Wines and grape varieties of Oltrepò

The classic Pinot Nero, the traditional Bonarda

Lombardy is not only plain, paddy fields and wheat. Just look up and the soft and harmonious hills have always promised much more, they are promises of evocative wine-growing areas and in this "regional field" the bunch of grapes from the Oltrepò Pavese territory affirms its leadership. Here a wide range of high quality wines of sure origin are produced.

A complete range that satisfies every eno-gastronomic combination from appetizer to dessert. On the hills of Oltrepò the most representative vines are: Pinot Nero, Croatina, Barbera and Riesling. But we could add: Uva Rara, Ughetta / Vespolina, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Cortese Bianco, Moscato, Malvasia and even Müller-Thurgau. Very often the grape variety is identified - even in the name - with the wines of Oltrepò Pavese. On these hills, made different also by the exposure and nature of the soil, they become unique and unmistakable.

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The Classic Method of Oltrepò

It could also be called metodo Oltrepò or Oltrepodoc, paraphrasing the bubbly relatives of Trentino. All this because of the history and the qualitative value of bubbles Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG which also have great potential in the rosé version: the Cruasé, a collective brand reserved for members that identifies rosé from Pinot nero grapes.

La Bonarda!

Having said that Pinot Nero, a vine that represents 3000 hectares of hills in this part of Lombardy (13800 hectares in total), and a vine that also guarantees reds for ageing of great quality, if we stay on the reds and want to think of history combined with typicality, the Oltrepò wine of tradition is certainly il Bonarda, a Doc since 1970, from grapes of Croatina (85% - 100%) together with Barbera, Ughetta/Vespolina and Uva Rara (15% max).

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His Majesty the Riesling

His Majesty riesling. To shed some light on typical white wines, the most characteristic is Riesling Renano or Italico: 1300 hectares, but this figure is constantly growing, many hectares of Italico are now converted to Renano for a project that is giving great satisfaction and that rewards the terroir and gives white wines for ageing that are in many ways surprising.

The Sangue di Giuda!

Captivating for its name and its history, unique for its colour in the glass, the sweet red wine of Oltrepò is Sangue di Giuda. Typical. And it is another Doc. Characterized by Barbera (from 25% to 65%), Croatina (from 25% to 65%, Uva Rara, Ughetta (Vespolina) and Pinot Nero, jointly or severally, up to a maximum of 45%.

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Wines and grape varieties: a history of territory

The Oltrepò Pavese is the ancient home of the vine. Important evidence comes from the finding of a vine shoot, dating back to prehistoric times, found near Casteggio, once Clastidium, which went down in history as the scene of one of the many battles between Hannibal the Carthaginian and the Roman army. StraboneAt the time of the Paleoligurian Gauls, he even attributed the invention of the barrel to the Oltrepò Pavese. In his texts it was described as being larger than houses. In the following centuries, there are other testimonies. Andrea Bacci, for example, in the 16th century, described the wines of this area with the term eccellentissimi.


Projects of the future grape varieties of the past

Oltrepò Pavese viticulture has its roots in a modern sense in the last century, in the global renewal of the Italian wine world at that time. According to official documentation, in 1884 Oltrepò Pavese boasted 225 native vines. Today there are just over 10 of the most widespread, with the tendency of some historical producers to recover the most evident evidence of the past, such as the Uva della Cascina or Moradella.

The potential of Pinot Nero, a history of Oltrepò

In the history of Pinot Nero in Oltrepò one cannot omit the work undertaken by the then minister Agostino Depretis, who was the first to realize the potential of this vine planted in the high hills and to start its introduction in the territory. Depretis' project was so incisive that it intrigued the Piedmontese sparkling wine producers, who saw in this land a rich and important reservoir for their companies.

History and genius of a sparkling wine territory since time immemorial

At that time, it was not only the Piedmontese who spoke of sparkling wine, but also some producers in the area. Among these, the name of Count Carlo Giorgi di Vistarino and that of the engineer Domenico Mazza di Codevilla, who even went so far as to design and produce a special bottle for sparkling wine, able to withstand the high pressures.

Once Upon a Time champagne...

Even today it is still exciting to see rare examples labelled with the words Champagne dell'Oltrepò. With this historical background, it is not surprising that on at least two recent occasions of international wine meetings in Italy, there has been increasing talk of a common front, an axis, a pact of northern Italian bubbles: from Alta Langa, to Trentodoc, to Franciacorta, to Oltrepò.

Those rare varieties of history and typicality of the Oltrepò area

In 1884 Oltrepò Pavese boasted 225 native vines. Today there are just over 10 of the most widespread, with the tendency of some historical producers to recover the most evident evidence of the past, such as the Uva della Cascina or Moradella.

The natural selection, and above all that carried out by man, following the deepening of scientific knowledge and technological progress, have reduced the number of varieties of grape varieties for winemaking everywhere, in order to select, and enhance them, only grape varieties with constant, robust and generous qualities. Adriano Ravegnani writes in his book I vini dell'Oltrepò Pavese.


A publication on the civil economic conditions in the province of Pavia, which was published in 1884 by the local Chamber of Commercestates that in the areas of Stradella, Montù Beccaria, Broni (....), there were at that time as many as 59 qualities of grapesamong which stood out Moradella, Pissadella,Ughetta di Canneto, Rossara, Barbisino, Pignolo, Besgano, Uva d'Oro, Sgorbera, Nebbiolo, Moscatello and Trebbiano.. Little cultivated at that time were Croatina (or Bonarda) and Malvasia: very little Barbera, Vernaccia, Altrugo and Cortese.

Slowly the situation has completely turned upside down. The wines of Oltrepò Pavese take their name, as a rule, from the vines from which they are made (with the exception of all the reds and rosés that are produced, within the company's vines, from grapes of different varieties, in precise proportions that characterize them).

Stories of unmistakable wines

The most cultivated vinestogether with the characteristics of the wines that are made from them, the morphological peculiarities of the land, the exposure of the vineyards and the unique processes make the wines of the Oltrepò Pavese unmistakable: Barbera The wines of the Pavese hills are very different from those of Piedmont, Alba or Asti.The Malvasia is clearly different from those obtained in other regions; and so are Moscati, Riesling and Pinot Noir.

Lorenzo Nosvelliwriting wisely of the fruit of the gods on the volume History and wines of OltrepòThe wine is curiously reproduces the organoleptic descriptions that accompanied the list of grapes of the province cultivated in Oltrepò in the mid-end of the nineteenth century, commenting on the list of autochthonous grape varieties that appeared on the Bulletin of the Vogherese Agricultural Committee published by Acerbi in 1864. So it says:

the Malvasia and the Moscato are fragrant par excellence that give wine of impeccable sweetness and finesse, which retain their sweetness for many years due to the large amount of sugar they contain, which, as they age, develop a very pleasant aroma, perfume, and can be classified among the luxury wines.

La Bonarda gives wine of color, bitter instead of not, of great finesse, alcoholic and spicy aroma, generous and digestive.

L’Ughetta gives a wine that tends towards the sweetish, tasty, light, is not loaded with colour and shines in the glass.

La Moradella It also gives in general a nice, full-bodied, full bodied wine with a pleasant bouquet and a lot of finesse.

The Barbera gives a full-bodied, austere wine, generally rather sour and very rich in colour.

The Cortese and Trebbiano they give excellent, dry, racy, passer-by and very clear coloured meal wine.

The Vernaccia and the Altrugo provide exquisite wines, rather bottled than mealtime, clear, clear, fragrant and very strong.

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Thanks and sources

Photos: Archive Ersaf / Regione Lombardia, Archive Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò, Alessandro Anglisani, Mario Didier, Luciana Rota.

Bibliography: I vini dell'Oltrepò Pavese, by Adriano Ravegnani, publisher Mazzotta (1974), Storie e vini dell'Oltrepò by Mario Maffi and Lorenzo Nosvelli, Edo editions (2008), Edizioni Bibenda, Vino al vino by Mario Soldati, publisher Mondadori (2006), Signori del vino by Marcello Masi and Rocco Tolfa, by Rai Libri (2016).

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