As I read all the articles about the big push to visit Milan for the Expo, I am reflecting on all the years I spent there and how often people overlooked not just Lombardy (Milan is the capital) but the wines from the region, the food and well, almost everything.
I had the pleasure of living in Lombardy, in Milan, for 10 years from 1995 to 2005. It was a fabulously interesting place to live and I still feel that it is my third home. My first being New York and my second, Florence where I spent the first years of my Italian life and left a little piece behind. Milan though is where I lived 2/3 of my 15 years in Italy.
I have a number of clients in Milan, colleagues, and many friends there and go very frequently. This has allowed me to keep an eye on the evolution of the city, the region and all things related to Milan. When living there, I almost never drank or even saw any wines from Lombardy, except those from Franciacorta and Valtellina.
I have had the pleasure of discovering just how wrong I was in thinking that the selection was limited. Lombardy has great wines produced from some local and more international varieties.
Pinot Noir from the Oltrepo’ region is always a favorite of mine for example. I especially like the wines made by the Conte Vistarino family which apparently introduced the grape to the region in the 1800s.
Oltrepo’ is just one of the many areas in Lombardy though where wines are made. Another wine region that I like is Bergamo. I did a really interesting project years ago for the Cantina Bergamasca and discovered the pleasure of Pinot Bianco made in this region. I’ve always loved the city of Bergamo so I felt doubly blessed.
I also have tried wines from Mantova when visiting the Lombardy pavilion at Vinitaly.
Every year I start my day at Vinitaly in the Lombardy pavilion. It’s a great way to taste different wines and to get time in the press room during the same interval of time, something that always seems limited at Vinitaly. The wine that stuck in my mind was their version of Lambrusco, typically a grape that brings one to think of Emilia Romagna not Mantova.
Lambrusco Mantovano has been a DOC since 1987. There is also another area called the Colli Mantovani which is actually on the border between the Veneto and Lombardy that also makes DOC wines. These wines are made from a blend of indigenous and international varieties.
Another area that straddles the Veneto and Lombardy is the Lake Garda region, another one of my favorites and the only one I will swim in. Garda is beautiful as everyone who has ever visited knows. The wines I prefer from this area are those made from Turbiana that make Lugana, a fresh and lively white wine that is minerally and a perfect wine for an aperitivo or with light fare. I spent a long time trying these wines two years ago and have had the pleasure of meeting many producers as I went on a press trip last year.
No discussion of wines from Lombardy could be complete without mentioning the two most famous regions, Franciacorta and Valtellina. I feel that they merit their own commentary. I adore the wines of Franciacorta and have always believed that they are not appreciated enough in the United States.
The Valtellina is another area of Lombardy that captured my heart years ago. I will write about those amazing wines made from Nebbiolo and locally called Chiavennasca in another post.
There are a few more areas that deserve a mention but the last one that I need to note is San Colombano. I feel that Milan’s only wine region always needs a little push. 10 years and many friends creates considerable loyalty and I am more than affectionate towards my adopted city and its’ local wine.