Visiting Milano? Here are the Wines to Drink

Milan is well known as a fashion capital. But, as Italy’s most affluent, bustling city, there’s no doubt it’s also a hub for some spectacular food and wine. This may be no surprise as famous foods from Milan now grace menus worldwide. Risotto alla milanese, osso buco, cotoletta (a massive bone-in veal cutlet,) panettone - to name a few.

When you’re in Italy, a great meal almost always includes wine. Whether you’re a diehard wine lover or a beer lover looking to test new waters, visiting Milan is the perfect opportunity to try out some excellent wines, with a guide of course!

That is precisely why we put together this list of wines to drink when visiting Milano. We made sure to include an array of local secrets, like wines made just kilometers away to those that pair too perfectly with a risotto alla milanese. Fortunately, Milan’s most iconic dish is quite versatile to pair with wine - it goes with certain reds, whites, or even sparklings, making it quite the people-pleasing pick.

Milan Wine

The Local Wines of Lombardy

Oltrepò Pavese

South of Milano lies an under-the-radar wine region - the Oltrepò Pavese. While this area is definitely on the radar of Italian wine connoisseurs, it still quite hasn’t had its international moment. However, that isn’t reflective of the wine region's wine quality. The Oltrepò (which literally means “the other side of the Po river”) highlights Lombardy's lesser-known winemaking traditions. And, visiting Milan is your opportunity to indulge in them.

Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG

The world may now know Franciacorta - another famed sparkling from Lombardy - that is undoubtedly one to sip in Milan. Yet, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico is the underdog, who can be as sippable as any sparkling wine, at a very affordable price. This wine is made with the traditional sparkling wine method that hails from Champagne (which is also the prevailing method in Franciacorta). The difference is - Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico wines are made mostly with Pinot Nero (or Pinot Noir in French!) at least 70%. 

The result is bubbles with complex flavors. Typically, these sparkling wines can give notes of citrus, cherry, and even floral aromas. Depending on the vintage, they can have quite the body. Plus, while this wine region is larger than Franciacorta, Oltrepò Pavese is still produced by mostly small traditional wineries, making each wine brand often very unique.

P.S. This wine makes quite the pairing with risotto alla milanese. Its acidity cuts through the creaminess, and its floral character is a natural match for saffron.

Wine to Try:Bertè & Cordini Cuvèe Nero d’Oro

Bonarda dell’Oltrepo Pavese

While sparkling wines may be delicious from the Oltrepò, the real traditional wine of the area is Bonarda. This red wine is a lesser-known Italian red, and often a confusing one too. First, the wine is made mostly from Croatina grapes, not Bonarda - which happens to be another grape grown not too far away.

Bonarda makes this list of wines to drink in Milan for two reasons - tradition and an unbeatable pairing. Bonarda dell’Oltrepò Pavese is a wine you rarely find stateside and is a beautiful demonstration of Lombardy’s mascot grape varieties. The wine is dry yet juicy, with red fruit flavors like raspberry and red cherry. When young, its fruity freshness compliments risotto alla milanese, contrasting its richness. Note: Some of these wines are bottle still and dry, and some are bottled with a little bit of fizz and residual sugar. You’ll love both styles. 

Wines to Try:Castello di Luzzano Carlino Bonarda Oltrepo Pavese 

Lambrusco Mantovano

Yes, Lambrusco may be predominantly from Emilia Romagna. But, it is also made in Lombardy - specifically Mantova, which is technically a small city just southeast of Milano. Of course, the vineyards aren’t in the city, but rather just west of the city above the Po River. If we are getting into the specifics, there are two specific zones of Lambrusco Mantovano: Oltrepò-Mantovano and the Viadanese-Sabbionetano. Both offer rosato and rosso versions of the wine and are typically made with a melange of Lambrusco grapes.

Either way, Lambrusco Mantovano is a very easy-drinking wine that may seem quite relaxed for a plate of risotto alla milanese. It is dry on the palate with low alcohol which rarely goes about 11%. On the nose, it bursts with aromas of raspberries and currents. Rest assured - these juicy red bubbles are lively enough and can be enjoyed very much on their own once your plate (or 2) of risotto is gone!

Riviera del Garda Rosso

This much lesser-known appellation is something to try while dining out in Milano. Seriously, you probably won’t find bottles of this stuff outside Italy (or Lombardy, for that matter).

Like Oltrepo Pavese, this rarity isn’t due to any inadequacy. It’s simply because this wine is local and unique. This wine is produced near the gorgeous Lago di Garda, where local grape varieties Groppello and Marzemino grow, along with other beloved Italian grapes (like Sangiovese and Barbera). Riviera del Garda are typically blends of all these grapes, resulting in juicy and bright red wines full of berry flavors. Sometimes, you can find single varietal blends of Groppello or Marzemino, allowing you to explore these super unique native varieties. Either way, this wine is often just perfect with risotto alla milanese. 

Wine to Try:Le Sincette Riviera Del Garda Classico Groppello

Valtellina Superiore

Milan Wine

Nebbiolo takes on a unique identity in Lombardy, growing at high altitudes in the foothills of the Alps. The appellation of Valtellina Superiore is your keyword to discovering these wines, which are very different but no less elegant than their Piemontese counterparts.

First, we must address that Nebbiolo in this part of Italy is actually known by its local name - Chiavannesca. It is a clone of the Nebbiolo in Piedmont, one that is accustomed to the steeply terraced vineyards found in Valtellina. This wine-producing zone isn’t huge (especially since there aren’t many vineyards up in this Northern area,) there for its pretty much dominated by small-scale producers and quality winemaking.

Valtellina Superiore wines are definitely ones to try. They are graceful and structured, with a nose that’s a dance of fruit and earth - think cherries, roses, and tobacco. Do keep in mind this is Nebbiolo we are talking about, so the tannins are very present. Valtellina Superiore wines have a body but their richness and intensity can vary by producer.

Wine to Try:2015 Rainoldi 'Grumello' Valtellina Superiore 

Now, for the Other Italian Wines to Try and Pair Exceptionally Well with Risotto alla Milanese

Roero Arneis

What makes risotto alla milanese such an excellent dish is how it goes well with both white and red wines. And, there’s one white wine that stands out - Roero Arneis.

While the region of Piedmont is world-renowned for its red wines (hello Barolo!), it is also home to a spectacular grape that makes refreshing and floral white wines. Arneis shines in its home region of the Roero, which rests just north of the Barbaresco and south of Asti. Here, both red and white wines are made. But, it’s the white wines that stand out.

Roero Arneis is a very friendly white wine. It has a round, medium body with an approachable level of acidity. Many adore Arneis for its ripe fruit flavors, ranging from pear and apple to even peach or more tropical aromas. It often has a white floral aroma and a slightly nutty finish making it even easier to sip. Its balance of freshness and nuttiness make it an ideal pair for risotto alla milanese.

Wine to Try:Deltetto Roero Arneis

Barbera d’Asti

Last but not least - we have Barbera. Barbera is one of those wines that always swoops in to save the day. It's loved by locals in Piemontese trattorias, and you can surely find it being sipped by the best Barolo producers for lunch.

Now, there are quite a fewBarberasout there (especially with the grape itself gaining traction internationally). But, when it comes to eating Milanese food - particularly that creamy, perfect risotto - you have to go with Barbera d’Asti DOCG.

Compared to otherBarberas, this guy brings a more delicate profile to the table. Of course, it will fool you with Barbera’s mainstay dark and mysterious color. Regardless,Barbera d’Asti is quite elegant and vibrant. It has a refreshing acidity that makes it juicy and easy to sip with bold and rich dishes. And, its delicious red fruit flavors, which can range from strawberry to plum to blueberry - often with a hint of herbs or spice - keep you filling up your glass for more.

It’s important to mention that there areBarbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Asti Superiore. The Superiore version requires more aging time - 6 months to be precise - and often is made with grapes from a winery’s best vineyards. 

Wines to Try:Giacomo Bologna Braida 'Montebruna' Barbera d'Asti

You can’t visit Milan or any city in Italy without sipping on great wine. We hope that this list of wines to drink in Milan stays in your back pocket, as you explore one gorgeous city with top-notch dining experiences. And, don’t forget - the expert team at Big Hammer wines is always here to answer your wine questions or to recreate a memorable wine experience once you are back after your Italian vacation!

Milan Wine

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