Lombardia (Lombardy in English) is an affluent region in northern Italy, one of 20 regions in that country. It is called Lombardy by English language speakers. The vine has been present in Lombardy since prehistoric times. Evidence of this presence has been found on the shores of lake Garda, where ancient pottery and grape seeds were found that belonged to the local vitis vinifera silvestris. These findings, however, do not necessarily indicate that grape seeds were used to produce a beverage. It was during the sixth-seventh century BC that beverages were likely being produced from wild or cultivated grapevines with the Etruscans replacing the wild vine with Vitis sativa, the cultivated grapevine species as opposed to the wild vine. That wine has always been important in Lombardy is exemplified by the fact that Pavia and Brescia had already created consortiums for their wines even before the birth of the DOCs in 1963-1966.

Geography: Lombardy is an extended region. Its 30,000 hectares of vineyards are scattered over more than 24,000 sq km. It is mostly flat (about 50% of its ex- tension), mountainous for an additional 40%, and hilly for the remaining 10%. Hence, Lombardy’s land lends itself to quality viticulture. The various wine areas are relatively distant from each other and have different characteristics, from both a soil and climate standpoint and ampelographic bases. Lombardy is character- ized by many different features, from the mountainous zone in the north to the hills, the Po Valley, and areas of Garda Lake southwards. Clearly, it is the hilly area that is heavily exploited in terms of wine. Only one valley runs longitudinally, the Valtellina Valley, with its vineyards being most exposed to sunlight despite the mountainous environment. This exposure allows for better use of the few sunlight hours, which enable Nebbiolo grapes to ripe fully in generally cool conditions.

Among the most important wine areas are Valtellina, whose vineyards are located on the slopes of the Valtellina mountains, on the right side of the Adda river, and where sunlight helps ripen grapes, while vines are grown on terraces often at the limit of the maximum altitude allowing for proper grapevine growth and development. The main grape is Nebbiolo, here called Chiavennasca, that gives rise to Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG, a wine obtained by the partial drying of grapes on mats (much like Amarone in Veneto), and the Valtellina Superiore DOCG.Other locals grapes are Pignola Valtellinese, Rossola, Brugnola, all red grapes, rarely vinified as monovarietals and typically used in the classic wines of Valtellina.

Franciacorta, in the area of the Iseo Lake in the Brescia province, is known for the cultivation of Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, and Chardonnay, used to make a now world famous sparkling wine by the classic method, that is, in the manner of Champagne, where secondary re-fermentation occurs in the bottle, and not in an autoclave as in the Charmat-Martinotti method. Thanks to a warmer microclimate, Franciacorta sparklers are richer and fruitier than Champagnes. With the same varieties, and also with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines, estates there make Curtefranca DOC red wines.

In Oltrepò Pavese the most popular grape is Barbera, followed by Croatina, Bonarda and Uva Rara. A special mention goes to the Pinot Nero, for which the Oltrepò Pavese has recently established itself as a region of excellence. This variety, however, is used mainly for the production of sparkling wines (Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG). White wines are made from Riesling Italico (Welshriesling) grapes, as well as with Moscato Bianco and local biotypes of Malvasia Bianca.

The Garda area and the Colli Mantovani (DOC Garda and Garda Colli Mantovani DOC) produce wines made from the various Groppello varieties, Barbera, Marzemino and Sangiovese. The Lambrusco Mantovano DOC and Lugana DOC (white wines made with Trebbiano di Lugana or Turbiana) are interregional and shared with the province of Verona. Other wine regions of Lombardy are the San Colombano al Lambro DOC, between Pavia and Milan, with the same grapes grown in the Oltrepò Pavese, and the Valcalepio DOC, located between the Bergamasca and Iseo Lake. This area cultivates a unique, and truly fantastic native red grape, Moscato di Scanzo, from which a very limited production of a very interesting sweet red wine is made, Moscato di Scanzo DOCG.

Political geography: Capital city: Milano. Provinces: Bergamo (BG). | Brescia (BS). | Como (CO). | Cremona (CR). | Lecco (LC). | Lodi (LO). | Mantova (MN). | Milano (MI). | Monza e Brianza. | Pavia (PV). | Sondrio (SO). | Varese (VA). 

DOCG DenominationsFranciacorta DOCG. | Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG. | Scanzo or Moscato di Scanzo DOCG. | Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG or Sfursat di Valtellina DOCG. | Valtellina Superiore DOCG. | Valtellina Superiore DOCG Sassella.

DOC Denominations: Bonarda dell’Oltrepo Pavese AOC. | Botticino DOC. | Buttafuoco dell’ Oltrepò Pavese AOC or Buttafuoco. | Capriano del Colle AOC. | Casteggio DOC. | Cellatica DOC. | Curtefranca. | Garda DOC. | Garda Colli Mantovani AOC. | Lambrusco Mantovano DOC. | Lugana DOC. | Oltrepò Pavese DOC. | Oltrepò Pavese Pinot Grigio DOC. | Valtellina DOC. | Pinot Nero dell’Oltrepò Pavese DOC. | Riviera del Garda DOC Bresciano or Garda Bresciano. | San Colombarno al Lambro or San Colombarno. | San Martino della Battaglia. | Sangue di Giuda dell’Oltrepò Pavese or Sangue di Giuda DOC. | Terre di Colleoni DOC or Colleoni DOC. | Valcalepio DOC. | Valtellina Rosso or Rosso di Valtellina. | Valtènesi DOC.

IGT Denominations: Alto Mincio

Lombardy’s native & other grapes: Ian D’Agata (2014: p.38) says local grapes were abandoned long ago in favour of more famous international ones suited to what is Italy’s most important sparkling wine region. The main native grapes are Croatina and Barbera, Nebbiolo which thrives in Lombardy’s Valtellina area, plus lesser known natives Invernenga, Pignola, and Rossola Nera.

Native grapesBarbera (r). | Croatina (r). | Groppello group (r). | Invernenga (r). | Moscato Bianco (w). | Moscato di Scanzo (r). | Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca) (r). | Pignola (r). | Rossola Nera (r). | Uva Rara (r). | Verdea (w). | Vespolina (r).

Vineyard area:

Wine production:

Wineries

No certificationCasa Vinicola Triacca.

Bibliography

See Dr Ian d’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014).