If you are in Milan, then take a break from sightseeing and explore the hills of Oltrepò Pavese with a special wine tasting tour.

A wine tasting tour in Oltrepò Pavese

Disclosure: this wine tasting tour was gifted by Vacanze Pavesi, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A couple of weeks ago, during the Milano Wine Week festival, the guys of Vacanze Pavesi kindly invited me to join one of their special wine tasting tours in Oltrepò Pavese. Now, I can see your questioning face while you try to locate Oltrepò on the map and trust me, it’s totally fine not to have a clue since this little corner of Lombardy is still quite under the radar.

Oltrepò Pavese is a beautiful stretch of countryside located less than an hour from Milan, where hills are covered in vineyards and winding roads lead to enchanting villages frozen in time. What’s more, Oltrepò Pavese is one of Italy’s top wine districts, covering roughly 75% of the entire national production of the Pinot Nero grape variety.

The tour with Vacanze Pavesi starts at Palazzo Bovara, the headquarters of the Milano Wine Week, where myself and the other participants meet the team that will accompany us in this adventure. Soon we are aboard their van and ready to hit the road towards the hills of the Scuropasso valley, a stunning corner of Oltrepò Pavese where Pinot Nero grapes are grown. I take a window seat and enjoy watching the landscape slowly change, from the hectic streets of Milan to the verdant hills of Oltrepò, punctuated by castles, tractors, and rows of vineyards. During the trip, Luca, our guide for the day, entertains the group with interesting stories of the area we are about to explore and it totally feels like traveling with a group of friends.

Just one small point: I love wine but I don’t really master its vocabulary, so you won’t find any technicalities here, sorry!

First stop: Conte Vistarino

Our first stop on this wine tasting tour in Oltrepò Pavese is the magnificent estate of Conte Vistarino, the family responsible for introducing the Pinot Nero grapes in Oltrepò in the XIX century. The property is huge, spreading over more than 800 hectares of land in the hamlet of Rocca de’ Giorgi, 180 of which are covered in vineyards. 

The Conte Vistarino winery in Oltrepò PaveseWe visit Villa Fornace, the splendid XVIII-century family home that welcomed illustrious visitors over the centuries, including members of the Savoy dynasty and the British Royal family. Countess Anna herself greets us at the door and gives us a brief rundown of the history of her family, before leaving us to explore the place with our guide. The rooms we visit are filled with precious treasures, old books, and family portraits, and retain that homey atmosphere that makes you almost tiptoe not to disturb the counts.

The Conte Vistarino winery in Oltrepò PaveseThe villa is surrounded by a beautiful English garden designed by Achille Majnoni, who was the personal architect of Umberto I, duke of Savoy and king of Italy, and worked also on the stunning Villa Reale in Monza. Just across the road are the cellars, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, and a small museum retracing the history of the wine estate, with old registers and accounting tools.

The Conte Vistarino winery in Oltrepò PaveseOur visit ends in the elegant tasting room where we sample three delicious reds.

Wine tasting at Conte Vistarino winery in Oltrepò PaveseLunch with a winemaker at Villa Naj in Stradella

When the clock strikes lunchtime, we head to Stradella, an ancient village overlooked by the X-century Montalino fortress and boasting a long tradition in the production of accordions (just like Castelfidardo in the region of Le Marche). Here, hidden behind a rather plain facade, lies Villa Naj gourmet restaurant, the kind of hidden gem that only locals seem to know about and treasure for themselves. As soon as we enter the door, we are greeted by Paolo of Bruno Verdi Wines, a local winemaker who joins us for lunch to talk about the wines and traditions of this beautiful land.

Nothing keeps the conversation flowing like good food and great company, so much so that we almost lose track of time while feasting on culinary delights (creamy risotto with pumpkin and mushroom, the most delicious bread still warm from the oven and a dessert evocatively called “Autumn” just to name a few), paired with the excellent whites produced by Paolo.

Villa Naj restaurant in StradellaHis family has been cultivating grapes since the XVIII century but it was his father Bruno the first to bottle and label wine after World War II, and today Paolo continues the family business combining passion, skills and great respect for the land. Let me just say that I love sparkling wines and his bubbles are really good! I know, this is surely the worst description you’ll ever read of his wines but hey, it goes straight to the point right?

Our final stop: Cantina Scuropasso by Fabio Marazzi

With full bellies and a little tipsy (at least myself – and in case you’re wondering, no, the driver didn’t touch a drop of wine all day, the poor guy) we reach our final stop, Cantina Scuropasso run by the Marazzi family.

Fabio and his wife Manuela welcome us in their home and once again it feels like visiting a friend. We sit in the family kitchen where we sample more wine (and food) while listening to the interesting story of this winery, which dates back to 1962 when brothers Federico and Primo Marazzi started to produce sparkling bases of Pinot Nero for big wine brands in Franciacorta and Piedmont. Then Federico’s son Fabio joined them in the 1980s and decided to give it a try and produce Metodo Classico (aka bubbles), with the first bottles making their debut on Italy’s wine scene in 1991.

Roccapietra wine from Cantina Scuropasso in Oltrepò PaveseFabio and Manuela are really passionate about their job and their love for wines and vineyards is infectious (yes, we lose track of time again). We descend into the cellars, where hundreds of bottles of Metodo Classico are meticulously piled in the old tanks that were once used to store the sparkling bases sold to other brands. Guys, it’s truly fascinating, look:

The cellar of Cantina Scuropasso in Oltrepò PaveseIt’s late when we return to Milan, we’ve probably overrun by two hours or so, we are tired and I’m personally completely tipsy, but what a day! This is definitely not a standard wine tasting tour, you really get to know the people behind those bottles of wine and learn so much from them. And then there’s Oltrepò Pavese, whose stunning landscape and hidden gems never fails to surprise me every time I go there.

The guys of Vacanze Pavesi are doing a fantastic job in promoting this territory, combining passion, knowledge and some great storytelling. If you are interested in a wine tasting tour off the beaten track, then do check out the Vacanze Pavesi website to find out more about their initiatives in this special wine district.

Ciao for now

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14 Comments

Jane Dempster-Smith 20 October 2019 at 03:35

Such a timely read as I am heading to Milan in March on my way to Sicily. Wine tasting is one of my favourite things to do. As you mentioned not many people would have heard of this region, I haven’t. I will now include it in my itinerary.

    Val 21 October 2019 at 08:48

    That’s fantastic Jane, do let me know if you need any help with the planning!

Bianca 20 October 2019 at 21:10

It definitely looks like an invitation no one would turn down. Its cold in London at the moment and all these pictures of your tour are making more long for sunnier destinations where I can sip wine as the sun sets. Looks like I need to look up wine tasting at Oltrepo Pavese.

    Val 21 October 2019 at 08:48

    Do it Bianca, it would make for a fantastic Italian escape on a weekend out of London 😉

Fae Celine 21 October 2019 at 08:23

I have not heard about this region but I’m so glad you shared this. I’m planning a trip to Italy next year and I’ll definitely check this place out.

    Val 21 October 2019 at 08:45

    That’s great, do reach out if you have any questions 🙂

Paul Healy 21 October 2019 at 09:37

Sounds like a fantastic thing to do. I don’t know this part of Italy very well so thanks for introducing it. I’ll definitely keep this in mind next time we’re back in Italy. That risotto looked delicious as well.

    Val 21 October 2019 at 10:54

    Thank you Paul!!

Stephanie Granados 21 October 2019 at 15:44

What a fun experience you had. Got to love a good wine tasting tour. This looks like a must whenever visiting this area of Italy. I will keep it in mind the next time I visit.

    Val 22 October 2019 at 13:17

    Thank you Stephanie!

Ami Bhat 22 October 2019 at 13:51

The heritage home seems quite warm and inviting. The whole structure of the winery with its wooden vats and other aspects almost made me smell the wine. I sure would not mind a sip of what you are having. It looks yummy 😉

Shreya Saha 24 October 2019 at 08:08

I haven’t been to a wine tasting tour for a very long time. I would love to experience something similar to yours. I loved the part where you got the chance to have lunch at the gourmet restaurant with the winemaker. However, the best was to visit the 18th century home!

Epepa Travel Blog 25 October 2019 at 20:27

I love wine and I like to taste it very much. I think Italian wines are one of the best in Europe. I like their taste, freshness and how balanced they are. I would love to go on such a wine tasting tour. This is just right for me.

Yukti Agrawal 29 October 2019 at 06:27

Wine tasting tours are always amazing not due to wines but for the amazing countryside landscapes. It is good that you visited Oltrepò Pavese which is really a very beautiful region of countryside located less than an hour from Milan, where hills are covered in vineyards and winding roads. This area really looks like frozen in time and I love these kind of countrysides and therefore I would surely go for this trip.

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Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I'm Valentina, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share my expert knowledge of itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local.

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