This week’s women in wine is Alessandra from Azienda Noventa in the Botticino DOC area. I met Alessandra in July at her winery. I had met her husband at Vinitaly in April and arranged to visit them. I gave a seminar on the Wines of Lombardy at the Society of Wine Educators conference in Portland this past August and Botticino was one of the discoveries I made thanks to the seminar. I learned so much while reading up on the area and then visiting. Alessandra was incredible with me and with my traveling companion, my three-year-old son.
Botticino is a very small DOC east of Brescia which was started in 1968. There are three areas that make up Botticino: Botticino Mattina – where they used to make wine and quarry marble, Botticino Sera – known for stockings and the area called San Gallo which has more hills and is know for their agriturismi or inns. The name Botticino comes from the word for barrels (botte).
Botticino is not a new area however. There were Roman settlements here, then the Longobards from 568 to 774 who were a Germanic tribe. In the year 1000, Botticino was mentioned in the writings of the day and monasteries began to organize clearing the land. From 1300 on, Botticino was linked to Brescia’s destiny (managed by the Venetians, then Napoleon’s government, and then the Hapsburgs).
Botticino is located in a valley that runs from the pre-alps to Po river basin called the Valverde. There are 18 wineries with over 48 hectares which make up the Botticino DOC area. The marble that comes from the Botticino quarries is famous throughout the world. Parts of the White House and the Altare della Pace in Rome are made with this marble which is known as Botticino Classico.
Sadly, Alessandra told me, many people are abandoning their vineyards to work in marble quarries because the pay is much higher. This is a real shame for wine drinkers the world over because the wines from this area are lovely. Botticino has an amazing micro-climate. They are high-up and grow grapes traditionally in a pergola-trellising system. Noventa is organic in terms of both its viticulture and vinification practices and was certified in 2011. They are a small, family-run winery but have been at it for 40 years. I met Alessandra’s father in the winery as well as her sister, husband and kids.
She showed me three different vineyards that had slightly different soils. Botticino is in what is known as the pre-alps and the slopes were so steep that I couldn’t carry my son and walk around. Alessandra picked him up and literally ran up the hill. They practice what is known as heroic viticulture because the slopes are so extreme. They are at 450 meters above sea level. The grapes that come from this very warm area with great southern exposure create structured red wines. Their grapes are also really healthy because they have evening breezes cleaning and drying the grapes and protecting them from parasites and humidity. They are basically between two hills.
I have never seen so many grasshoppers in my life. They were literally all around me, jumping and leaping to my son’s delight. I tried to take pictures of them but they were too fast for me. The grapes are grown on what is known as the Pergola Bresciana, a tradition for their 100 year old vines. They also use Guyot and Spurred cordon for newer vines. They use no chemicals and little sulfur and have chalky-clay soils and red clay soils (red from presence of Iron). They still use the ancient methods of farming as well. They also practice green harvesting. Recently well-known oenologist Carlo Ferrini has taken on Noventa as one of his clients. He sought them out, Alessandra told me.
The grapes that go into Botticino DOC or DOP are the following: Barbera (30% min) which brings structure, longevity, and acidity; Marzemino (20% min) for color, aromatics,and body; Sangiovese (10% min) which adds aromatics and elegance; and
Schiava Gentile (10% min) which brings freshness. A riserva has to age for two years in oak and the mininum alcohol is 12%.
I tried three of their wines and really liked all three. They are very elegant and big wines. I served it in the tasting right before the Nebbiolo from Valtellina. Their Pià del la Tesa is made from 30% Barbera, 30% Sangiovese, 30% Marzemino and 10% Schiava Gentile. The grapes come from one of their vineyards, the one right beneath the marble quarries. The soil is Marne and marl. The wine spends 36 months aging in oak. The grapes are harvested late in the season. They provide great structure and intense aromatics.
This full bodied wine works with roasted meats and aged cheeses will be great in the colder weather. It has 14.5% alcohol. During my seminar, I compared all of the wines to wines you might find in another part of the country. This wine from Botticino to me was reminiscent of a wine you might find in Piedmont from a quality producer. I loved meeting Alessandra and discovering this new part of Lombardy. You can actually see the marble quarries above Alessandra’s family vineyards from the train and highways going from Milan to Venice. I had no idea what a discovery I was about to make when I went to visit Noventa – wonderful wines, fantastic views and a truly impressive woman in wine who openly welcomed me and my son for which I will not forget. Not all producers want you to bring your family along for the trip but Alessandra was lovely.