Getting to Know Oltrepo’ Pavese Wines

@Consorzio Oltrepo’

The #ItalianFWT group traveled to Lombardy this month thanks to Jeff of I am always happy to revisit this Northern Italian region where I lived for 10 years. Of the wine areas in Lombardy, the largest by far is Oltrepo’ Pavese. It accounts for 55% of Lombard viticulture.

The Oltrepo’ Pavese is not a new area for wine but instead has been cultivated and active in viticulture for over 2000 years. Strabone, a Greek historian who lived from 60 BC to 20 AD wrote about his travels there that he found “good wine, hospitable people and very large wooden barrels”.

Taking a step back though, where is Oltrepo’ one might ask? It is located around the city of Pavia in Lombardy, south of the Po’ and the Tanaro rivers. It is bordered by Piedmont and Emilia Romagna. You see influences of these two regions and there wines in some of the denominations in Oltrepo’ as well.

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The whole area is quite hilly and a beautiful place to bike ride. The Giro d’Italia recently passed through one of the towns here as well. The area has considerable limestone with marly and clayey schist as well. These hills have seen numerous grape varieties grow well. While in the 1800s there were as many as 225 different varieties grown, today there are 12 that are doing consistently grown here.

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Everything can be found in the Oltrepo’ Pavese area – still, sparkling, and sweet wines. One of the claims to fame in this area are the sparkling wines largely made from Pinot Nero.

Oltrepo’ is the most widely respected place for Pinot Nero in Italy. Many would say that belongs to Alto Adige but in Oltrepo’ Pinot Nero is grown and made into both still and sparkling wines which have been awarded DOCG status. Pinot Nero is not a new grape in the area but has been growing since the 1850s.

There are four denominations that can be made:

“Oltrepò Pavese” metodo classico,
“Oltrepò Pavese” metodo classico rosé,
“Oltrepò Pavese” metodo classico Pinot nero,
and “Oltrepò Pavese” metodo classico Pinot nero rosé.

While Pinot Nero must account for 70% of the Oltrepo Metodo Classico DOCG wines, they are allowed to use Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, and Chardonnay for 30%. However in the Olrepo’ Pavese Metodo Classico Pinot Nero DOCG or Metodo Classico Pinot Nero Rose DOCG, those numbers shift to 85% Pinot Nero and 15% for these other three grapes.

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In addition to Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay, Oltrepo’ is quite well known for a wine called Bonarda dell’Oltrepo’ Pavese which is a red blend of Croatina and Barbera, Ugetta (Vespolina), and Uva Rara. Much Bonarda is 100% Croatina but it can be 85% with the other three grapes a blend of 15%. Bonarda can be confusing as a name because it is also used in other regions such as Emilia Romagna with different rules. There are two types grown here Bonarda and Bonarda Frizzante. This last is perfect with Charcuterie.

Other grapes widely grown in the area include Moscato, Malvasia, Mueller Thurgau, Riesling Renano and Riesling Italico, Cortese, Barbera, Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

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When talking about Oltrepo’. one must always mention the sweet wine they are famous for. It is called Sangue di Giuda. It is a blend of 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%.

So much wine, so little time.

The Consorzio is quite focused on Sustainability and has implemented a program to track and follow the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the UN in 2015. This is a long term project and as an ardent supporter of these types of initiatives, I couldn’t be happier to share that I am the Brand Ambassador for the Consortium, I look forward to sharing these delights with all.

Check out these other posts from the Italian Food, Wine and Travel Writers
Take a look below at all the great finds from the Lombardia region. Then, join our chat! We’ll be tweeting all things Lombardia on Twitter, Saturday August 7 from 11:00am EST. Just look for the #ItalianFWT hashtag and you’re in!


  1. I have never heard of pinot nero. I am so excited to have a new varietal to explore. I think we should include it in one of our upcoming themes…..wait….let me make sure I am able to source some here in Michigan first LOL.

  2. I’m sooooo glad you wrote about Oltrepo Pavese as it’s really so unknown! And congratulations on being the Brand Amassador and bringing us even more information about this amazing region!

  3. I’ve learned about Oltrepo’ Pavese buy have yet to taste any of the wines, whether still or sparkling. Congratulations on working with the Consortium! Perhaps a theme for next year #ItalianFWT ?!?

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