“Viticoltura Eroica:" the epithet bestowed by the viticultural research association CERVIM to wineries grappling with a combination of steepness of slope, high altitude, and remoteness. Surely a labor of love, focusing efforts in such areas is not a project undertaken cavalierly – the fact is, at the intersection of precariousness, terroir, and tradition, some of the most singular vinous expressions are coaxed from vines. There may not be a better example of this than Valtellina in the far north of Italy’s Lombardia region. It is against this dramatic backdrop that we find Lorenzo Mazzucconi and his winery, Pizzo Coca, named for the highest peak in the surrounding Bergamo (also known as Orobie) Alps.
Lorenzo farms a miniscule 1.7 ha. of Nebbiolo vines in Valtellina entirely by hand (as with many Heroic sites, there would be no way to use machinery, but tradition deems handwork the correct way as much as necessity). At an altitude of 400-550m and nearly vertical slopes, vine work and harvest are tremendously precarious. His holdings, though tiny, include plots in Inferno and Grumello, Crus in Valtellina, famed for their tremendous daily sun exposure (in Inferno’s case, hence the name). The combination of schist and sandstone soils, altitude, and aspect ratio combine with the regional Nebbiolo clone’s genetic material to make for smaller berries with particularly high acidity.
The operation at Pizzo Coca is a self-sustaining farm replete with produce fields, the breeding of farm animals (chicken, donkeys, and sheep), and, perhaps most importantly, the maintenance of over 100 beehives. Lorenzo and his partner Alessandro Aldisquarcina actually produce more honey than wine! The winery itself is housed in a former dairy co-op in the small town of Ponte di Valtellina.
Pizzo Coca is entirely organic and natural, and the winemaking is extremely low intervention. All grapes are hand-harvested and destemmed, and the wines are unfined and unfiltered. Lorenzo's IGT Nebbiolo "Alpi Retiche" is farmed from his 60-year-old vines in the Ca’Menatti Vineyard. For this wine, he allows just 10 days of skin contact with but a single pump over during the fermentation process, done spontaneously, in stainless steel. With such a short maceration, limited handling, and no oak influence he succeeds in maximizing freshness.
The Valtellina Superiore “Rino,” is a blend of his Crus, fermented in neutral barrels and with longer maceration, 25 days, but that same light hand and minimalist approach is evident. All of his wines are only minimally dosed with SO2.
Pizzo Coca 'Alpi Retiche' Rosso IGT
Pizzo Coca 'Rino' Valtellina Superiore