Italy: Lombardy

Cantina di Casteggio (Oltrepo Pavese)

The little known region of Oltrepó Pavese is a bump on the plain 60kms south of Milan. There is one major player in town. It’s fair to say Cantina di Casteggio is bigger than any other winery we work with. Much bigger. A Co-op with 350 members and a massive facility, part run-down fascista-style, part space age. Try as we might, we just couldn’t resist the wines. Impressive across the whole range. The Cantina is very switched-on and started a “quality project” with their best 50 growers, bringing in famous Italian consultant Riccardo Cotarella.
100% Pinot Noir, Postumio is a true Methode Champenoise, fermented and aged for 18 months in bottle. Pinot Grigio, beautifully balanced. Sauvignon in the creamy, rather than zizzy, style. Malvasia, exotic in the nose, good depth in the mouth. Fabulous Barbera – smooth and deep. A smoky Pinot Noir and now, their newest wine, a spicy, grapey, gently sweet, gently sparkling Moscato.
There are also two interesting local oddities, both red and both frizzante (gently sparkling); the rarely seen Bonarda, which is dry, and the Sangue di Giuda (Blood of Judas), which has a soft touch of sweetness.

Albani (Oltrepo Pavese) ORGANIC-NATURAL

You could argue that we already had the small winemaking zone of Oltrepo Pavese in Lombardy, south of Milan well-covered, having worked with Cantina di Casteggio for at least a decade. It was by coincidence we stumbled across Albani, a small independent, organic grower up in the hills above Casteggio, with a completely contrasting style.

There was a noisy welcome, with screaming kids and loads of people, when we arrived to taste. “Please come this way” – they had laid on a translator (very wise, as our Italian is, at best, formative). We were met by the tidal wave of energy that is Riccardo Albani, his sister Anna and, on her arm, their fully suited and booted father Erico who was born in 1928. They were all on hand to meet the “hot-shot wine merchants” from London. We really liked the wines. Certified organic for 11 years. Mainly Barbera and Riesling Renato with a little Pinot Nero, Nebbiolo and Bonarda. Old vines. No S02, no filtering. Distinctive. Characterful. Built for ageing. “We don’t want want to release them until they’re ready”, says Riccardo. Suits us. We now have, among other bottlings, their Costa del Morone 2004 on our shelves – a lush, complex, structured red from 85% Barbera with smatterings of Vespolina, Pinot Nero, Croatina, Nebbiolo and Moscato.