A review of wines from Italy’s Lombardy region.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers September 28, 2011
Italy’s Lombardy region has been producing wines for centuries. Bordered by the Alps to the north and the Po River in the south, Lombardy is a cool-climate location for wine production dotted with lakes that modulate the local temperatures. The area is best known for its aromatic cheeses, and many of its grapes and wines are spirited off to be consumed elsewhere.
For example, the Swiss drink most of Lombardy’s Valtellina and much of the Oltrepo Pavese Pinot Nero production is shipped to the Piedmont region to be made into sparkling wines. This trend is changing and Lombardy wines are appearing more regularly in the U.S. market. These flavorful, often reasonably priced wines are very food friendly and worth seeking to enjoy with your favorite northern Italian fare including risotto, ossobuco and cotoletta.
There are 13 wine producing areas in Lombardy with the best known being the northernmost Valtellina located near the Adda River, Oltrepo Pavese south of the Po River and Franciacota near Lake Iseo. Valtellina is one of the only other Italian regions (besides Piedmont) to make wine from Nebbiolo and their red wines are lighter in style with less acidity and tannins. The fragrant Nino Negri Valtellina Superiore Inferno 2007 ($17) has currant, red cherry and spice flavors, while the Cantina di Villa Rosso di Valtellina 2006 ($14) has more strawberry and earthy notes.
Franciacota makes delightful sparkling wines, including the stylish Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Saten 2005 ($25), which shows stone fruit and citrus flavors accented with nuts and pepper. From Oltrepo Pavese, try the lovely, semi-sweet sparkling Francesco Quaquarini Moscato 2009 ($9) with spicy orange, lemon and grapefruit notes or the Francesco Quaquarini Barbera Vigna Poggio Anna 2007 ($20) that has cedar, tobacco and spice along with its red berry and currant flavors.
While known for light Chiaretto wines made from the indigenous Gropello grapes, Lombardy’s western Lake Garda area also produces some heavyweight contenders, such as the Fattoria Colombara Gozzi Merlot 2009 ($16) with berries, plum and tart cherry flavors along with smoke and oak in the finish. The Costaripa Garda Classico Rosso Campostarne 2008 ($23) is more rustic, with dark fruit and roasted flavors with earth and anise that develop nicely over time in the glass.
The Monte Ciogna “Don Lisander” Garda Classico Superiore 2001 ($21) is a tribute to the founder, Alessandro Materossi. Almost half of the blend of 60 percent Groppello, 20 percent Barbera, 10 percent Sangiovese and 10 percent Maremino grapes are dried in large, well-ventilated rooms before being crushed and then blended into the grapes that were crushed immediately after harvest. The resulting dried cherry and berry flavored wine is full-bodied, earthy and spicy with cinnamon, pepper tobacco and anise lasting into the finish. The Monte Ciogna Beana Garda Classico Groppello di Moniga 2008 ($16) contains 10 percent Barbera and is more aromatic, with floral scents leading into raspberry, black cherry, tobacco and slightly spicy bitter almond flavors at the end.
Cantina Bergamasca produces two wines, a red “Bordeaux-style” blend made with international varietals and a white blend that also contains some indigenous Italian grapes. The Cantina Bergamasca Akros Riserva Valcalepio 2005 ($21) is comprised of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Rich and lush with currants, plums, blueberries and earthy flavors, it is well-balanced and lingering with hints of licorice, vanilla, oak and herbs. The Cantina Bergamasca Bianco Valcalepio 2009 ($14) is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio with stone fruit aromas that intermingle nicely with citrus flavors into the pleasant finish.