Mattia Vezzola was hailed by Vini d’Italia, Italy’s leading wine guide, as Winemaker of the Year in 2007. His accomplishments are many, but at the core, he’s simply a man who tends the vine of his native region, Lombardia.
Born in 1951 in Brescia, Lombardia’s second largest city, he initially aspired to be a veterinarian. Given his family ran the Costaripa estate, he eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and learned the craft of winemaking. in 1981 he teamed with Vittorio Moretti of newly-formed Bellavista, which, with Mattia’s help as winemaker, has since become the benchmark for sparkling wine production in the Franciacorta zone of Lombardia.
I recently had the honor of hosting Mattia and tasting through some of the wines he produces at his family estate, Costaripa, south of Lago di Garda in Lombardia.
DA: Chardonnay is one of the leading grapes for sparkling wine production in the world. Why is this so?
MV: It is a very versatile grape with incredible acidity. It is good to have cool weather when growing Chardonnay, or else the grapes grow rich and the wines will be be fat.
DA: Why is Lombardia a good place to grow Chardonnay?
MV: The elevation is right for this kind of grape. We have many cool winds that blow southward from the Italian Alps. These cooling factors help Chardonnay grow properly.
DA: Lago di Garda is the largest lake in Italy. Many winemakers in Lombardia credit the lake as a positive influence for ideal grape-growing conditions. What’s the reasoning behind this?
MV: The lake is important because it provides cooler winds for many of the vineyards that are located along the shores of the lake. Since the temperature of the water is cooler than the air, the air temperature decreases as it travels over the water. When it blows through the vineyards in the summer, it provides a cooling effect for the grapes and helps the grapes grow properly.
DA: So lake effect, (as this phenomenom is called), is pretty important?
MV: Yes, without the lake, many of the vines would not survive.
DA: What else would you like consumers to know about Lombardia wines?
MV: Lombardia is a place with a unique climate for wine production. Since many of the vineyards are terraced, many of the grapes are picked by hand. It’s difficult to make wine here, and it requires a…viticulturista eroica. (heroic viticulturist)
Mattia Vezzola is responsible for some of the greatest sparkling wines in Lombardia. Thanks to him and his winemaking team, Italian sparkling wines have gained recognition and are finally being compared to sparklers from Champagne. His wines from Costaripa are also worth checking out, especially the Trebbiano di Lugana, a full, straw-colored, almost off-dry white wine produced just south of Lago di Garda with racy notes of almond and apple.