Like many other things, the wines of Umbria exist mainly in the shadows of their Tuscan counterparts. This is perhaps all the better for those of us in the know as there is quite often a deal to be had. There is plenty to discover here and plenty to appeal to the wine romantics amongst us. Viticultural history here goes back to the Etruscan civilisations. The industry also thrived in the Middle Ages and while walking the medieval streets of Perugia, Assisi, Torgiano or Orvieto, one needs little help in imagining 12th century popes and aristocrats washing down a hearty meal with the local wines.
Surrounded on threes sides by the Apennine Mountains, Umbria shares many of the geographical and climatic characteristics so celebrated in Tuscany. Cool breezes come off the mountains to the east while the warming currents of the Mediterranean create excellent conditions for the ripening of grapes. Despite all this Indigenous white varieties such as Grecchetto, Trebbiano, Verdello and red varieties such as Sangiovese and Sagrantino are being joined by increasing plantings of Cabernet and Merlot. Despite this, eight of the thirteen DOCs in the region were created after 1980. We are still in the early days of modern Umbrian wine making.
For white wines look no further than the charming medieval town of Orvieto, perched majestically on a tuff cliff. It’s Gothic duomo, a one time summer retreat for the Papacy, makes for an impressive focal point. In recent decades though the wine of the same name has won as many enemies as it has friends, accused at times of being fairly innocuous and bland. But things are changing. Trebbiano, Grecchetto di Orvieto and a liberal amount of many other varieties are blended (according to the intricacies of the vintage) to produce a light and refreshing wine. Aromas of apple, melon and lemon grass in particular characterise these wines. It is true that these wines will never find themselves in the high echelons of the world’s white wine elite, but they should not be overlooked so hastily.
Montefalco DOC is a red and white wine appellation in the heart of Umbria in central Italy. Once considered the baby brother to Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG, its red wine blends produced primarily from Sangiovese are now highly credible in their own right and worthy of investigation, especially riserva versions. White wines are also made from Grechetto and Trebbiano Spoletino.
Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG is a full bodied red wine produced entirely from the Sagrantino grape that originates from the town of Montefalco in Umbria. Sagrantino has achieved cult status amongst lovers of Italian wines over recent decades, for despite its challenging nature, when managed correctly in the vineyard and cellar it is capable of producing world class wines. For now it remains slightly off the beaten track, but there are some real gems to be found here.