Oltrepò Pavese – Pinot Noir Reaches New Heights

This month’s topic for the #ItalianFWT crew brought me to Oltrepò Pavese, a wine area renowned for its Pinot Noir in Italy’s northern region of Lombardia. While you may not yet have heard of the area, it makes up 60% of Lombard viticulture so is an area to get to know. Pinot Noir is not a recent phenomenon in the area but has been there for over 100 years. The grape is made into still and sparkling wines of note.

The area is located on the 45th parallel like Bordeaux and Oregon. They have a flourishing Consortium with around 160 producers and 1300 growers with 13,000 hectares of vines . Many of the families have been in the area for over 100 years continuously making wine. Another fun fact is that a host of the wineries are fun by women.

The area as you can see from the map above is ordered by three regions: Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Liguria and its climate has influences from the Ligurian Sea to the South, Po River, and the Piedmont Mountains.

The region is shaped in the form of a grape bunch and is essentially four valleys, the  Staffora Valley,  Coppa Valley, Scuropasso Valley, and the Versa Valley.

Oltrepò is the third largest area in Europe for Pinot Nero after Burgundy and Champagne and has been there since the 1800s.

It was back in 1870 when a sparkling wine from from Oltrepò was first mentioned. Domenico Mazza di Codevilla was the first to produce sparkling wine in the area. By the year 1900, sparkling wine production took off. The Oltrepò Metodo Classico was awarded the DOCG designation after the 2007 harvest. 70% of the bottling must be Pinot Noir and secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. There is also an Oltrepò Metodo Classico Rosé with a 70% minimum of Pinot Noir.

If the label wants to be an Oltrepò Pavese metodo classico Pinot nero or an Oltrepò Pavese metodo classico Pinot nero rosé it must have a minimum of 85% Pinot Nero.

There is also another sparkling wine designation called Oltrepò Metodo Classico Cruasé. This time the minimum for Pinot Noir is 75%. Not to be outdone, there is also a still denomination Pinot Noir dell’Oltrepò Pavese which must be a minimum of 96% Pinot Noir but as you can imagine is usually 100% Pinot Noir. The clones of Pinot Noir used have been in the area since the mid 1800s, post-phylloxera.

With all of these Pinot Noir designations, you get the sense of how important the grape is to the region. As a brand ambassador for Oltrepò Pavese, today I am just outlining some of the denominations for Pinot Noir and some of its history but starting this month and going through December, I will be doing webinars online and master classes in person in New York and around the East Coast. I hope to see you online or in person at one of them and we can judge which of their wines are your favorite. Or perhaps you are going to the Wine Media Conference in Italy next month. They are making a stop in Oltrepò after the conference. There is also a big Pinot Noir event in the area on September 26th. So many occasions coming up to discover this wonderful region and its wines.

Join our Italian food and wine lovers as we chat about Italy’s non-native grapes. Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday, August 6th at 11am EST @ #ItalianFWT.


  1. Virtually traveling around Northern Italy the last few years, I’d forgotten how key PN is to Lombardia. It’s virtually impossible to get here. My curiosity is piqued by Oltrepò Metodo Classico Cruasé. I hope you’ll share the schedule for your Oltrepò Pavese webinars? I would stay up or wake up for one!

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