Milan (Milano) is the administrative center of Lombardy, whose provinces include Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Mantova, Pavia, Sondrio and Varese. The region ranks 4th in size (23,861 square kilometers) and 1st in population (9,029,000). Total vineyard is 26,951 hectares and ranked 11th in terms of volume of which 38% is white and 62% red. Typical regional food includes Grana Padano cheese (similar but less prestigious [rightly so] than Parmigiano-Reggiano), bresaola (air-cured beef) and Gorgonzola cheese.
Oltrepo Pavese, the region’s most productive zone, has the altitudes, soils and mountain-cool climate to produce serious world class wines. The Alpine climate is tempered by the warm currents from the lakes of Garda, Iseo, Como and Maggiore in the north, and the Apennines to the south. However, it’s wines now also rank as the most unknown, since much of its wine is sold in bulk to restaurants in Milan, Genoa and other cities. This is not without a reason. Far too many are producing earthy, spicy and simple blends from merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc which have a distinctly vegetal, leafy, bell pepper note suggesting underripe grapes. Perhaps it is the way such grapes expresses itself in cooler climates. In fact, others are having great success with varieties such as chardonnay, pinot grigio and riesling, producing fragrant and full flavoured whites and very well balanced pinot nero for the reds. With altitudes reaching to four hundred metres and higher and the Apeninnes nearby, the zone is in fact a continental one more suitable for grapes such as the notoriously finicky pinot nero. For reds, besides Pinot Nero, the robust Barbera and Bonarda is the future for the zone.
The region’s most admired wines at 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 in reality, Franciacorta’s reputation is for it’s methode champenoise sparkling wine Franciacorta DOCG – made mostly from chardonnay and pinot noir. It’s roots began in the 1960s when enologist Franco Ziliani experimented with the Champange style sparklers using pinot noir grapes. From then, everything is history when rich and powerful industrialists like Moretti and Zanella poured money and invested in building new cellars and buying state of the art wine-making equipments. . ested in advant garde 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.
The Valtellina earns more respect 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 the world, along with the rich and mellow Sfursat or Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG. 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 can compare with fine Soave Classico in class, has been growing in stature.