Oltrepò Pavese, The Land of the Two Unique Expressions of Pinot Noir in Italy

Once again, the Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese (Oltrepò Pavese Wine Protection Consortium) whose members have grown to 34 since the past year, has united to showcase the two excellences that their land expresses with Pinot Noir. The event, "Oltrepò – Terra di Pinot Nero, un Territorio, un Vitigno, Due Eccellenze" (Oltrepò - Land of Pinot Noir, One Territory, One Grape Variety, Two Excellences) took place at the Antica Tenuta Pegazzera in Casteggio in the Lombardy region as a way to explore the two important wine designations in the territory: Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG and Pinot Nero dell'Oltrepò Pavese DOC.

"For three editions this event has allowed us to talk and explore the topic of Pinot Noir, a pride of our denominations. The Oltrepò is one of the major production areas at an international level, the most important in Italy and which in recent years we have been working to make more and more known. With Oltrepò -Terra di Pinot Nero, we gave the word to the companies, who once again demonstrated the value and quality of their wines ” commented Gilda Fugazza, President of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese.

Carlo Veronese, Director of Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese added "The excellent response from the operators and the press of the sector, as well as obviously from the companies that have chosen to participate in the event, are proof of the ever-increasing interest in this territory and the desire to talk about it better. The masterclasses underlined a great excitement and an ever-increasing quality of the wines, a sign that the path is the right one."


With the objective of full-immersion in the two designations of Pinot Noir of Oltrepò Pavese, the event kicked off with a dinner at Ristorante Le Cave Cantù with the producers. Here, the menu created by Chef Damiano Dorati was focused on the gastronomic culture of the territory paired with of course, Oltrepò Pavese wines. Every dish found its way to the fluid pairing with the right kind of wine with two long tables dedicated each to sparkling wines and still red wines to choose from. The highlight of the celebration was the walk-around tasting of the two designations of Oltrepò Pavese from the wineries of the consortium which facilitated interesting interactions with the producers while tasting their wines. In the interim, two masterclasses dedicated to each wine designation were held. 

Jacopo Cossater, speaker of the masterclass dedicated to the Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG, commented, "The classic methods we tasted have very different profiles, but they are all linked by a common thread given by the high quality and elegance that they are able to express. They are products that have an incredible value for money, perfect for catering thanks to their great combinability." Filippo Bartolotta underlined the great revolution that's undergoing in Pinot Nero dell'Oltrepò Pavese DOC. "There is a lot of sensitivity, an increasingly authentic interpretation of the identifying characteristics of Pinot Noir in Oltrepò. The wines are more elegant, with the fruit at the center, without being too strong with the wood. I'm curious to find out what will happen in the next few years."

The wineries that participated in the Oltrepò -Terra di Pinot Nero were: Alessio Brandolini, Berté & Cordini, Bosco Longhino, Bruno Verdi, Cà del Gè, Cà di Frara, Calatroni, Castello di Cigognola, Castello di Luzzano, Cavallotti, Conte Vistarino, Cordero San Giorgio, Riccagioia – ERSAF Regione Lombardia, Fiamberti Giulio, Finigeto, Frecciarossa, Giorgi, La Genisia, La Piotta,  La Travaglina, Lefiole, Manuelina, Marchese Adorno, Montelio, Oltrenero, Pietro Torti, Prime Alture, Quaquarini, Tenuta Mazzolino, Terre Bentivoglio, Terre d'Oltrepò - La Versa, Torre degli Alberi, Torti l’Eleganza del Vino, and Travaglino.

The Conditions of Pinot Noir in Oltrepò

It is interesting to know that 75% of the Pinot Noir vineyards in Italy is cultivated in Oltrepò making it the largest in the country and the third in Europe after Champagne and Bourgogne. However, it is a lesser-known viticulture territory compared to the more popular zones of Italy. Oltrepò is located in the Lombardy northern region, just about 45 kilometers south of Milan, and nestled between Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Liguria. The territory has a triangular shape, or better yet, like a bunch of grapes and set across 440 kilometers of rolling hills, approximately 16,000 hectares of vineyards, 3,000 of which are planted with Pinot Noir. The production area of the Oltrepò Pavese denomination includes the hilly wine-growing area of ​​the Oltrepò Pavese for the entire territories of the municipalities in the province of Pavia. 

Being located at a latitude of 45° above the equator in the northern hemisphere, the conditions of growing the vines are optimal. The climate is well-suited for the growth of the Pinot Noir more than other varieties which tend to ripen too soon. Pinot Noir is harvested at its early stage when the skin's ripeness has a good balance of acidity and sugar which are needed for the production of the sparkling wine. The soils of Oltrepò Pavese present a great variety but are mainly composed of sandstones, clay, sands and silty marls with veins of white chalk, giving the wines notes of sapidity while the climate is typical of the continental areas with cold winters and hot summers.

At Oltrepò, Pinot Noir is expressed in two forms: vinification in still red and the sparkling wine obtained from the classic method. The combination of the characteristics of the grape variety, the soil, the climate and the techniques of the producers, which are mostly family-run, make up the identity of the wines of Oltrepò Pavese. With the guidance of the consortium, a group of producers has been looking at the future of the wines of the territory by introducing a more contemporary style of vinification giving the wines approachability and increased international imprint while aiming to conquer the general public’s tastes without interfering with the standard of high quality of Oltrepò Pavese.

Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG

The first production of Pinot Noir classic method sparkling wine in Oltrepò was initiated in 1930 by Cantina Sociale di Santa Maria della Versa, a winemaking cooperative but it wasn't until 1958 that another wine producer, Malpaga, followed suit. The production of classic method sparkling wine grew at Oltrepò in the succeeding years and in 2007, it was recognized with the highest wine denomination, the DOCG. It now has an annual production of about 560,000 bottles for the classic method vinified in white and 100,000 for the classic method rosé, 60% of which are labeled Cruasé.

The sparkling wine of Oltrepò Pavese obtained with the classic method is declined in these typologies: Metodo Classico and Metodo Classico Rosé (minimum of 70% Pinot Noir); Metodo Classico Pinot Nero and Metodo Classico Pinot Nero Rosé (minimum of 85% Pinot Noir). However, some changes have been proposed by the consortium aimed at giving the denomination greater identification but have yet to be approved by the EU regulators. The word "Pavese" is to be eliminated so the proposed new name would become Oltrepò Docg Metodo Classico. The minimum time of aging on the lees will become 24 months from 15 months for the non-vintage wines, 36 months from 24 months for the vintage wines or millesimato, and the riserva a minimum of 48 months. The quantity of Pinot Noir is to be elevated to 85%. These sparkling wines have characteristics of fine and persistent perlage, broad bouquet, sapidity and freshness on the palate while the Pinot Noir version which have more quantity in the composition displays much broader profile with underlined bouquet of bottle fermentation.

Cruasé is a registered trademark of the consortium, Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese which was presented in 2009. The name was created from the French term "cru" which entails selection, and "rosé" It therefore refers to Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Rosè DOCG specification from selected vineyards with qualitative result. It's a brand of the consortium that functions as an identifying image of the vine, the territory and the production method. Its production rules are more restrictive such as manual harvesting of Pinot Noir grapes, soft pressing, light maceration of the skins with the must, aging on the lees for a minimum of 24 months and a minimum composition of 85% Pinot Noir grapes. Cruasé is an intriguing rosé wine that highlights the taste-olfactory experience of fine and gentle bouquet and elevated by characteristic freshness and fruitiness.

Pinot Nero dell'Oltrepò Pavese DOC

The Pinot Nero dell'Oltrepò Pavese DOC was recognized in 1970 and it refers to a still red wine which also includes the Riserva with the longer aging period. The required percentage of Pinot Noir grapes is a minimum of 95% while the remaining 5% can be other non-aromatic red grape varieties suitable for cultivation in the Lombardy Region.

The winemakers choose three expressions for this wine: refinement in steel and bottle for an outcome of light wine that can be enjoyed while young; the grapes harvested from a single or selected vineyards with light influence of wood; and the wine that had been refined in wood for a longer period which develops more structure and greater capacity for aging. The organoleptic properties should appear ruby red in color with possible orange reflections, a nose with pleasant ethereal notes, ripe dark berries and stone fruit, hints of spices with a mouth that's dry and harmonious. Whereas for the Pinot Nero dell'Oltrepò Pavese DOC Riserva, the characteristics are more complex, full-bodied, soft, slightly tannic, dry and warm given that the aging period is at least 24 months, six of which is in wood.

Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese

Address: Via Riccagioia 48, 27050 Torrazza Coste (PV), Italy
Tel: +39 0383 77028
Website: https://www.consorziovinioltrepo.it/
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