On 4 February 2020 we drove off down the mountains in Valsesia early on a sunny day, only to be swallowed up by heavy fog as soon as we reached the plains. Our destination was the Frecciarossa winery, in the hills of Oltrepò Pavese. We had the fortune of being invited to the presentation of a new red wine named Anamari and, above all, to celebrate 100 years of winemaking there.
After driving in fog so thick that you could easily lose orientation, the skies gradually brightened and we saw the contour of hills. The closer we got and the steeper the road began to climb, the more the sun came through, until all of a sudden we were on top of the low clouds that filled the vast Po valley like cotton candy. A quick turn left and we had reached Frecciarossa.
Literally the name “Frecciarossa” means “red arrow”, but as owners Margherita and Carillo Radici explained, the name stems from the term “fraccia rossa”, meaning “red landslide”, and referring to the area’s clayey soil with red iron veins, in contrast to the majority of soil in these hills, which is grey. In fact, the name comes from an oversight made during the registration. The name “Fraccia Rossa” was mistakenly written as Frecciarossa (Red Arrow), thus lending the name to the winery and the hill!
It is a truly wonderful place. The “Villa Odero”, a beautiful manor house built in the second half of the 19th century, the park, the winery and the surrounding vineyards are in complete harmony. The owners and their daughter Valeria, who now runs the place, and all the staff are extremely welcoming and friendly. Above all, the wines are exquisite.
We returned for a longer visit in August and ended up staying overnight. It was just before the harvest, and almost ripe bunches of grapes were hanging heavily on the vines. We were even more impressed. Frecciarossa is among the most beautiful and well-kept wineries we have visited.
The history of Frecciarossa began with Mario Odero, a wealthy merchant from Genoa, who specialised in trading coal between Italy and Great Britain. He had spent many years of his life in Wales, and when he returned to Italy, he did not feel comfortable living in Genoa any longer. He missed the country side.
On his many travels between Italy and GB, he had the opportunity to visit some of Europe’s most prominent wine regions in France and Germany. So, he sold off everything, bought the manor house and the surrounding land, and decided that he would make high-end wines. He introduced his favourite grapes from France and Germany – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling, without neglecting the local varieties, Barbera, Croatina and Uva Rara when he founded the Frecciarossa winery in 1919.
In 1990 Margherita Radici Odero, guided by the same strong will and determination as her father Giorgio, took the reins of the winery and fostered the progressive modernisation of the winery. Additional wines were introduced and under Valeria’s influence, farming became organic.
Now Valeria is at the helm, working enthusiastically and tirelessly at improving the already wonderful wines, without compromising the quality, harmony and balance of this place on the path to excellence.
We were positively surprised to find all this in Oltrepò Pavese, just about 1.5 hours’ drive from Milan Malpensa airport, and less than an hour from the city itself. Indeed, this territory is little known outside Lombardy, and here its wines are considered rather common with a few exceptions, and only the sparkling wines had earned more recognition.