Inferno is an odd name for a wine region, but this one is aptly named. One of the five wine zones of Italy’s steep Valtellina valley, the dramatic 25 miles of vineyards cling to the lower slopes of the Alps that form the border with Switzerland. In a recent profile, Wine Spectator described the winery—it produces mineral-laced ‘mountain Nebbiolo’ and the more concentrated Sfursat, made from partially dried grapes—and the unique way in which the wine is harvested and processed.
Inferno is known for ‘hot’ wines grown on tough, rocky soils where summer temperatures can go above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the steep slopes, harvesting machines or vehicles cannot be used. It is also dangerous for grape pickers, who carry grapes on their backs traversing treacherous terrain. It’s even more difficult to get the grapes to the winery, so the owners came up with an ingenious solution: grapes are airlifted from inaccessible areas by helicopter. Each day during harvesting, as per the magazine, plastic bins are put in place, filled with the day’s harvest of grapes. The bins are wrapped in thick netting, two bins at a time, each weighing half a ton.
The hired helicopter has a trailing cord and hook. The chopper hovers over the bins, while workers attach the hook to the bins and the helicopter pulls it up and drops it at the winery. This is the most extreme terroir of northern Italy and the winery itself, Nino Negri, was built from a medieval fortress. In 1986, Negri was sold to the conglomerate, Gruppo Italiano Vini, but till today, the wines are still extracted by helicopter.