Category Archives: Lombardia

Italian Indigenous Varieties: Malvasia Rosa from Piacenza

italy 600

This is my 16th and last post in the series on Malvasie. It has been very interesting to see just how many variations there are of this grape from the Malvasia family. This week’s variety is Malvasia Rosa which is a mutation of Malvasia di Candia which I wrote about here. This Malvasia can be found in the province of Piacenza in Val Nure. This wine makes a rose that is fruity and can be made into a sparkling wine, either spumante or frizzante.

This winery. Azienda Vitivinicola Mossi from 1558 which had until 2014 14 generations owning the property. They sold it to a young couple who are continuing the traditions of the Mossi family and are one of three wineries producing wines from this variety. That makes it quite that noteworthy and one that I would love to taste. Maybe the next time I am in that area. Another producer is Azienda Vitivinicola Montesissa. They also make a passito using this grape. What a pleasure these weeks of Malvasia have been. I had no idea it was such an interesting variety.

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Filed under emilia romagna, Indigeous varieties, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Lombardia, Memorable Events, Piacenza, Travel

Milano, Sant’Ambrogio, Pearl Harbor

I wrote this post back in 2010 and it still all rings true to me. I would love to toast my Great Uncle Murray, a Pearl Harbor survivor today. It would be great to be at La Scala again as well. Maybe one day I will attend La Prima. Intanto, cin cin!


December 7th is always a strange day. On the one hand, I think of Pearl Harbor, the day that will live in infamy and how the USA got into World War II and all that that meant and all the lives that were lost on this day.

On the other, I think of my adopted city of Milan which celebrates its patron saint on this day, Sant’Ambrogio. I lived in Milan for about 10 years so I got very used to its people, their culture and habits. In fact, I feel like I too should be having a long holiday weekend taking Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off as my friends in Italy are doing at this time.

December 7th is also the start of Opera season in Milan at La Scala. It is also the opening of the ski season. I spent many a year skiing at a friend’s home…

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Filed under Italian DOC, Italian regions, Italian Sparkling Wine, Lombardia, Memorable Events, wines

Lombardia: A Wealth of Wine


When one thinks of Lombardy or Lombardia as the Italians call it, they don’t often think of wine. Milan, the principal city in the region, is known for finance, fashion, industry and much else. Wine is never what one first thinks of although even Milan has it’s own DOC. San Colombano d.o.c. wine. This is the only DOC wine produced in the province of Milan. It was designated a DOC in 1984.Wines from San Colombano are generally made from Croatina, Barbera and Uva Rara for the reds in order to be part of the DOC. Some international varieties have been planted in recent years as well. For the whites, a number of grapes have been used in addition to the indigenous variety Verdea. The soils in this area are a mix of calcareous soil and sand. The wines they produce are easy drinking wines that complement the local food perfectly. The grapes for production of San Colombano DOC wines must be cultivated exclusively in the Comune of Miradolo Terme and Monteleone in the province of Pavia, Graffignana and Sant’Angelo in the province of Lodi and San Colombano al Lambro in the province of Milano.


Milan is not the only Lombard capital to be home to a wine region, most of the top cities in the region are related to a DOC. For example, Bergamo, is home to wines from the Valcalepio. Bergamo and its wines from the Valcalepio, are still quite unknown in the US but also in many parts of Italy. The Consorzio Tutela Valcalepio was founded in 1977 by 22 members. The area is in the province of Bergamo and has two main wines that are allowed to have the DOC denomination. The Valcalepio Rosso DOC is made from Cabernet Sauvignon (25%-60%) and Merlot. The grapes are harvested and fermented separately. The wine is then blended and aged. If aged for three years, at least one in wood, it can be called a Riserva. Of the 400 hectares that go into making wines in the Valcalepio area, 70% are used for the Valcalepio Rosso.


The Valcalepio Bianco DOC is made from Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay (55% to 80%) and Pinot Grigio (20% to 45%). In addition to the DOC wines, a line of IGT wines are also made including a traditional method sparkling wine.

No post on Bergamo and the Valcalepio can be complete without mentioning the Cantina Sociale Bergamasca. They produce wines using the Terre del Colleoni or Colleoni DOC denominations, a DOC created in 2011. This cooperative was founded in 1957 in San Paolo d’Argon. It has 150 members and 160 hectares of vines. The coop produces some 800,000 bottles annually and exports currently 10% of its production.

Baptistery Bergamo Alta

Another city that is host to famed wines in Lombardy is Brescia. Brescia is a city that is surprisingly interesting and rich in art, culture and even Roman ruins. Brescia, Lombardy’s second largest city after Milan, is often thought of as a small industrial town in Northern Italy, perhaps worth a few hours to see the Duomo, have lunch and then continue on to its more well known neighboring cities. On closer inspection however, Brescia reveals it’s exciting and varied history as well as numerous treasures. Brescia is known throughout Italy for its steel industry and precision instruments. The city is quite well to do and the wealth and prosperity of the city is clearly evident in the high quality shops, stores and restaurants. These last are considerably more expensive than even those of its larger neighbor, Milan. An itinerary through the city of Brescia can be created around various themes such as Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and 17th century architecture. The city can be well navigated on foot from the central station, by bus, car or on bikes. Like Bergamo, Brescia is a great side trip if you are in Milan. As you might have guessed, I wrote a long travel article on Brescia for a magazine some years ago. Brescia is the town closest to Franciacorta. Franciacorta I am a huge fan of the sparkling and still wines that hail from Franciacorta. To me they can rival Champagne and should grace every wine list and table.

Vines in Lugana

Near Brescia are a number of other regions that are a bit less well-known such as San Martino in Battaglia DOC.Lake Garda is also home to many fine wines. I first discovered Lugana, a white wine from the area around Lake Garda, some years ago when I met a producer from the region. I had never heard of the wine in the past. I was duly impressed with its full body, good minerality and acidity as well as soft and appealing flavors. I tasted some very young Lugana and some with a bit of age on them, also impressive. I began to be intrigued as to why this wine wasn’t more popular both in Italy and in the U.S. I think I was just a bit ahead of my time because of late Lugana is making ever more frequent appearances in wine shops and on wine lists throughout both the US and in Italy. Once you try Lugana, you too will be of the same mind. The wine is made with the Turbiana grape, a local name for a clone of Trebbiano that only grows in this area that straddles both the Lombardia and Veneto regions. The biggest market for Lugana is Germany, no surprise to anyone who has spent time on Lake Garda where 90% of the tourists seem to come from Germany. “We were some of the first wineries to participate in Prowein, over 20 years ago. Germany is only four hours from Garda so you can see why it is such a popular destination. About 12 million bottles of Lugana are produced each year and they usually finish their wine in the cellars by mid July.

Lake Garda

Garda is also home to the Garda Classico DOC wines, made mostly with Groppello, a red variety. It’s getting to be more well-known as well for its rose wines locally called Chiaretto. As a grape variety, Groppello. A well known producer of Groppello in this area is De Zinis. There is a Consorzio of these wines called Consorzio Valtenesi. Numerous DOC wines are produced with Groppello as the star variety including Valtenesi DOC (Groppello min 50% of the blend), Valtenesi Chiaretto DOC ( Groppello min 50% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Rosso (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Rosso Superiore (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Chiaretto (Groppello min 30% of the blend), Garda Classico DOC Groppello and Groppello Riserva (Groppello 100%), Garda Classico DOC Novello (Groppello min 30% of the blend). Many of these wines do not arrive in the United States which is a shame. They are easy to drink and lovely with food.

Another area for wines is around the beautiful city of Mantova,the Colli Mantovani 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. 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.

I couldn’t forget to mention the wonderful Pinot Nero wines coming from the Oltrepo’ Pavese area, near the city of Pavia. I especially like the wines made by the Conte Vistarino family which apparently introduced the grape to the region in the 1800s.

Perhaps I left someone out but for now, this post is long enough and hopefully shows some of the amazing wealth of wines from Lombardia, a region I love and where I lived for 10 years and which I consider a second home.

Join our Twitter chat Saturday May 7th at 11am EST @ #ItalianFWT to chat about Lombardia. Plus, don’t miss next month as we feature our last region of Italy, Liguria.  This will complete our first full tour of ItalySee you June 4th!

Vino Travels –  Chiavennasca of Lombardia vs. Nebbiolo of Piedmont

The Wining Hour –  Vines and Views of Valtellina Valley

Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Sbrisolana and Cantina Casteggio Barbera

Girls Gotta Drink –  Franciacorta Wine Region: Italian Sparkling Wine For the Win!

Enofylz Wine Blog– Franciacorta: The World Class Italian Sparkling Wine of Lombardy #ItalianFWT

Food Wine Click – Valtellina: Another Expression of Nebbiolo

Orna O’Reilly –   Sirmione: Pearl of Lake Garda

The Palladian Traveler – Spritz Campari: Milan’s Passionate Red Cocktail

Cooking Chat – Grilled Halibut with Parsley Pesto and Wine from Lombardia

L’Occasion –  36 Hours in Lombardy

Vigneto Communications – Lombardia: A Wealth of Wine


Filed under Lombardia, wines

Vinitaly Day 1 – Toscana, Liguria, Abruzzo, Sicilia, Lombardia

Arena di Verona

Today is the first official day of Vinitaly which is celebrating its 50th edition. As usual there are so many events and seminars and wines to taste that one can be overwhelmed. I am lucky enough to be able to spend time in the relatively calm press area where WIFI, bathrooms, coffee and computers are all available, at times a luxury during this crazy wine fair. I love Vinitaly, the energy, the people and mostly the wines of course.

I figured out that I need to go to five regions a day to at least spend some time in every part of Italy. Between client meetings and wines I want to taste, there is not a lot of time to write on this blog however I wanted to share the excitement that is going on today in the beautiful city of Verona.

Verona 3

One of the changes that are taking place this year is a new refined competition called 5 star wines. It is judged by a panel of very competent international wine experts and wines will now be rated on a 100 point scale. There is also a new prize sectiom called Wine without Walls dedicated to wines with less than 40 mg/l of sulfites and that were made without using specific techniques such as micro-oxidation, irrigation and others.

Today I was lucky enough to participate in a wine tasting of wines without sulfites, organic wines and ones that respect vegan regulations. I will write about that more at length at another time. I also saw friends from the Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Vino Nobile di Montepulcino, and Brunello consoritum. Happily I also was able to taste lots of bubbles from Liguria that I had never tried, ones made from indigenous varieties Pigato and Ormeasco as well as a Rosato made from Sangiove from Malenchini.

It is only a little after 300pm and it seems I have already seen a lot of friends and clients but more to do, no rest at Vinitaly.

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Filed under Abruzzo, Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Liguria, Lombardia, Memorable Events, Sicilia, Toscana, Trade Fairs, Vinitaly, wines

Women in Wine Fridays: A Chat with Ambra Tiraboschi, Producer of Lugana from Ca Lojera (Lombardy)


Earlier this year I was lucky enough to go on a press trip to Lugana. Carlo Veronese, the Director of the Consortium for the region, was wearing the above sweatshirt which really struck my fancy. The first evening of the trip, a small group of journalists and I were invited to a dinner at Ca Lojera where we were greeted by the lovely and extremely coridal Ambra Tiraboschi. Ambra and five of her colleagues from Lugana offered us different wines to try at that occasion along with the traditional foods of Lake Garda. My friend and fellow journalist Dave Buchanan had this to say about part of our trip.

Lake Garda

I was happy to see Ambra in late July at a class on Lugana at Eataly. Lugana is being celebrated at the Italian luxury supermarket this month as I wrote in a previous post on Avvinare.

This post is instead a women in wine Fridays post with Ambra as it’s subject. Before I put up Ambra’s answers to my questions though, I want to mention her wine. I very recently tried the 2013 Lugana made from 100% Turbiana grapes (Trebbiano di Lugana). It was a beautiful and mineral rich wine with good body and acidity. Aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers abounded with a hint of an herbal note as well. It paired beautifully with the dishes that Eataly served at the Scuola and even better with the traditional fare in Italy in April but that’s always the case. Their vineyards are located in Sirmione and have white clay soils typical of this area. I love this wine and it is surprisingly easy to find in New York thanks to Ambra’s importer, Moonlight.

Ca Lojera

Here’s my interview with Ambra:

How did you get into the wine business?

I became involved in viticulture by choice and in winemaking by chance because during the harvest of 1992, our grapes were not sold as they usually were to the typical buyers. It was a difficult time for Lugana, as it was an unknown wine and our grapes used to be used to strengthen other local wines.

What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

Doing business as a woman can be complicated in all sectors because it calls for a good balance between our emotional life and our determination to reach our objectives. In the wine world, the men were curious at first about how I would do but everything worked out well because the story of a wine needs to be told and women are traditionally great story tellers, look at Scheherazade!

What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business?

In today’s world, consumers want to hear the story of your wine and to read about it on all the communication channels that we now have at our disposition: social media, bloggers, wine lovers,etc. Guides have lost some of their magic and are considered less interesting by some consumers. Today and in the coming years, we will need to open and visit new markets. I personally find this very stimulating because I need to understand the culture and habits of other peoples.

What do you see happening in the Lugana area?

The area where Lugana comes from is small but well-loved and it is in a great geographical position. I’m sure we will have a wonderful and long-lived period of fruitful work.

What do you think about the level of wine education on Lugana in general in the US?

Lugana is getting to be more well-known in the United States. It is already appreciated by those who are well-educated in the wine world and know how to drink well. That’s what we want to see in every market.

Do you think we are still too Tuscany and Piedmont focused?

No, that wasn’t my impression during my visit.

Who is the average wine drinker today?

The average wine consumer today is between 30-50 years old who invests their money wisely and who enjoys trying fine wines.

Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?

Women will be quite active in industry during the next 10 years as a new generation comes to the fore, especially in the textile industry and I hope in wine & food. Women are already quite present in both the communications industry and in artisanal products and I believe their influence will only grow.

What do you think will happen with Expo 2015?

Expo 2015, which will take place in Milan, will surely be a great occasion for our country. I’m confidant that my countrymen will make it a great success for all.

Do you think Lugana could replace Pinot Grigio on most wine lists?

I’m not sure that is where we are looking for Lugana to go. Rather what I do think is that many consumers will begin to ask specifically for Lugana when they are looking for wine that they are familiar with, that isn’t banal, but that is instead an authentic representation of a particular terroir and a particular history.


Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, italy, Lombardia, Memorable Events, Travel, wines, Women in Wine

Wine of the Week: Conte Vistarino Sangue di Giuda from Oltrepo’ Pavese (Lombardy)

With Lucia on Cape Cod

Friday is the quintessential Italian holiday, Ferragosto. What is Ferragosto you might ask, well according to Wikipedia:

“The Catholic Church celebrates this date as a Holy Day of Obligation to commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary—the actual physical elevation of her sinless soul and incorruptible body into Heaven. Before the Roman Catholic Church came into existence, however, this holiday also included honoring of gods—in particular Diana—and the cycle of fertility and ripening, during the time of the Roman Empire.”

Ferragosto for me is much simpler and has always represented the beach, good food and good friends. Usually I am on my way to Cape Cod this week but this year I’ve got other big plans. Very excited about these plans but I do always love the Cape….


Lucky for me, New York unlike Italy, decidedly does not shut down for the holiday. My first summer living in Milan, the entire city was shut down for August but I worked at a financial newswire which never closed its doors. Those were the days when Italy’s Central Bank still mattered and as always, most financial crises began in August. At times, being in the office was almost a relief from the hot, empty streets of the city. When I did have to venture out, I looked forward to the one light on the street, a bar called Le Trottoir. I lived in the Corso Garibaldi area and Le Trottoir was the only game in town.

It has since changed its location and style but at the time, it was the closest thing to a hippy bar that I could find in my chic Milanese neighborhood and it was refreshing. They served popcorn, bad wine and had loud music every night until dawn. When everyone’s tapparelle or sun blinds were down, it was a pleasure to slip into that bar and order whatever they had on the menu, generally a bland Barbera/Croatina from the Oltrepo’ Pavese, an area near the city of Pavia. These wines used to be on every Milanese restaurant and Trattoria menu.

They were not particularly refined wines but went well with some of the local fare. Wines from the Oltrepo’ aren’t that popular in the US but they do make some good Pinot Nero.

This week’s wine of the week hails from Oltrepo’ from Conte Vistarino, their Sangue di Giuda. This wine is made from a blend of Croatina and Barbera.
This semi-sweet sparkler has low alcohol and is a fruity summer wine. I can see drinking some of this and eating a sandwich staring out at the sea on the Cape. It would be a great combination.


Filed under Italian indigenous Grape Varieties, Italian regions, Italian wineries, Lombardia, Memorable Events, Travel, Wine of the Week, wine wednesday, wines