Lombardy is completely surrounded by the stars of wine production — Veneto, Piedmont and Tuscany – so you’d be forgiven for overlooking the regional wines, but Lombardy’s wines can still hold their own.
Most famous for its sparkling whites and deep Valtellina reds, Lombardy also has a range of lightly sparkling reds that are surprisingly versatile.
As a part of a very modest effort to spread awareness of local wines throughout Italy – beyond Tuscany – let’s move on to Lombardia.
Because remember, Tuscany isn’t the only region with royal rolling hills. It’s not the only place with fertile soil and abundant sun. It’s not the only place you can take a tour in a vineyard and enjoy international-famed wines.
You can drink very well on strictly local wine when in Lombardy.
Though our basic grocery store wine options in America are often the same big hitters, when in Italy you’re able to try a variety of wines at a fraction of the cost! So why not branch out and try something new? This time, something from Lombardy.
As always, Lombardy’s food and wine productions are strongly tied to its diverse geography. In the north you have the mountains in Valtellina. To the east you have the sun-kissed Franciacorta land aided by the nearby lakes and to the south you have low-lying plains. These three major agricultural zones in the region are also the three heavy-hitters in Lombardy’s wine production
The Wine Zones of Lombardy:
In the heart of the Alps, tucked between Milan and Switzerland, Valtellina’s harsh mountain landscapes and steep valleys produce one of Lombardy’s most beloved wines. The area’s namesake wines – Valtellina and Valtellina Superiore – are made from the Nebbiolo grape, which is a favorite in Piedmont’s vineyards as well. A noble red that pairs perfectly with traditional Lombard food – ossobuco, pizzocheri, grilled meats – the Superiore is usually denoted by the district it was grown in. You can find Valtellina Superiore Grumello, Sassella, Valgella and a powerful favorite, Inferno.
Literally named the land “beyond the Po [river]” this is in the province of Pavia, in Lombardy’s very gently slopping hills and beyond into its flatlands. Though the area has been producing wine for centuries, only recently is it starting to get a bit more notice beyond its local hills. Especially for a strong red like the Barbera and ever-so-sparkling Bonarda. (A unique aspect of Lombardy’s wine production are these sparkling reds, including a Lambrusco from the area of Mantova.) You can find different white varieties here as well. Try the Riesling Italico or the local Moscato which can hold its own even beyond the region.
The area of Franciacorta, in the province of Brescia near Lake Iseo, has 117 different cellars. You can rent and ride bikes throughout the vineyards and along the Lake, then take a break with a tasting in a local winery. The area has a DOCG label for its sparkling wine (spumante), which in many cases are similar to Champagne. Here you can try Chardonnay or Pinot Nero grapes, you can try Franciacorta White, Millesimato, Satén or Rosé, for various degrees of fragrance, foam and smell. Perhaps the most famous name of the spumante series is Berlucchi, considered one of Italy’s best sparkling wine brands.
Get more information on the Franciacorta blends here.
It’s hard to fight for Lombardy’s wines when you have such important big sisters right next door. The honest truth is that most Lombards’ homes are stocked with wines from Piedmont rather than Lombardy. But as methods improve and word gets out, that is slowly starting to change. Renting boats on Lake Como? Bring a local spumante to celebrate with rather than a generic prosecco. Digging in to some of Lombardy’s less-than-light local dishes? Add on a red from Valtellina. You won’t be sorry!
Drink all the wine: