The origin of wine production in Valtellina dates back to ancient history, when the valley where the Adda flowed was colonized by populations of the Liguri and the Etruscans. Valtellina began exporting wine beyond its own borders during Roman times Virgil mentions that “Rhaetic” wines were known and appreciated outside the territory.
Large scale distribution of Valtellina wines did not begin until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the valley was governed by Switzerland’s Grigione Canton. Carried on mule back across the Bernina Alps and hence exported north into other parts of Europe, these wines constituted an important part of the Grigione economy hence the canton’s interest in controlling the area!
This period saw the greatest expansion of the impressive system of man-made terraces on which wine grapes are grown in Valtellina. Most of the production was locally consumed, with only the highest-quality wines (produced on the mid-altitude slopes) being exported to the courts of Europe. Valtellina wines were favored by the northern European aristocracy for their fineness, their ageing capacity, and their elegant structure.