Marco Ferrari

Lombardy, Italy

Founded in 2019, Marco Ferrari is an exciting new estate in Valtellina, producing exceptional wines based on traditional methods and heroic, alpine viticulture. Located high up in the mountain’s northwest of the Langhe, Valtellina is home to extraordinarily steep and ancient stone-terraced vineyards, at dizzying elevations.

Valtellina Superiore is small region of under four hundred hectares, located in narrow valley carved from granite mountains during glacial movement of the last ice age. Running parallel to the Bernina Alps (part of the Rhaetian range) to the north and the Orobie alps to the south, the valley forms part of the border with Switzerland, with the Adda river winding its way west across the valley floor. Stretching from the ancient Roman trading down of Chiavenna to the Stelvio pass, viticulture in the valley is located on the northern banks of the Adda, sheltered from the extremes of winter.

Wind from lake Como to the south pushes air into the valley, while alpine winds from the northeast in spring help keep conditions dry. Summer can be incredibly hot and despite the elevation and alpine proximity, Mediterranean plants flourish here. The growing season starts a few weeks earlier than in the Langhe, but harvest often is several weeks later, as the cool nights and warm days of autumn stretch the growing season These are perfect conditions for ripening Nebbiolo, though the work is incredibly demanding.  Hand work is imperative here, in the dry-stone terraces called muretti, some of which date back to the Middle Ages. These terraces and the landscape have made Valletelina a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Marco Ferrari’s story began in another appellation in Lombardia, working first in Franciacorta. It was travel and work outside of Italy that shaped his ideas about viticulture and winemaking, ultimately leading him back to Lombardia and Valtellina. Marco spent three years in the northern Rhône, working first with Jérôme Coursodon at Domaine Coursodon in Mauves, followed by time with Franck Balthazar in Cornas, two of the most respected vignerons in the region.  Marco’s experiences at these benchmark estates exposed him to organic farming in steep, extraordinarily difficult conditions as well as traditional winemaking. In the steepest vineyards in the Rhône, hand work is a requirement. Working with machines and tractors is impossible, mirroring the challenging conditions of the steep, mountainous Valtellina region. Marco drew inspiration not only from his direct mentors in the Northern Rhône but also other relationships with iconic growers like Theirry Allemand, Clape and Gonon.

Returning to Italy after his formative time in France, Marco began working for ArPePe, the most respected estate in Valtellina. Gradually, Marco acquired vineyards, starting in 2018 with a single hectare, from which he produced his first vintage. In 2020, he expanded to 1.6 hectares and 2.5 hectares the following year, with vineyards in Sassella and Inferno, two of the most revered sub-zones in the appellation. While the estate remains small, Marco has devoted himself full time to his property.

From our friends at Rare Wine Company:

“Marco's Sassella and Inferno bottlings are sourced from prime, south-facing sites with vines averaging over 80 years old. Marco's ethereal Rosso di Valtellina also comes from Sassella and Inferno but is a blend of fruit from several different parcels scattered around the steep slopes.

Sassella is named for the sassi, large stones, in its gravelly slope which bulges from the valley wall. Sassella's well-drained, very sunny aspect brings its Nebbiolo to elegant, spicy complexity, with well-integrated tannins. Inferno ("hell") is a tiny, especially steep zone of tiny terraces with multiple exposures -warmer, as its name suggests - than Sassella, producing rich, powerful Nebbiolo of striking minerality.

In the cellar Marco works traditionally and simply, inspired by the methods of his friends in the northern Rhone and at ArPePE. Marco ferments with the native yeasts—in whole clusters a la Allemand and the Balthazar when the stems are ripe—in small stainless-steel tanks, macerating for about three weeks with twice daily punching down of the caps. He then ages his wines on the lees in neutral demi-muids from the Rhône, for months on the Rosso di Valtellina and a year and a half for the Inferno and Sassella, before bottling without fining or filtration. All cellar operations are carefully timed to the lunar phases, sulfur usage is minimal, and the wines are further aged in bottle prior to release.

Through this painstaking, time-honored approach, Ferrari fashions strikingly pure expressions of his three Valtellina cuvées. The Rosso di Valtellina is the very definition of floral, precise, mid-weight, mountain Nebbiolo. The Sassella, while similarly supple and elegant, is much deeper and more complex, the qualities that make it the revered "Chambolle" of the region. And Marco's Inferno—which he jokingly calls his "Chaillot" in reference to Balthazar's flagship ancient-vine cuvée​—is more broad-shouldered and powerful, while retaining its schist-derived detail and minerality.