Robert Parker doesn't like Valtellina. At least, that's how it appears to this reader. Any time I've read him comment on these nebbiolo-based wines from far northwestern Italy, he doesn't just sound unimpressed. Rather, he sounds inspired to criticize in a way he hasn't in years in the pages of his Wine Advocate newsletter. It's kind of refreshing, even if I might not agree.
Tasting another wine purchased from Wine Expo in Santa Monica, CA, where Parker got the Valtellina he mentioned above, I think I see what was objectiving to. The 1998 Balgera Valtellina Superiore Grumello isn't a Sforzato-style wine like he tried, those made from dried grapes a la Amarone. But this has all the dried fruit, leather, and baked fruit aromas Parker seemed to like, and all the piquant flavor and tannic texture he seemed to hate. Sipping wine this isn't.
But then with galettes of feta and farm cheese with dill and thyme, this wine was absolutely gorgeous. Perfumed with fragrant herbs and fresher seeming cherry fruit, then silky, complex and refreshing in the mouth. What a terrific match, where again the earthy and herby flavors of the food brought out the freshness and sweetness in otherwise earthy, herby wine. It just goes to show how important food is with old school wines. Parker didn't mention trying his Valtellina with food. I wonder how that might have changed his impressions.