Wine does not rank high on the list of Lombardy’s numerous industries. The citizens of this most populous and well-to-do region are better noted as consumers than producers of wine. Still, even though output is much less than that of neighboring Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, Lombardians do make some fine wine, a growing share of which is truly excellent. Just why the inhabitants (the eclectic Milanese, in particular) downplay local wines is hard to explain. But regional wines are often upstaged on restaurant lists by the reds of Tuscany and Piedmont and the whites of the Venezie (Veneto, Trentino and Friuli).
Many of the 6 million bottles of Nebbiolo reds produced annually in the Alpine Valtellina are spirited away by the neighboring Swiss before Italians have a chance at them. On the other hand, Lombardians do show growing signs of pride in their preferences for the metodo classico sparkling wines of Franciacorta, which have attained the status of DOCG (while the red and white wines of the zone come under the Terre di Franciacorta DOC).
Lombardy boasts some highly favorable places for vines in a region where the Alpine climate is tempered by the lakes of Garda, Iseo, Como and Maggiore in the north, and the Apennines to the south.
The region’s most productive zone, Oltrepò Pavese is Italy’s leading source of Pinot Nero grapes. In the past, growers let much of the supply slip away to Piedmontese and other bottlers of sparkling wine. But a growing quantity of bottle-fermented wine has been issued under the DOC of Oltrepò Pavese, sometimes labeled as Metodo Classico Classese.
Only a fraction of the wine produced annually in Oltrepò Pavese is sold as DOC. Yet some very good wines are made there, not only Pinots but robust Barbera, Bonarda and Oltrepò Pavese Rosso, plus fruity white Rieslings and Moscatos. Local sparkling wines are also made by tank methods of fermentation.
The Valtellina is highly respected abroad, and not only in Switzerland. DOCG has been granted to Valtellina Superiore and its four subdistricts: Grumello, Inferno, Sassella and Valgella. Those wines have gained favor in Italy and abroad, along with a bit of the rich and mellow Sfursat or Sforzato, which is included in the Valtellina DOC. The Superiore reds of Valtellina are among the most austere of Nebbiolos, due to the coolness of the terraced mountain vineyards, so steep in places that grapes are hauled in with baskets 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 a majority of the region’s DOC/DOCGs: Botticino, Capriano del Colle, Cellatica, Franciacorta, Terre di Franciacorta, Garda Bresciano, San Martino della Battaglia and two zones that share territory with Veneto: Garda and Lugana. Under Garda DOC are four wines from the Garda Classico area in the province of Brescia. The white Lugana, which compares with Soave Classico in class, has been growing in stature.
Lombardy’s most admired wines of the moment are from Franciacorta. Terre di Franciacorta DOC applies to a sturdy red from Cabernet, Barbera and Nebbiolo, as well as to white wines from Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay. But Franciacorta’s reputation has been built on the outstanding bottle-fermented sparkling wines fashioned by estates. Nearly a third of Italy’s bottle-fermented sparkling wine is produced in the Brescia area, but only wines from select vineyards in the zone qualify as Franciacorta DOCG.
Lombardy Wines :
The Wines in Lombardy
Although most agricultural areas in Lombardy focus on food production rather than grape growing, and its grapes and wines have a difficult time when compared to the surrounding regions of Piedmont, Veneto, and Trentino, Lombardy is a respectable wine producing area.
That said, one could find very good local wine production, centered specifically on six main noble grape variety zones.
The Oltrepo’ Pavese, which means beyond the Po River and translates into an area roughly corresponding to the Pavia province, has a long tradition of excellent wine. Only recently has its wines acquired a well-deserved recognition that goes beyond the national borders. The tradition of selling these modestly priced wines locally in the countryside’s osterie, or taverns, lined along the banks of the Ticino and Po rivers, has led to the lingering false impression that the local production was of lesser quality than wines produced in the neighboring regions.
The Valtellina DOC zone, centered around the province of Sondrio, produces some of the most appreciated regional wines based largely on the local version of Nebbiolo, the Piedmont noble grape known here as Chiavannesca. The Valtellina Superiore DOCs, which are usually differentiated by the area where the grape was grown, are especially good.
The province of Brescia, which includes the Franciacorta zone with its rich reds, excellent whites, and outstanding sparkling wines, is the third major wine producing area. There are about 70 wineries within the Franciacorta zone, and some of them, such as the Berlucchi, producers of arguably the best Italian sparkling wines, and the Ca del Bosco, are recognized national leaders in quality and prestige. In addition, there are two more DOC zones, the Cellatica and Botticino, that are closer to the city of Brescia, and other notable wines, such as the Trebbiano di Lugana, are produced on the Brescian shores of the Garda Lake.
The three other main producing areas, though less noteworthy, create some respectable wines such as the Valcalepio DOC in the province of Bergamo, the Lambrusco Mantovano, produced around Mantova near the border with Emilia-Romagna and the tiny zone of San Colombano al Lambro, in the province of Milan.
Text courtesy of www.winecountry.it