Right in the center of northern Italy, not far from the chic boutiques and elegant restaurants of Milan
, you’ll find the small wine-producing area of Franciacorta
, where some of the best Italian sparkling wines are made. “It’s Italy’s best-kept secret!” says Kat Hawkins, the beverage manager and sommelier at Shaw’s Crab House
. “People always talk about Champagne, but the wines in Franciacorta are made in the same style, the classic method, using chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot blanc grapes—standing in for pinot meunier, more commonly used in the Champagne region. You’re getting really high-quality wines at a fraction of the price.” North of Milan, the alpine valley of Valtellina
is also emerging as a nebbiolo wine hub, with dry, fruit-forward reds that are rivaling those of neighboring Piedmont, famous for nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco. Visit Lombardy in the spring, when temperatures are pleasant and everything is waking up, or in the fall to catch harvest season at its peak.