The best Pinot Noir from Italy?

Pinot Noir is grown across northern Italy and in a few notable spots in Tuscany.

Some of it reflects a long tradition of growing the variety, in places like Trentino-South Tyrol and some would argue Friuli, although most of the Pinot Noir in Friuli was planted in the years after the Second World War.

Pinot Noir didn’t come to Franciacorta until the 1960s when Franco Ziliani, the industrialist and later winemaker, famously decided to make classic method wines there (read Robert Camuto’s excellent obituary for Ziliani, who died late last year, here).

Piedmont growers have planted a lot of Pinot Noir in Alta Langa in recent years as they geared up for the launch of Alta Langa classic method wines. And there is the occasional Langa grower who has some rows of Pinot Noir.

One of the oldest and continuously productive plantings of Pinot Noir is found in none of the above regions.

Back in July of last year, while teaching at the Slow Food University in Piedmont, I took a drive down to Oltrepò Pavese to meet and taste with Valeria Odero, the owner of Frecciarossa, one of the appellation’s most revered wineries.

(For those who may be new to Italian wine, Oltrepò Pavese is a small appellation that lies just south of the Po River in Pavia province in the region of Lombardy. The topography and soil types share a kinship with Langa where Barolo and Barbaresco are grown.)

I had tasted a lot of her sparkling wine during my New York years but during the pandemic closures, I had finally had the chance to taste her still wines thanks to a small independent importer here in Houston. Here and then later in Oltrepò, I was utterly blown away by the depth of her flagship Pinot Noir, grown in vineyards that were planted in the early 20th century. It was no surprise to discover that Cristiano Garella, one of hipster Italy’s most in-demand winemakers, was overseeing the winemaking for her.

She opened the 2016 for me during my visit last summer. But on January 20, we will be pouring her 2013 — a stunning vintage — at our first virtual winemaker dinner of the year at Roma in Houston. Valeria and I spoke this morning and I’m super geeked that she’s joining us. It’s going to be one to remember.

We don’t have the menu yet but the price will be same as always, $119 per couple, including a 3-course dinner for two and a bottle of Valeria’s 2013 Pinot Noir Giorgio Odero.

Please send me an email if you like to attend by clicking here.

Thank you for your support and happy new year!

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