If you think you’ve “seen” all of Italy, I’m going to challenge you and say: you haven’t (yet).
Some of us might look for the lesser-known regions and cities, while others may think the only places to visit are the port-of-call stops on a cruise ship. However, many magical surprises happen when you discover the lesser-known areas that are “off the beaten track” from more well-known places.
Welcome tasting at Martinì Col di Paste with a view of the valley & Bergamo in the distance
As you know from my last post, I recently travelled to Lombardy in Northern Italy to attend the Wine Media Conference in Desenzano del Garda on Lake Garda. And one of the pre-conference tours I had chosen to attend didn’t work out, so I joined a tour I wasn’t familiar with.
And I’m happy to say, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover Moscato di Scanzo and Valcalepio outside the city of Bergamo (magical surprise!).
You can find Bergamo just northeast of Milan and northwest of Brescia (east of Lake Garda). If you know the San Pellegrino brand – this is where it originates from. You may not think there are many vineyards in the area until you venture out into the valley and around the city. And there lies this oasis of lush and green rolling hills, with vineyard upon vineyard. The narrow roads wind through the valley with bikers getting their exercise, hikers enjoying the quaint and quiet countryside, and motorcyclists and Italian sports car drivers enjoying every turn.
Vineyard tour at Martinì Col di Paste
The first area we visited was Moscato di Scanzo DOCG hosted by Consorzio di Tutela Moscato di Scanzo. It was once the smallest DOCG in Italy (just 31 hectares of vineyards), now they are the second smallest. DOCG means the highest quality level for special wines.
And the vineyards are home to Italy’s only region producing sweet red wines made using the Apassimento method, which they are known and beloved.
Apassimento method: The withering procedure (drying), for a minimum of 21 days, by placing the grapes on racks or in special boxes in ventilated or thermo-conditioned environments with daily checks to verify their evolution.
Tour & Grappa tasting at Pagnoncelli Folcieri in a seventeenth-century villa and a very old cellar
You might not be a consistent sipper of sweet dessert wines, however, this area will change that. Not only is this one of five DOCGs in Lombardy, but it’s a true culinary haven with 10 Michelin-star restaurants. And you’ll find some of these dessert wines throughout this region and all over Europe at top restaurants. I was told Chefs also create delicious dishes with a Moscato di Scanzo wine reduction drizzled over foie gras, and wild sweet meats, like Elk.
Moscato di Scanzo Tour Itinerary: Welcome tasting & vineyard tour at Martinì Col di Paste; Tasting, reception & lunch at Cascina San Giovanni; Tour & tasting at Pagnoncelli Folcieri in a seventeenth-century villa.
Each winery has a uniqueness to its wines, but one common thread was that they are family-run wineries, sometimes and most often in their 3rd or 4th generation and still in the original homestead. The people here were friendly, passionate and maybe, a little more humble than the rest of Italy you’ve experienced and come to know.
Reception, tasting and lunch at Cascina San Giovanni
Upon arrival to Cascina San Giovanni, we had a chance to taste 8 different Moscato di Scanzo wines (of the nineteen that are part of this Consortia). Our host winery offered us the perfect morsels to pair them with, such as gorgonzola cheese; sweet puff pastries with foie gras, before enjoying them with a simple cheese risotto for lunch.
These wines were seductive and velvety smooth. Layers of complexity and a lingering finish.
Here are some pairing suggestions from the producers: chocolate cake, risotto, local Bergamo cheeses, savoury pastries, tagliatelle and a Scanzo reduction with cocoa.
A list of 8 Moscato di Scanzo producers I tasted:
A special Thank you to these wineries for their graciousness with our late arrival.
After this beautiful lunch and tasting, we were ready to discover more. Our tour continued towards the region of Valcalepio.
Valcalepio is “The Garden of Bergamo”
View from Medolago Albani Winery
Located just outside the city of Bergamo was Valcalepio, the tour was hosted by Consorzio Tutela Valcalepio. This region is located in the Cavallina Valley and full of vineyards, rolling hills, and lush green scapes.
We arrived at Medolago Albani Winery at Villa Redona located on the hills of Redona, Trescore Balneario. We had the opportunity to learn about the Valcalepio DOC, Terre del Colleoni and Bergamasca IGT and its native wine varieties that make up the region of Valcalepio. The Valcalepio DOC was the first DOC established in Bergamo in 1976.
Group photo by Maria Santovito, Fashion Designer leading the Fashion & Wine Kermesse project – bringing fashion and wine together
The top varietals grown here are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but you’ll also be able to enjoy Metodo Classico and delicious white wines made with Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. The wines showcased the terroir brilliantly, they had a real ‘sense of place’.
Valcalepio Tour Itinerary: Welcome tasting, reception and dinner at Medolago Albani Winery at Villa Redona, Trescore Balneario.
Regional food at the reception; Wine friends enjoying Metodo Classico; Meat stuffed pasta with fried sage and pancetta with lots of butter
Our hosts treated us to a reception, which in North American terms could easily be a stand-up dinner (as it was plenty of food)! Everything was created to pair with the wines and showcase the ingredients of the region. And in true Italian style, we kept eating, and enjoyed a sit-down dinner with the wines. We had the opportunity to taste 9 wineries of Valcalepio DOC Rosso & Valcalepio DOC Rosso Riserva and pair them with a beautiful regional dinner.
I feel fortunate to have be on this tour, it really did surprise me with its beauty, the amazing wines produced here and the charming countryside.
A truly beautiful surprise.
A list of the 9 wineries of Valcalepio DOC Rosso & Valcalepio DOC Rosso Riserva:
Il Cipresso (Organic)
A special Thank you to Consorzio Tutela Valcalepio and Medolago Albani Winery at Villa Redona for hosting our group to an educational evening filled with delicious food and wines.
For more information on these regions and where to go,
and www.valcalepio.org and watch their video HERE to help inspire you.
You can plan your itinerary at Visit Bergamo.
I hope my experience has intrigued you to search for these wines, and plan a visit here.
Until next time, keep exploring unique regions and wines,
Thank you Donita for this article and summary of this beautiful leg of your trip. Moscato di Scanzo is a rare wine I only read about but have yet the opportunity to try. They really sound amazing, as the entire inviting scenery and hospitality of this corner of northern Italia. I am familiar with the “light food reception” as conceived by Italians / Italians an wineries! Love your photos too.