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.