In this current series on Italian wine regions, we are highlighting a single red and white wine that are most distinct to each wine region. In this fourth installment, we stop in Lombardy (Lombardia), a northern Italian wine region, bordered by the Alps to the north, the Po River to the south, the wine regions of Piedmont to the west, and Trentino Alto-Aldige to the east. There are many beautiful lakes in Lombardy, as well as the famous finance capital of Milan. In spite of mainly being known as an industrial region, Lombardia boasts many artisan wineries. Some are established in old monasteries — often the world’s original wineries.
Because of Lombardy’s history of frequent wars and invasions, and its dispersed wine making enterprises, no major outstanding grape has emerged as a Lombardian “trademark” varietal. Most of Lombardy’s grapes are used for blending.
Lombardy Wines: Franciacorta
In spite of no trademark varietals, Lombardy’s Franciacorta is a sparkling wine considered by many to be on par with French Champagne. So why is it not better known?
According to Monica Larner, “Most lovers of classic method sparkling wine are familiar with [Champagne and Cava. But Franciacorta?] …Franciacorta [is] Italy’s best-kept secret… Like Cava and Champagne, Franciacorta achieves its elegant effervescence thanks to secondary fermentation in the bottle—the ‘classic method’—and is limited to a specific geographic territory.”
The problem for people outside of the Lombardy region, according to Larner, is that only “11 percent of its bottles are sold abroad, compared to 40 to 60 percent in other important Italian wine regions.”
If you are lucky enough to find a bottle of Franciacorta, you’ll want to know that the Franciacorta name is used to denote the wine region, the wine itself and the production methods. You’ll also want to know that, according to Larner, the “tightly knit community of winemakers drives what is one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing wine identities in Europe. Production numbers soared from 2.9 million bottles to 6.7 million bottles in the 10 years starting from 1996.” Very small in comparison to Champagne and Cava, but increasingly important.
The primary varietals in Franciacorta are Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero.
Lombardy Wines: Rossola Nera
For our red varietal from Lombardy, I will highlight Rossola Nera from Valtellina, one of the better known areas within the Lombardy wine region. According to wine-searcher.com, “Rossola Nera is a little-known red-wine grape grown almost exclusively in Lombardy, northern Italy. It is used most notably in Valtellina, where it is often blended with its more famous parent, Nebbiolo, in wines of the Valtellina DOC and Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio IGT titles. As the name Rossola implies, this variety’s berries ripen to an attractive pinkish-red, and make wines with relatively deep color – a useful foil for the lighter-pigmented Nebbiolo.”
If you’ve been lucky enough to try wines from Lombardy, please share your experiences here. Thanks!