 1984. Brought up in 2004.
Today, as then, the quality of their wines continues to be the exquisite outcome of years of slow evolution: in some cases, it may take far longer for them to reach maturity than any handbook might suggest. They wait patiently, and only when the right moment comes, they proceed with bottling the wine, always strictly respecting the phases of the moon. Then, back it goes to rest. This time in bottles.
And that’s the only way it could be, for the traditional ageing of Nebbiolo at ARPEPE has to be done in a certain way: a gradual maturing and the exaltation of individual vineyards, with the nuances and colours of the various vintages.
Innovation and sustainability
At ARPEPE, even innovation has to respect the concept of “the right waiting time”: evolution is not a matter of fleeting fashions, for it has to respond to the need for constant improvement of every aspect of production.
They believe that genuine innovation means capturing the essence of tradition, and systematically perfecting it in even the tiniest details.
They have indeed introduced a number of improvements in vineyard management, in order to improve the quality of the grapes, making the work of the winegrowers both simpler and more effective. Gentle Simonit & Sirch pruning, light battery-powered Pellenc tools and the use of small harvesting boxes are just some examples of the constant attention they pay to the professional advancement and health of their young people.
With the help of an helicopter, they installed a cable car in the Rocce Rosse vineyard to transport the grapes down into the valley. Similar structures were used a hundred years ago, but making one today, in compliance with all the safety regulations, was a task of rare complexity.
Even though it was built in 1973, the underground cellar at Buon Consiglio is perfectly integrated into the terraced slope of the Grumello. It was made using what were advanced solutions for the time and its special architectural structure allows for natural moisture and temperature control, which is essential for proper aging.
Also the new reception and tasting premises, designed by the architect Enrico Massimino and opened on the 150th anniversary of the business, adopt the latest ideas on environmental impact. Their guests can now look out over the vineyards and rocks of the Grumello, experiencing a wonderful sensation of being in two worlds, both indoors and out.
The cornerstone of the entire design was its focus on the environment and thus, primarily, on the vineyard. The roof of the new premises, for example, is in the form of a garden, while the photocatalytic paving outside removes pollutants from the air.
Geothermal energy - transforming the natural heat of ground water to obtain a clean, renewable form of alternative energy - was an inspired decision, further reducing their company’s CO2 emissions.
The Valtellina is a valley of glacial origin, furrowed by the river Adda, which runs for a full 120 kilometers from east to west, from the Stelvio Pass to Lake Como.
Embraced in between the Alpi Retiche and Orobie, it runs parallel to chain of the Alps and enjoys a unique microclimate. From dawn to sunset, the sun warms the terraced vineyard, which is set like a precious stone on the Rhaetian slope, fully exposed to the south and soothed by the cool breeze from the north.
Dry-stone walls hold back poor soils of flaked granite, where, since time immemorial, the root of the Nebbiolo from the Alps vine has found all the nutrients it needs to create a genetic variability that is unsurpassed.
The spectacle of the terraced vineyards of the Valtellina is the heritage of mountain folk who have tended them for centuries, and it is a priceless treasure that deserves to be protected as a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Vineyard and winery
The manual work in the vineyard, following the natural rhythms of Nebbiolo from the Alps, and the right waiting time for ageing in the cellar, are two simple concepts that form the basis of ARPEPE’s production philosophy. The idea is to preserve the unique aromatic properties of their grapes and to transfer them intact to the bottle, adopting a process that is as respectful as possible of the earth and of those who work it.
They own 13 hectares of vineyard all standing in grass, in the heart of the Valtellina Superiore DOCG area, dotted around Sassella, Grumello and Inferno.
All processes are entirely by hand, and indeed the morphology of their vineyards makes it impossible to use tractors. The frequency of plant protection treatments depends on the rains, but also these indispensable operations are carried out manually. Vines are very sensitive to the weather and winemakers know how challenging it can be to look after them.
It is by no means unusual to spend 1,500 hours on cultivating a single hectare (about two and a half acres) of vineyard. They fight powdery mildew and peronospera but without making it a war of extermination: sometimes they live with it, using integrated management with great care in order to reduce any environmental impact. Despite this, there are some years when the harvest, if not entirely lost, produces wines that never reach the market, such as the terrible 2008 vintage.
Vinification and ageing process, as well as agronomic management, are not things that can be worked out precisely on a spreadsheet. This means that ARPEPE wines are not the result of some mathematical formula, but rather of a philosophy capable of bringing out the best in Nebbiolo from the Alps.
Their interpretation involves giving the right space to all the instruments in the orchestra of winemaking. The aim is to give voice to all the nuances that the genetic heritage of centuries-old vines whispers to those who love Chiavennasca.
If you listen carefully, you’ll find that every vintage has its own fundamental harmonies. In the cellar, using the tools they have been using for 5 generations, with vats, large barrels, steel or concrete tanks, and a huge bundle of patience, they compose their symphony, improvising and listening over and over again to make sure the instruments are all perfectly in tune.
The first performance always comes at the start of the winter season, for two consecutive days (ARPEPE DAYS).