The Piacenza hills have been producing wine since the time of the Etruscans. However, the most detailed evidence of vines growing in the area dates back to Roman times: according to sources, Cicero publicly reprimanded his political opponent Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who came from Piacenza, accusing him of holding the wines from his land in too high esteem.
From then on, the Piacenza hills were transformed into a very significant wine-growing area, comprising four valleys - Val Tidone, Val D’Arda, Val Trebbia and Val Nure - covering 6,800 hectares of land, almost all of it hilly (from 150 to 450 metres above sea level). The wines produced in this area are protected and promoted by the Consorzio Tutela Vini D.O.C. Colli Piacentini consortium, founded in 1986, and are celebrated every September during the Valtidone Wine Fest.
The most famous of all PDO Colli Piacentini wines is Gutturnio, the king of Piacenza wine, which accounts for nearly 25% of production, followed by Malvasia, at 23%.
As one of the first Italian wines to earn the DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) label, PDO Gutturnio is a bright, ruby-red wine made from a mix of Barbera (from 55% to 70%) and Croatina grapes, known as Bonarda in the Piacenza area (from 30 to 45%).
In both the fizzy and still versions, the wine’s identity very much derives from the different characters of the grapes that make it. Whilst Barbera is easily affected by rainfall, low in tannins and has a high degree of acidity, the Croatina grape variety has a thick skin, is rich in tannins and polyphenols and takes longer to age, unlike the Barbera variety. When combined, they give life to a well-bodied wine with an intense colour and dry, vinous palate.
A counterbalance to Gutturnio is PDO Colli Piacentini Malvasia. The Malvasia di Candia grape variety is characterised by a truly rich and complex aromatic structure, giving off hints of citrus, fruit, flowers, herbaceous notes, honey, spices and minerals, depending on the wine-making methods used. This grape is used to make four different types of wine: secco (dry), amabile (mild), dolce (sweet) and passito (raisin wine).
PDO Ortrugo-Colli Piacentini is also worthy of mention; this wine is made from its namesake indigenous grape variety from the Piacenza area. A pleasant, refreshing white wine, with a slightly bitter after-taste in its fizzy and sparkling versions, Ortrugo imparts a delicate, distinctive aroma.