Over the last two decades, the Italian wine “renaissance” has taken the United States by storm. Since the mid-1990s when the first all-Italian fine wine lists launched in New York City, Italian wine has become one of the hottest categories in wine in North America thanks to its variety, value, and versatility at the dinner table.
But even with the overwhelming popularity on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, there are still countless Italian wine appellations that have yet to be discovered by Italian wine importers.
Yes, Piedmont and Tuscany remain the go-to regions for collectors and connoisseurs of big red wines like Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino. But more and more, smaller sized importers are looking to undiscovered areas for new finds.
And that’s just what Chamber member Giacomo Butera, an Austin-based wine and spirits veteran, is doing this year with the wines of Oltrepò Pavese, an appellation that produces some of the world’s greatest sparkling wines but a wine region that few know beyond Italy.
As the name reveals, Oltrepò Pavese, which means literally Pavia [province] beyond the Po [River], lies just to the south of the Po River in foothills that rise up from the sandy banks of this major waterway.
From the ancient “alluvial” pebbly subsoils of the river banks to the hills rich with chalk, clay, and marl, fine wine growers in this historic wine region enjoy ideal conditions for growing Pinot Noir (known as Pinot Nero in Italian) for the production of “classic method” sparkling wines.
Only wines made in Champagne, France can be labeled and sold as “Champagne method” wines. Beyond Champagne, they are called “classic method” wines. But the process is virtually identical (beyond the fact that the grapes are grown in different places).
Currently, Giacomo (tasting Oltrepò Pavese in Pavia in the photo above) is expecting his first container of these superb wines to arrive in just a few weeks. And with their arrival, Texas will become the leading state in the U.S. for the appellation (a few labels are imported to New York but the wines have yet to make their mark with mainstream consumers).
He had been invited to Pavia province after he met with the estate at the Chamber’s 2015 Taste of Houston Italy festival. A representative of the estate returned again to Houston for the 2016 event and they sealed the deal.
“I loved how real the people were,” he told us when we reached out to him to ask him about his new project. “And the wines are fantastic.”
We are looking forward to tasting the wines once they have arrived and we will report back with our tasting notes!
And in the meantime, the Chamber would like to recognize and congratulate Giacomo for his pioneering efforts in bringing these excellent, if unsung, wines to our state.