Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Wine Guide
But Oltrepò is more than just the star of Italian sparkling wine.
It is a tiny microcosm, a world apart, it was the driving force that started the production of sparkling wines in Italy in 1700, but above all, it is the cradle of Italian Pinot Noir.
Just think that the hectares of Pinot Noir vineyards are almost 3000, a crazy number compared to the Franciacorta vineyard park, which boasts a maximum of 450.
The numbers are substantial, but in reality, no matter how extensive the Oltrepò vineyard is, the wineries that compose it are pretty small, family-run, where artisanal wines of depth and elegance are produced.
There are some big wineries, but most of the wine is made by small winemakers who should be found and visited.
But why should you drink an Oltrepò Metodo Classico and not a Trentodoc, a Franciacorta, or an Alta Langa? What are the substantial differences between the Italian sparkling wine market leaders?
The Trentodoc has the Dolomites on its side. The vines grow in the cold of the Alps, with solid temperature variations, soils of pure rock, and at much higher altitudes.
Franciacorta has now studied and discovered a recognizable style, albeit very stylized and static, that ensures a decent average quality of its sparkling wines.
Alta Langa is the most recent, but it started on the right foot with few vineyards and targeted production, and behind these wines there are Piedmontese winemakers who have a terrifying track record.
And if they have made such an investment, it means that they aspire to the highest possible quality given by the Piedmontese terroir.
So let’s repeat the question: why Oltrepò?
Because Pinot Noir from Pavia reigns supreme and is inextricably linked to this sparkling wine.
When you think of Oltrepò, you think of classic method sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir and vinified in white, but most importantly, great rosé sparkling wines.
And this is where the Cruasè concept comes into play, a project created to improve the classic method of rosé sparkling wines, based on Pinot Noir, among the purest expressions and adhering to the rocky and noble nature of Pinot.
The name is a synthesis of cru and rosé, two concepts that find concrete meaning in these hills, their application in direct everyday life, and bottles with a unique aromatic profile and fantastic depth.
After all, the Oltrepò Pavese is cut transversely by the 45th parallel, the one that ideally coincides with excellent wine-growing areas, such as Bordeaux and the Langhe.
Grape varieties used to produce Oltrepò Pavese sparkling wine
Before explaining how this sparkling wine is born, we mention the “Disciplinary”, where it is clear that this sparkling wine is a Pinot Noir, perhaps not in purity, but the percentages are very high.
Pinot Nero and Oltrepò Pavese classic method Pinot Noir rosé must have a minimum percentage of 85% Pinot Noir. The rest can be Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Bianco.
In summary, the Pinot Noir dominates as it should, the Chardonnay gives creaminess and butter, and the two Pinots, white and gray, are used for the aromas.
How is Oltrepò Pavese Classic Method made?
It is not the how, which is always the champenoise méthode that the others also use, but the terroir.
Thanks to the temperature range, soils rich in clay and limestone, and the winds that sneak into Liguria to reach the peaks of the hills, Oltrepò Pavese has become the natural cradle of Italian Pinot Noir.
Let’s go back to our old méthode champenoise.
The grapes ripen on the plants and are then harvested when they are not too ripe; we look for acidity in the bunches, not perfect and full polyphenolic ripeness or sugars.
To make the base wines, the grapes are pressed and fermented.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that are made into white wines are softly pressed and don’t touch the skins, so the result is a yellow, crystalline must.
To make rosés, the must be in contact with the Pinot Noir skins just long enough to dye them and release more aromas and flavors, but only for a few hours.
The must has now been “transformed” into wine. That is, it begins to ferment, either with spontaneous or induced leavening.
After the first fermentation, the wine is bottled, yeasts and sugars are added in the form of must, essential for starting the fermentation in the bottle and then the classic crown cap is put on.
Now the beauty of the Champenoise method begins: there are no controls on the second fermentation, the yeasts work, consume sugar, and release carbon dioxide, transforming the wine and making it complex and stratified, since even the yeasts themselves are a fundamental ingredient.
You know, all those aromas and flavors of crusty bread, pastry, cotton candy, and baked goods?
Yes, the yeasts are responsible for their presence in the wine!
They are the ones who use magic to turn an acidic wine like lemonade into a delicious sparkling wine with a lot of aromas that wrap around you.
Let’s move on. It’s not over yet. When the yeasts have finished working and the winemaker thinks that the aging on the yeasts is sufficient, the bottles are placed upside down in the pupitres and rotated several times a day to let the dead yeasts descend towards the cork.
In this way, it is possible to freeze the bottle’s neck and extract that part of the frozen wine that contains the yeasts. We are already dealing with a kind of sparkling wine, even if it is not yet ready.
By now, the sugars have been transformed into alcohol, so there is no need to make too complex base wines: the degrees will come later.
The dosage of Oltrepò Pavese sparkling wine
There are two options: either produce an Oltrepò Pavese Dosaggio zero, which is undosed and bottled, or proceed with the dosage.
In practice, a liqueur d’expedition, made of sugar and wine, is added to sweeten and correct the final sparkling wine.
The choice depends on which product you want to produce. Many criticize the dosage, but it is only harmful when it flattens the sparkling wine and distorts it, making it lose its typicality, but it is a tool, and as such, it should be used and considered.
Not everyone can be at zero or extreme dosage at all costs. Indeed, the greatest Champagne houses have built their reputation, success, formula, and product dosed in a certain way.
Every year is the same. It is a secret formula that distinguishes a type of classic method sparkling wine. Buyers know what flavors there are in that bottle.
Oltrepò Pavese Food Pairings
Fish, seafood, white meats, goose salami, vegetarian Chinese cuisine, soups, parmigiana ravioli, spaghetti with clams, chicken tikka masala, Chicken Cacciatore, Vitello Tonnato, truffle risotto, pasta alla carbonara.