Regional capital: Milan (Milano)
Provinces: Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Mantova, Milano, Pavia, Sondrio, Varese
Lombardia wine is the Italian wine produced in the Lombardy region of north central Italy. The region is known particularly for its sparkling wines made in the Franciacorta and Oltrepò Pavese. Lombardia also produces still red, white and rosé wines made from a variety of local and international grapes including Nebbiolo wines in the Valtellina region, Trebbiano di Lugana white wines produced with the Chiaretto style rosé along the shores of Lake Garda. The wine region currently has 15 Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC), 3 Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) and 13 Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) designations. The main cities of the region are Milan, Bergamo and Brescia. The region annually produces over 28 million gallons (1.1 million hectolitres) of wine, more than the regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Marche, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and Umbria.
Climate and Geography
The climate of Lombardy is varied due to the diverse terrain of the region but is generally considered a "cool" continental climate. The region is influenced by several geographic features that controls the climate and terroir of the land. These include the Alps located in the northern parts of the region near the wine producing area of Valtellina and the Po River which runs along the Oltrepò Pavese (whose name means "Pavia across the Po") and forms most of the region's southern border with Emilia-Romagna. Many wine areas are located near some of Lombardy's major lakes including Franciacorta near Lake Iseo as well as the Garda Bresciano and Garda Mantovano regions near Lake Garda. To the west of Lombardy is the Piedmont wine region, to the south is Emilia-Romagna and to the east are the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and Veneto wine regions.
The winemaking tradition of Lombardy dates back to its settlement by Greek colonist from Athens along the Po river. Archaeological evidence suggest that these settlers traded wine with the Etruscans in nearby Tuscany. In the late 19th century, the Italian wine writer C.B. Cerletti wrote a book for the French market that described the wines of Italy. Of the wines of Lombardy he noted that the Valtellina were still being made in a Greek style and the wines of Oltrepò Pavese were the preferred wines of the Milanese.
The Lombardy region consistent of primarily 13 wine producing areas (from north-south)
- Valtellina-Located along the Adda River in the Alps
- Garda Bresciano-Located along Lake Garda
- Valcelepio- Located around the city of Bergamo
- Franciacorta-Located along Lake Iseo
- Cellatica- Located near Franciacorta in the province of Brescia
- Botticino-Located east of Brescia
- Capriano del Colle-Located southwest of Brescia
- San Martino della Battaglia- Located along Lake Garda south of Garda Bresciano
- Lugana-Located along Lake Garda southeast of San Martino della Battaglia
- Garda Mantovano-Located along Lake Garda in the province of Mantua
- San Colombano al Lambro-Located in the province of Milan along the border with the province of Pavia
- Lambrusco Mantovano-Located in the province of Mantua along the border with Emilia-Romagna. Produces Lambrusco wine.
- Oltrepò Pavese-Located in that part of the Province of Pavia which lies to the south of the river Po and is bordered by the Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont regions
The northernmost wine region of Lombardy has been producing wine since the 5th century and is found in the valley of Adda River traveling west to east through the Alps. The vineyards in this area are located at high altitudes around 2,500 feet. For most of its history, the Valtellina region's primarily market was its exports to nearby Switzerland to the north. In recent times it has garnered international attention for being the only major Italian region to focus on the Nebbiolo grape, locally known as Chiavennasca, outside of the Piedmont region.
The vineyards of the region are located on the south facing slopes along the Adda river. The nearby mountain peaks serve as a protecting influence from cold, harsh winds and helps to trap the heat in the valley. The stony vineyard soils also retains heat and releases it during the night to warm the vines. This creates an optimum situation to allow the Nebbiolo grape the long, slow growing season it needs in order to fully develop its flavors. The steep location of the vineyards makes mechanical harvesting difficult so most vineyards are tended by hand which increases the cost and limits production. Heavy winter rainfall poses the hazards of landslides and soil erosion.
The red wines of the Valtellina regions are typically light to medium bodied. The Nebbiolos are noticeably less tannic and acidic than their Piedmont counterparts. The Valtellina DOC includes the basic level wines while the Valtellina Superiore DOCG include wines from the more premium location and must be aged a minimum of two years. The Valtellina Superiore Riserva are reserve-style wines that must be aged for at least four years. Valtellina also produces an Amarone-style DOCG wine known as Sforzato (or Sfursat, Sfurzat as alternate dialect names) made from dried grapes with a minimum alcohol content of 14.5%.
The Oltrepò Pavese region is responsible for more the half of all wine produced in the Lombardy region as well as two thirds of its DOC designated wines. This region along the Po Valley was once a part Piedmont but has always had Milan as its primary market. Today it still provides many of Piedmont's sparkling wine producers with its Pinot Nero (Pinot noir) grapes. In addition to sparkling wines, the Oltrepò Pavese also produces still red wines from the Pinot Nero, Barbera, Croatina, Uva Rara and Vespolina. There are some small plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon that are starting to appear as varietal wines. The white wines of the region are made from Riesling Italico (Welschriesling), Riesling (Riesling Renano), Chardonnay, Cortese, Malvasia, Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon blanc. The Pinot Nero grape is also vinified as a white, non-sparkling wine in addition to being made as a standard red wine.
The sparkling wines of the region are made in several styles. The wines labeled metodo classico are made according to the méthode champenoise of the Champagne region. The wine are composed primarily of Pinot Nero with up to a 30% blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. Slightly sparkling frizzante styles are made from several of the regions red and white wine grapes including the dry Buttafuoco style and the semi-sweet Sangue di Guida (meaning Judas' blood) both made from Croatina grape known locally as Bonarda. The Moscato grape is also made into a frizzante style as well as liquoroso fortified wine and passito dessert wine.
The Franciacorta wine zone is responsible for some of Italy's most prestigious sparkling wines. Located along the shores of Lake Iseo, vineyards are planted in well drained morainic soils. The area has a long history of producing still red and white wines but has gained most of its success in the last 40 years since it started producing sparkling wines. In 1995 the region received DOCG and created a separate DOC, known as Terre di Franciacorta for its non-sparkling wines.
The sparkling wines of this area are composed primarily of the Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco grape with a maximum 15% of Pinot Nero allowed. The area has a Crémant style wine, known under the trademarked name Satèn, that has less carbon dioxide as the standard sparkling wine but is more "bubbly" than a frizzante. This wine is not allowed to have any Pinot Nero in the blend. The rosé sparklers are required to have a minimum 15% Pinot Nero. The vintage dated wines are required to have a minimum 85% of grapes from that year's vintage and must be aged for at least 30 months prior to release. Non-vintage wines must be aged for at least 18 months. The Franciacorta sparklers are often a little sweeter than Champagne with the brut style having up to 20 grams per liter of sugar while brut Champagne can have no more than 15 grams.
While sparkling wine production accounts for more than half of the Franciacorta area's production, many producers have begun focusing on make red Bordeaux-style blends and Burgundian style Chardonnays aged in oak. Despite the frequent use of Pinot Nero in the sparkling wines, a still Burgundian red Pinot is not permitted under the Terre di Franciacorta DOC.
The wine regions along Lake Garda are known for their Chiaretto style rosé made from a blend of Barbera, Gropello, Marzemino and Sangiovese. This dry wine is deeper in color than most rosés and typically have good acidity with very low alcohol levels. The Rosso (red) style wines are made with the same blend of grapes but in a darker, more full bodied style. Varietal styles of Gropello are rich and tannic wines. The Lugana white wines are made from the Trebbiano grape and are known for their fruitiness and medium body. White wines from the San Martino della Battaglia is made from the Tocai Friuliano grape best known for the wines from the nearby Vento region. The Garda Mantovano produces white wines based on Trebbiano and Garganega and red wines from Merlot and Molinara. Other Lombardy region and grapes of notes include the sweet Moscato Passito from Valcalepio and the light red wines from the Schiava and Barbera grapes in the Cellatica and Botticino region.
- Franciacorta - Sub-denominations: Satèn, Rosé
- Moscato di Scanzo
- Oltrepo Pavese
- Sforzato della Valtellina
- Valtellina Superiore - Sub-denominations: Grumello, Inferno, Maroggia, Sassella, Valgella Franciacorta
- Capriano del Colle
- Garda Classico - Sub-denominations: Bianco, Chiaretto, Novello, Rosso, Rosso Superiore
- Garda Colli Mantovani - Sub-denominations: Bianco, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Chiaretto, Garda, Merlot, Rubino ,Sauvignon
- Lambrusco Mantovano
- Lugana - Sub-denominations: Spumante, Superiore
- Riviera del Garda Bresciano or Garda Bresciano
- San Colombano al Lambro or San Colombano - Sub-denominations: Bianco, Rosso
- San Martino della Battaglia
- Terre di Franciacorta - Sub-denominations: Bianco, Rosso
- Valtellina Rosso or Rosso di Valtellina
- Alto Mincio
- Benaco Bresciano
- Collina del Milanese
- Montenetto di BresciaProvincia di Mantova or Mantova
- Provincia di Pavia or Pavia
- Ronchi di Brescia
- Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio
Grapes and wines
Among Lombardy's numerous industries wine does not rank high on the list. The citizens of this most populous and well-to-do region seem increasingly disposed towards industrialised versions of agriculture rather than to the more taxing and less profitable hand crafting of fine wines. Also, in a territory that is about half fertile plains and more than a third mountains and lakes, those gentle hills of the sort suited to vines do not abound.
Still, the alpine climate tempered by the lakes of Garda, Iseo, Como and Maggiore in the north and the Apennines which influence the weather to the south have created some highly favourable spots for vines. And, even though output is much less than that of neighbouring Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, Lombardy does make some fine wine, a too-often neglected share of which is truly excellent.
Just why Lombardians - the eclectic Milanese, in particular - doownplay them is hard to explain, but regional bottlings are almost invariably upstaged by the reds of Tuscany and Piedmont and the whites of the Tre Venezie. Most of the 6 million bottles of Nebbiolo reds produced annually in the alpine Valtellina are spirited away by the neighbouring Swiss before Italians have a chance at them. The main exception seems to be the "metodo classico" sparkling wines of Franciacorta in the lake district, a zone whose "spumante" is decidedly in vogue.
Lombady's most productive zone, the Oltrepo` Pavese, also ranks as the most abused. Much of its still red and white wines are taken away in bulk or anonymous bottles to restaurants in Milan, Genoa and other cities. Although the Oltrepo` is Italy's leading source of Pinot Nero, growers let much of it slip away to Piedmontese and other manufacturers of "brut spumante," who issue the wines with little regard for origins. Only about 15 percent of the more than 100 million litres produced annually in the Oltrepo` is sold as DOC - and then often at bargain prices. Unjustifiably, for some very good wines are made there, not only Pinots, but robust Barbera, Bonarda and Oltrepo` Pavese Rosso, plus fruity white Rieslings and Moscatos. A revival in local spumante has been heralded with the trademark of Classese for metodo classico of notable quality.
The Valtellina earns more respect abroad. Bottles of the four "Superiore" ap- pellations - Grumello, Inferno, Sassella and Valgella, each of which represents a small subdistrict - can be found in the United States and United Kingdom, a- long with a bit of the rich and mellow Sfursat or Sforzato. The Valtellina reds are among the most austere of Nebbiolos, due to the coolness of the terra- ced mountain vineyards, so steep in places that grapes are hauled in with ba- skets on cables. But the apparent lightness is deceptive, for some have the strength and stamina to improve for well over a decade.
Good wines are made in the provinces of Bergamo, Mantova and even Milano, but the prize for quality and variety goes to Brescia, which boasts 7 of the re- gion's 13 DOCs: Botticino, Capriano del Colle, Cellatica, Franciacorta, Luga- na, Riviera del Garda Bresciano and San Martino della Battaglia. From the sho- res of Lake Garda come Lugana (which can compare with fine Soave Classico) and the distinctive "rosso" and "chiaretto" of Riviera del Garda that can match the best of Valpolicella and Bardolino. The sturdy reds of Botticino and Cellatica and the smooth Tocai of San Martino have admirers as well.
But by all odds the most admired Lombardian wines of the moment are the "spumanti" of Franciacorta. The zone has a good red from Cabernet, Barbera and Nebbiolo and a good still white from Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay. But the reputation has been built on the outstanding bottle-fermented sparkling wines fashioned by small estates. Also in the area is Italy's largest producer of "metodo classico" Guido Berlucchi, though the "cuve'es" for nearly 5 million bottles a year include wines from Trentino-Alto Adige, Oltrepo` and Piedmont along with the local. In all, Franciacorta produces about a third of Italy's classical spumante, though most of that is not DOC.
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