Although it’s not an Italian native, Pinot Noir thrives in certain cool-climate spots across the country. Walter Speller charts its progress and recommends some of the best examples...

Italy’s top Pinot Noirs

Key facts: Italian Pinot Noir

Total hectares planted  5,044ha in 2010 (3,314ha in 2000)
Largest total surface  2,956ha in Lombardy’s Pavia for the production of base wine for the sparkling wine industry in Italy’s north; Franciacorta’s total is 387ha. South Tyrol and Trentino boast 553ha of Pinot Noir, and increasing
Aspect  The key to success with Pinot Noir is high altitude, followed by north and west vineyard expositions
Styles  Savoury and mineral in alpine areas like South Tyrol and Valle d’Aosta; dense yet elegant and ageworthy in Tuscany’s Apennine Mountains 

‘My wish has always been to make a La Tâche 1953: elegance combined with power, and varietally pure.’ I am with Franz Haas, veteran wine producer in alpine South Tyrol, who has just poured me a glass of Pònkler, his beautiful single-vineyard Pinot Noir planted at an incredible density of 10,000 vines per hectare at 750m, high up in the Alps. When I protest, saying it doesn’t make sense to pursue this in a radically different terroir, he corrects me: ‘Of course my guiding light is Burgundy. I need that guiding light to find out what I can achieve in South Tyrol.’ But rather than Burgundy, cool climate seems to be the key principle that lies behind Pònkler.


Walter Speller is an Italian wine specialist.


10 great Italian Pinot Noirs