A region known for fashion and finance rather than for viticulture, spite the regions production of two of the most popular Italian wines: Franciacorta and Valtellina. Located in central-north Italy, Lombardy is home to some of the country’s most beautiful lakes and the cooling influence of the Alps makes this area a sparkling wine haven.
Lombardy is one of the largest Italian regions and around half of the territory extends over a large flat area. Compared to the main mountain ranges, the Prealps are arranged in a north-south direction and are characterized by the presence of numerous lakes.
Only part of Lombardy's agricultural land is favourable to viticulture with good pedoclimatic conditions which are suited to the cultivation of grapes; in some of these production areas, such as Oltrepò Pavese, Franciacorta and Valtellina, the standard of quality is higher and, thanks to modern winemaking techniques, the wines are of an outstanding quality, constituting a flagship of Italian enology worldwide.
PThe climate's importance
The region has a continental climate with temperature alternation from day to night. In the foothills the temperate climate and good sun exposure determine more favourable conditions for the cultivation of grapes. This type of climate is actually ideal for the viticulture in the Valtellina production area. The Alps shelter it from the cold winds of northern Europe, and thanks to the nature of the sandy soils and flaking of the granite rock, complex and structured wines are obtained.
In the production area of Franciacorta, the soil is characterized by a variety of loose soils, integrated with clay, silt, sand and pebbles that allow the drainage of water, from which elegant wines with excellent aromatic complexity are created.
Optimal conditions for the cultivation of vines occur in the hilly Oltrepò Pavese area. Good sun exposure foes hand in hand with a temperate climate. The soil consists of marly and sandy soils as well as limestone layers. These peculiarities favour the production of white berried grapes destined for the production of “spumante”.
Have you ever tasted the Franciacorta DOCG?
The territory of Franciacorta DOCG is bordered to the east by the rocky and moraine hills of Rodengo, Ome, Gussago and Cellatica, to the north near the southern shores of Lake Ise and the last offshoots of the Rhaetian Alps, to the west by the Oglio river and finally to the south by the Monte Orfano.
It is formed by a large morainic amphitheatre formed during the glaciations of the Secondary and Tertiary geological eras due in part to the expansion and retreat of the great glacier from Valcamonica. The area is characterized by extreme morphological and geological complexity.
The name “Franzacurta” first appeared in an ordinance of the Eighth Book of Brescia Statues in 1277 with reference to an order made to the municipalities of Gussago and Rodengo for the repair of the bridge over the river Mella in the locality of Mandolossa: 'Pro utilitate His own et omnium amicorum Franzacurta” Among the most recent testimonies is one from Gabriele Rosa who in his treatise on wines of 1852 recalls how the white wines of Franciacorta are “most excellent, spicy and bitter”.
Among the most recent testimonies is one from Gabriele Rosa who in his treatise on wines of 1852 recalls how the white wines of Franciacorta are “most excellent, spicy and bitter”.
In 1967 the Franciacorta Doc was established which was the first Denominations of Controlled Origin born in Italy, which also includes the sparkling wine types. The highest recognition of the pyramid of quality for Italian wines was specifically dedicated to the latter in 1995, the DOCG which marked a turning point towards ever greater recognition of the indivisible link between the wine and its territory.
Having chosen the term Franciacorta as the only one to identify the wine and the processing method. There are various styles of the wine among which; Franciacorta Satèn, Rosé, Riserva, Millesimato.
Do you know which is the peculiarity of a Satèn?
Satèn is the only Franciacorta that by definition is a 'Blanc de Blancs', which can only be produced from white grapes. The second difference is the maximum pressure limit allowed in Satèn must be less than 5 atmospheres while in other styles it is higher (around 6-6.5 atmospheres). To obtain this, the law limits the quantity of sugars, to a maximum of 20g/l for Satèn.
Valtellina walls – a UNESCO heritage
Valtellina together with Valchiavenna represent the territories of the province of Sondrio and are located north of Lake Como. Special climatic conditions make this area suitable for viticulture and in particular for the 'Nebbiolo' grape variety or Chiavennasca, as it is called locally. Vineyards are located on the slopes facing south, from an altitude of 300 meters up to a maximum of 700 meters, with two sole exceptions.
The wines benefit from these climate conditions and you will be surprised by their freshness and aging potential. The alcohol is well-integrated, with initially kind of rough tannins which soften with age and gain layers of savoury notes, tart, spiciness. Notes of toast and vanilla appear if they were oaked for a period. Be sure to taste the Sforzat, an “Amarone” style of the Nebbiolo – an outstanding and premium wine.
Terracing - An old method
The Valtellina vineyards were built on the practise of terracing, A method that dates back several millennia and has proven to be effective to this day. Steep mountain slopes can be considered an adversity for growing and harvesting grapes as they are more vulnerable against the forces of nature. The terraces are picturesque, man-made structures, where horizontal stonewalls provide support for the slopes, while preserving the benefits of the hillside's exposure to sunlight.
Simply put, winemakers worked against adversity by building terraces supported by dry-stone walls in order to make the mountain slopes more suitable for growing. It is a gigantic entity; estimated to run for over 2,500 km and with very high maintenance costs. To this day it remains the largest terraced wine region in Italy and is a large component of the regions charm and terroir driven wines. Recently they were declared UNESCO monuments.
Complex, balanced reds and marvellous high-quality classic method sparkling wines.What are the most popular grape varieties in Lombardia?
The red grape with the highest quality and aging potential is the king “Nebbiolo”. For whites search for Pinot bianco and Pinot grigio often express great minerality.What types of food works well with wines from Lombardia?
Light reds: bresaola della Valtellina or risotto with fish. Full-bodied reds: the local cassoeula or cotolette alla milanese or game. Whites: soft and aged cheeses, fish and risotto.