The Valtellina region has always been associated with vineyards and wine production. Vines are recorded as being present as far back as the Carolingian era and from that period onwards the realisation and arrangement of terraced vineyards has rarely looked back. Hence there is now a continuous stretch of fully 40 kilometres of vineyards along the Retiche hillsides which flank the banks of the river Adda, from Dubino to Tirano. It’s no surprise therefore that this represents one of the most significant contributions to the local agricultural economy. This high quality production saw steady growth throughout the Middle Ages, so much so that the valley quickly became the hub of wine production in an area incorporating the length of the Pianura Padana and in the Central Alpine region. Because of improved means of transport and communication over the years, wine from Valtellina had to compete, throwing down a strong challenge to other wine-producing areas in Italy. Inevitably though, competition led to a significant diminution in the amount of land occupied by vineyards. This movement towards the ‘abandonment’ increased dramatically during the last thirty years due to the huge imbalance between the cost of production and the selling price of the finished product, despite the extraordinary rise in quality during those years - exemplified by the vast array of awards won and a marked increase in recognition world-wide. Today there are 800 hectares in Valtellina under cultivation. It’s a highly specialised process and growth is much encouraged by the location. The vines thrive along the tiny terraces on the valley-side supported by dry-stone walling. Mechanisation plays little part even with an embankment system, water being made available through appropriate channels. The vineyard area provides an essential continuum both in an agricultural and cultural sense, and is most prevalent in the mid-valley region. The lower valley hosts smaller vineyards, more compact areas split by woodland, meadow and tracks leading off to secondary valleys. The villages are usually situated upstream with the cultivated areas almost appearing to creep up on them. The old rustic houses situated within the villages have for the most part been transformed into private dwellings, sometimes nowadays for rent, and recently some farm holiday tourism has begun to play its part.