Pinot Noir can be vinified in white, giving rise to dry, fragrant still wines; it can undergo soft pressing and very short contact with the skins in order to obtain a rosé wine; it can be vinified in red, ageing in casks, thus giving rise to high-quality red wines. It is the main, maybe even the only, constituent of sparkling wine bases.
Pinot Noir comes from a grape that requires mastery and a favourable climate to produce excellent wines. Pinot Noir is synonymous with high-class and high-quality wines. It is the only grape variety in the world capable of producing the best both white and red wines
Difficult to grow and make wine from, Pinot Noir is recognisable on the vine by its small bunches of grape, which make it difficult to harvest by hand. The shape of the leaf is roundish, a wilder trait compared to other grapes. It is the shape of the bunch that gives Pinot its name: solid and compact as a pine cone.
The Pinot Noir grape has a black skin rich in noble substances capable of giving remarkable sensory qualities, even though it has a reduced colouring capacity. It is perfect for the production of excellent red and “Blanc de noir” wines (white wines made from black grapes) rich in spicy, fruity and floral scents and of great body.
DOCG Oltrepò Pavese traditional method
Oltrepò Pavese Traditional Method (Italian: Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico) is a DOCG (a warranty mark used in Italy) sparkling wine whose production is allowed in this area. It is produced with grapes grown in the same areas as the Oltrepò Pavese DOC wine. The DOC (controlled designation of origin) became DOCG in 2007.
The Oltrepò Pavese Traditional Method DOCG wines must be obtained from grapes harvested at vineyards with the following ampelographic composition:
- “Oltrepò Pavese” Traditional Method and “Oltrepò Pavese” Traditional Method rosé: Pinot Noir: minimum 70%; Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc jointly or severally up to a maximum of 30%.
- “Oltrepò Pavese” Traditional Method Pinot Noir and “Oltrepò Pavese” traditional method Pinot Noir rosé: Pinot Noir: minimum 85%; Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc jointly or severally up to a maximum of 15%.
The map shows the municipalities in which the DOCG Traditional Method can be produced. Municipalities marked in green are those in which the wine is produced throughout the territory, the ones marked in yellow are those in which it is only produced in part.
Pinot Noir Oltrepò Pavese DOC
The Pinot Noir Oltrepò Pavese is a still red DOC wine, whose production is allowed in this area. The grape variety used for its production is Pinot Noir (at least 95%) vinified in red. Note that Pinot Noir vinified in white and in rosé are varieties of the Oltrepò Pavese DOC.
The production area of the grapes intended for the production of the DOC is identical to the production area of the DOCG.
History and presence in Italy
Pinot Noir is an ancient vine, most likely already well known in Roman times before the birth of Christ and classified among the helvolae vine varieties (“De rerum naturae”, Columella). It is mentioned for the first time as Pynoz at the end of the 14th century (1394) in Burgundy and since the 17th century it has been one of the most important vines in high-quality worldwide sparkling wine production. It has been shown to be the father of Chardonnay.
In European wine growing regions where Pinot Noir is most widely cultivated today (in particular Burgundy and Champagne, in France), vine cultivation seems to have spread from the 3rd/4th century AD onwards, so it is likely that this vine or its predecessors were spread in those areas by the Roman expansion towards northern Europe, acting on genotypes that Ancient Romans had carried there or, as some claim, selecting genotypes that already existed in the area.
There are testimonies of international exchanges that led at the end of the 18th century to the introduction of Pinot Noir from Burgundy into the Piacenza area by the minister Guillaume du Tillot. The cultivation of the vine is also reported in the 1875 Ampelography of Alessandria province, where it is mentioned as having already been present for many years. In the Oltrepò Pavese its presence is recorded in 1884 (ministerial wine census – A. Giulietti) especially in four of its municipalities located in the higher reliefs of Scuropasso and Versa valleys.
Cultivation and sparkling wine production
During the late 1800s and the early 1900s in the municipality of Rocca de Giorgi (Scuropasso valley) Pinot Noir started to be cultivated in a framework of a precise and declared wine growing programme that developed the objective of sparkling wine production.
Perhaps the first sparkling wine to be ever recorded in the Oltrepò Pavese is the “Montarco” in 1828, but we don’t know which vines it was produced from. It is reasonable to believe that the first examples of the modern Pinot Noir arrived in the western Cispadana (especially in Piacenza, Pavia and Alessandria areas) between the 18th and 19th centuries. At the end of the 19th century in this area started the first high-quality sparkling wine productions (Giorgi Vistarino winery). In the last decades of the 19th century a Traditional Method sparkling wine called “Champagne”was produced at the winery of engineer Mazza from Codevilla, with the advice of French wine experts.
The vines used in the early 1900s came from France and in particular are believed to come from Champagne (Val-de-Marne). Later on, collections of mother plants from the Scorzoletta nurseries and from the company’s main collection located near the former Rocca de’ Giorgi Town Hall were set up.
So, at the turn of the last two centuries, it was already practised an internationally recognised high-quality sparkling wine production, which was the result of the wine-making experience carried out in the area in the previous decades. In this context, the connection, also a friendship, which already existed at that time between the Giorgi from Vistarino and the Gancia family from Piedmont had undoubtedly a positive influence. The last one, as is known, was one of the forerunners of sweet and dry sparkling wine production in Italy.
We don’t know for sure if and how much Pinot Noir was used in these early experiments, which were more likely linked to sweet sparkling wines. However, it is documented (in the company’s historical records) that from the very first years of the century (1908) Pinot Noir was already a grape variety that received many attentions at the Giorgi winery, together with Moscato.
The spread of Pinot Noir
Over the years, Pinot Noir became a more and more popular vine for the wineries in the municipalities surrounding Rocca de’ Giorgi, especially in Montecalvo Versiggia and Santa Maria della Versa, and in the whole of the Scuropasso and Versa valleys. Over the years, the entire Oltrepò territory developed a praiseworthy local sparkling wine production which, in the decades that followed, achieved and still maintains high-quality goals, even at international level.
Since then, several technical and scientific studies have been carried out on Pinot Noir in the Oltrepò Pavese. To start with, the zonation of the area’s vocation for wine production in 1990, continuing with the experimental studies conducted between 2000 and 2008, which involved the complete mapping of the areas suitable for Pinot Noir in the entire Oltrepò Pavese, broken down by different types of wine making, including the more recent rosè sparkling wine making process, as well as the adaptation of the vine (advance of harvesting) in a context of the heavy climate change that affected the area.
Before the man, in the Oltrepò Pavese, the fossil of a possible ancient ancestor of today’s Vitaceae, found at the end of the 19th century, see image below (Negri, 1931).