The presence of vines in the Oltrepò Pavese hills goes back to ancient times, as evidenced by the vine fossils dating back to prehistoric times and kept at the Archaeological Museum of Casteggio.
The established opinion is that the Etruscans, during their expansion phase in the sixth century BC, brought the culture of the vine to the Po Valley, with the introduction of Vitis vinifera sativa.
The first testimony of Oltrepò Pavese wine comes from the greek historian and geographer Strabo, who passing through these areas around 40 BC in the wake of the Roman troops, wrote, “good wine, hospitable people and very large wooden barrels”, at the same time attributing the invention of wooden barrel to local artisans.
Other citations are the historian Pliny the Elder, who writes of flowery wine-growing in the towns of Clastidium (Casteggio) and Litubium (Retorbido).
In the eighth century Queen Teodolinda conceded some border lands to a group of wandering Irish monks led by Saint Columba, who having spent 20 years in Burgundy then restored the cultivation of vines in the Oltrepo lands that had been devastated by barbaric raids since the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
In 1743 the Oltrepò region joined the Kingdom of Sardinia, hence the name “Old Piedmont”, which is sometimes still remembered.
As the wine world recovered from phylloxera attack of the 1800s, which resulted in severe damage to the entire wine-growing community, production and commercialisation of Oltrepò Pavese wines began in earnest. Suffice to say that in 1884 the area boasted 225 indigenous varieties, compared with the dozen or so currently present, including Moradella and Uva di Mornico.
In the early years of the 1900s the rationalization of the plants and clones were introduced to the specialized vineyards’ criteria.
The long road that led to the current situation began in 1912 when the sparkling wine produced by Oltrepò SVIC – Italian Wine Society of Casteggio – was prominently advertised in America on a large billboard in New York next to the Statue of Liberty.
The Oltrepò Pavese is mainly of preappennine orography, where formations consisting of marl, calcareous sandstone, marl and gypsum abound in the large areas of erosion.
The hilly terrain, where most of the area is planted with vines, was formed in the Cenozoic era and very varied strata are visible; the Pliocene layers are limited to a few conglomerates that crop up between the sandy marl.
Oltrepò Pavese is characterized by extreme heterogeneity in the distribution of radiation in this hilly terrain, which is an important key to identify the different features of the area for vine cultivation.
In the area between the base of the hills and 600 meters above sea level the average annual temperature is around the 11-12 ° C.
The average distribution of rainfall during the year is characterized by a maximum in the months of November (143 mm) and a minimum in July (47 mm); on average, the wettest month in the spring season is May (121 mm).
The areas most suitable for the preparation of bases-sparkling wines and white wines are the Eastern Oltrepò Pavese hills, located between the municipalities of Montecalvo Versiggia and Santa Maria della Versa, and the south-west, between the towns of Rocca Susella and Fortunago, up to Rocca de’ Giorgi; These areas are characterized by soils with fine textures, mainly located in high, cool areas with higher rainfall and milder temperatures and with a wider daily temperature range. The hills reach medium-high heights, ranging from 200 to 550 meters and are characterized by moderate slopes with east-west exposure. The wines produced here are complex, characterized by floral notes and accompanied by hints of ripe fruit and fragrance of spices and dried vegetable. The variable temperature of the area affords the wines a special freshness and good structure.
Other areas equally suited for the production of grapes destined to undergo classic method wine production are the towns of Mornico Losana, Pietra de’ Giorgi, Montù Beccaria, Montalto Pavese and Borgo Priolo, the first hills of Casteggio and Stradella, as well as to the municipalities of Rocca Susella and Fortunago, up to Rocca de’ Giorgi.
The Pinot Noir grape variety is the great, undisputed protagonist of wine production in Oltrepò Pavese. Some ampelographers suggest this vine’s genotypes already originated in the Oltrepo hills in Roman times; and the references to Pignolo, Pignolo kind and Pignolo grappolato cited in 1500 are reliable.
Pinot Noir, as we know it today, arrived in Oltrepò Pavese in the second half of the nineteenth century, where it discovered its ideal habitat. The first systems were made in Rocca de’ Giorgi in 1865 by Count Carlo Giorgi of Vistarino and a few years later, together with Carlo Gancia, the entrepreneur from Piedmonte, he began producing and selling “Italian Champagne”.
The Presidential Decree of August 6, 1970 recognized Oltrepò Pavese Spumante Metodo Classico as Oltrepò Pavese DOC and in 2007 this sparkling wine was elevated to autonomous DOCG.
The tradition has continued to this day with national and international recognition of Oltrepò Pavese as the area of excellence for the production of classic method sparkling wine from Pinot noir.
For new planting and replanting the density can not be less than 4,000 vines / hectare.
The most often used training is espalier.
The product specifications of the Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG wines includes the following types: Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Rosé, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Pinot noir, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Pinot Noir Rosé.
The ampelographic composition is made up of different combinations of Pinot noir, gris, blanc and Chardonnay. Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico and Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Rosé are made from at least 70% Pinot Noir and up to a maximum of 30% Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, either jointly or separately. Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico and Pinot Noir Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico Rosé Pinot Noir are processed with a minimum of 85% Pinot Noir, and up to a maximum of 15% Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, either jointly or separately.
Spumante Oltrepo’ Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG is produced in the following types, classified according to the time on the lees.
Today there is a new collective mark, the Cruasé, which is produced according to the first Italian classic method which, according to the specification, focuses on an original and classy Rosé, made of course from Pinot Noir.
Cruasé is a word formed from the merger of cru (selection) and rosé, with an “a” which acts like the conjunction. The path to arrive at the name of the new symbolic Oltrepò Pavese product, a natural Rosé Metodo Classico DOCG made from Pinot Noir, has proved to be a way to regain an important piece of local history. Cruà was the ancient name of the grape / wine pour excellence produced in Oltrepò Pavese at the turn of the 1700s. The production regulations establish a set of parameters which derive from the discipline’s base: a minimum of 85% Pinot, with the exclusive use of DOCG vines.