Is (Oltrepò) Pavese the next big thing?

One of the things that impressed me most during a visit to Pavia wine country a few years ago was the abundance of hazels.

When asked about it, one producer told me that Piedmontese hazelnut processors had been disappointed in foreign-farmed trees. In search of land suitable for growing the fruit, they had expanded their orchards to Pavia province.

The reason? The soils and growing conditions are similar to those found in Langa where Barolo and Barbaresco are raised.

Pavia wine country lies just south of the Po River in Lombardy, just a stone’s throw from southeastern Piedmont. Its limestone and marl-rich soils are nearly identical to those found in Nebbiolo’s spiritual homeland.

Oltrepò Pavese (rendered in English, the toponym means beyond the Po River) is considered by many to be the top Italian growing region for Pinot Noir. And while many know it for the appellation’s classic method wines, some would argue that still Pinot Noir is what really puts it in world class.

According to at least one soil study I found (commissioned by the Regione Lombardia), Pavia province has a higher concentration of surface area planted to vine than any other place in Lombardy (Franciacorta, I’m looking at you!).

Oltrepò Pavese and the Pavese IGP have been on my mind this week because my friends at Vinarius, the Italian association of wine retailers, just named Pavese as their biennial wine region to watch (here I’ve slavishly translated it as the “Vinarius Territory Prize,” the ninth time the body has recognized an Italian wine-growing district).

According to their press release, more than 13,000 hectares are planted to vine between Oltrepò Pavese and the Provincia di Pavia IGT (Pavia Province). Of those, more than 11,000 are used to make appellation-designated wines.

Oltrepò Pavese has also been on my mind over the last year thanks to the excellent educational campaign run by my friend, colleague, and fellow italophone Susannah Gold.

I’ve also heard chatter that a handful of prominent winemakers from other regions are looking at buying vineyard land there.

Are Oltrepò Pavese and Provincia di Pavese going to be the next big thing? No one can say for certain. But it sure is going to be fun to follow along as we find out.

Images snapped in 2021 at the Frecciarossa farm in Casteggio.

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