Moratti: sparkling wines from Oltrepò Pavese

The Oltrepò Pavese is a wine growing area in Lombardy, close to Milan. Bordering both Piedmont and Emilia Romagna, similar grape varieties are grown including Barbera and Moscato, though perhaps its main claim to fame is as Italy’s Pinot Noir stronghold.

Much of the Pinot Noir – known locally as Pinot Nero – goes into the production of sparkling wines. The best of these are made by the traditional method, and even merit thier own DOCG classification: Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico. Though the Oltrepò Pavese name may not be so familiar to UK drinkers, it produces a significant volume of wine – indeed Italy’s third biggest production volume behind Asti and Chianti.

The Castello di Cigognola is an imposing 13th century fortress, since 1982 owned by Gian Marco and Letizia Moratti, who bottle estate wines under the Moratti label and farm 28 hectares of vines on surrounding slopes under a sustainable regime, planted at an altitude of 300 to 350 metres.

Respected consultant Riccardo Cotarella was on board in the early stages of the project, but now the estate and vineyards are run by Gian Marco and Letizia’s son Gabriele, alongside CEO, Gian Matteo Baldi. Documents discovered in the castle’s archives show wine was made on the estate as far back as the 14th century.

Castello di Cigognola say that Pinot Noir reaches a perfect phenolic ripeness on their steeply sloping sites just 40 miles south of Milan, where narrow valleys convey winds from both north and south, creating unique climats and preventing rot as well as “boosting phenolic richness,” because along with altitude, they enhance diurnal shift (difference between day and night temperatures), important in both ripening grapes and retaining natural acidity.

Traditional method sparkling wine has been produced in the regions since the 18th century, records showing sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir date back to 1865. Although a small portfolio of red wines is produced using Barbera and Nebbiolo, the Moratti family is now focused firmly on its sparkling wines, all made from Pinot Noir, and it is those that I tasted for this report.

The Wines

(2020) This is Pinot Nero (Noir) with a little Pinot Meunier that spends between 18 and 24-months on the lees. It pours a pale, fresh colour, the nose very delicately scented with a touch of white flowers, cool citrus fruit and just a small suggestion of a more biscuity character. On the palate it is dry and riven with citrus acidity, lemon and a touch of lime, cool and firm on the mid-palate, certainly on the dry and mouthwatering spectrum, very clean and crisp.
(2020) From the highest part of the Pinot Noir vineyard, this spent a full 60 months on the lees and has a dosage at 6g/l. The nose is lovely, crammed with small red berries, that extended time on the lees giving a touch of biscuit and light earthiness. In the mouth peach and, again, small tart red berries are brisk and fresh, the lemony thrust of the acidity extending the finish. A really nice rosé. No UK stockist at time of review, but the wine is available internationlly from xtrawine.com for around £22 per bottle.
(2020) This is 'Pas Dosé', otherwise known as zero dosage, with no sweetening dosage added after disgorgement. Made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the decision on which parts of the harvest are directed towards the Cuvée More Brut or Pas Dosé is based based on blind tasting. A lovely nose on this, again the autolysis showing nicely with some yeasty complexity, pear and citrus peel. In the mouth there is no sense of austerity - it is bone dry, yes, with a bracing salty acidity emphasised by the lack of dosage, but the sweetness of fruit balances in a most satisfying style.
(2020) This vintage cuvée spends a full 72 months on the lees before disgorgement. A selection of the best Pinot Noir, this is also Pas Dosé, with no dosage added. That long lees ageing immediately impacts the complexity of the nose, with autolytic notes of brioche and biscuit against ripe, lemony fruit, all sorts of subtle nutty notes too. In the mouth a striking, dry palate with its zero added sugar, and beautifully balanced as sweet nectarine and orange runs into a much more pithy, tangy lemon and grapefruit acidity. Long and refined.

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