Why should we go as far as Burgundy, when we have Oltrepò?

di Andrea Guolo

The province of Pavia is “Terra di Pinot Nero”, as the name of an event that celebrated the two souls of this vine. Our five favorite wineries to visit

The title is provocative. There are excellent reasons to go to Burgundy even if we have Oltrepò Pavese … but before setting up such a demanding journey, it is really worthwhile to understand the beauties that we have most at hand, especially if we live in the Po valley, especially if we have a certain predisposition to appreciate Pinot Noir, the most difficult of the vines but also the one that offers the best satisfactions. And that here, exactly as in Burgundy – this is the reason for the provocation -, it finds its perfect location and offers satisfactions beyond expectations. Furthermore, for those who do not know it, the Oltrepò proves to be a real surprise for the kindness of its landscape, for the colors and shades of light, for the possibility of practicing physical activity among the vineyards and along the ridges of its hills.

For cycling excursions, Oltrepò offers endless possibilities. The territorial tourism strategy is increasingly based on the adoption of sustainable lifestyles and for cyclists it is a paradise, also because the roads are not excessively busy and the presence of cycle paths constantly increases. An example is the creation, from a disused railway, of the Greenway Voghera-Varzi, which runs along the Staffora river and leads to the town famous for its salami. Five interesting cycling routes in the area south of the Po have been collected and tracked by the GPX site Bike Italia. In addition to the Greenway indicated above there are: the Voghera-Pavia with the passage of the “little Stelvio”, the ring that always leads from the chief town towards the Versa valley returning from the Tidone valley, the Oltrepò Voghera-Rocca Susella-Voghera ring and finally the climb up to the Penice pass, the latter quite challenging with the brow at 1,150 meters above sea level.

Tasting bench at Terra di Pinot Nero

Various wines are produced in Oltrepò. The traditional one is Bonarda, D.O.C. since 1970 and made mostly from Croatina grapes. The most representative white is Riesling, Renano or Italico, with 1,300 hectares dedicated and continuously growing. In the context of dessert wines, stands out the Sangue di Giuda, a sweet red wine that can be semi-sparkling or sparkling. But there is no doubt that the greatest potential concerns Pinot Noir, in its double soul of the Classic Method and Pinot Noir vinified in red. Among the wineries in the area, the belief is emerging that Pinot Noir deserves a specific promotion and can become the true standard-bearer of the Oltrepò not only nationally, but also internationally. A turning point was the organization of Oltrepò – Terra di Pinot Nero, an event that was held at the end of September in the Antica Tenuta Pegazzera in Casteggio, and then repeated at the beginning of December with a Milanese passage at DaDa in Taverna where a a delegation of 23 companies was the protagonist of an event called “Talk ‘n’ Toast – Conversations on Pinot Noir: terroir compared from Burgundy to Oltrepò”. Producers team up because they have acquired awareness of their means and also of their limits, especially in the field of image and communication. The numbers are important: with its 3,500 hectares planted (out of a total of 13,000 of various vines), Oltrepò Pavese is the third largest producer of Pinot Noir in Europe after Burgundy and Champagne. Thus, from the initial union of 20 producers and with the support of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese, the project got underway. “Finally – says Ottavia Giorgi di Vistarino, owner of Conte Vistarino, historic winery in the area and one of the most committed to the enhancement of Pinot Noir – with this event we have come to give voice to a common and shared intention for a long time, which has seen the protagonists of an ambitious journey that began for the desire to give an adequate expression of the territory, of our wines and of the many stories behind the labels. It is indeed a communication project but also of raising quality, thanks to the continuous dialogue between us: it is a first step that has seen us united and that we hope will take us far“.



“Since 1850, the home of Pinot Noir”. The claim contained in the website of this historic winery explains the vocation and intentions of Ottavia Giorgi and the whole team of Conte Vistarino, with their natural vocation for welcoming visitors. Among the formulas, all bookable online, appears the Aperi-bike, created for those who love nature and want to know not only the techniques of the cellar but also the natural beauty of the estate. The package includes: guided tour of the cellar, delivery of e-bikes with helmet, basket set up with everything needed for an aperitif en plain air (1 bottle of wine, cold cuts, cheeses, honey, bread and more). Price: 65 euros per person with a basket for every two people, bookable for a minimum of two people. The other formulas start from a minimum of 20 euros per person for a 90-minute visit (with tasting of 4 wines including a Classic Method) and reach 50 euros per person for 2.5 hours in the experience among the vineyards (with tasting of 2 wines on the Terrazza delle Rose and a visit to the cellar with the tasting of 2 other wines in the barrel room). For enthusiasts, it is possible to purchase the “Tasting with the oenologist” package for 65 euros per person for groups of at least 6 people.


Tasting in Conte Vistarino

Since 1981, this historic castle has been owned by the Moratti family and today, after the death of Gian Marco Moratti, the winery is managed by Gabriele Moratti and the CEO Gian Matteo Baldi. 36 hectares of property, of which 28 are vineyards, in a truly unique and suggestive position. Visits can be organized by reservation, wine purchases are also available online. To better highlight the different expressions of Pinot Noir, a restyling was done significant of the labels of the Estate: from now on, wine lovers will find a label in the French style with the sole name Moratti as a label on the Classic Method and the Castello di brand Cigognola on still wines.


The view from the Castle of Cigognola

The history of the classic method in Italy passes through this brand, now part of the Terre D’Oltrepò cooperative at the end of a troubled period. His Gran Spumante, during the thirties of the last century, marked the birth of the vintage sparkling wine in Italy. And in the 1950s, La Versa was among the pioneers of the export of Italian sparklings. The wine experience at La Versa can be booked online and consists of a guided tour within the La Versa production chain. The tasting room is located in the old and suggestive station. From here, on the small tracks still visible, the loads full of sparkling wine left. The journey ends with the tasting of the products. The company also has a wine point where is possible to taste and buy all the main types of classic method.

La Versa wine point, photo by Ermanno Bidone for company website

The case of homonymy with the Italian superfast train should not be deceiving: this winery is slow and rooted in time, because the company owned by the Odero family has already completed its hundred years since its foundation. Twenty hectares of vineyards, production between 80 and 100 thousand bottles a year depending on the generosity of the harvest, the company offers a space for events, Villa Odero, which can also be rented for ceremonies and weddings, and a holiday home, La Casina, which can also be booked on booking.com

Villa Odero, the driveway


The vineyards of Tenuta Mazzolino develop in a single body around the Mazzolino hill in Corvino San Quirico and represent a real “Clos” according to the Burgundian tradition. The village dating back to the early 1800s consists of a nucleus of 5 buildings, a guesthouse and a small church surrounded by fields and vineyards. Francesca Seralvo, from Milan, is at the helm of the company since 2015, when she abandoned the profession of lawyer to devote herself full time to the vineyards where she grew up as a child. The history of Mazzolino is linked to pure Pinot Noir vinified in red and not sparkling. The visit to the cellar takes between 60 and 90 minutes and can be booked by phone or by email. Finally, the company has a shop online for the purchase of wines and typical products.

Francesca Seralvo during the last harvest


Top photo: the Aperi-bike formula at Conte Vistarino