Tucked into the middle of the Italian peninsula is the verdant, hilly land of Umbria. This small province is overshadowed by its neighbor, Tuscany, for many things, but Umbria has history, culture, and wine all its own. In this show, we explore the long history of Umbrian wine, what makes the province unique in its grapes and wine styles, and why Umbrian wine is too often unfairly forgotten in the pantheon of great wines of Italy. We review the three major wine regions of Umbria – Orvieto, Torgiano, and Montefalco – and give many reasons to give these wines a try.
Photo: Umbrian countryside. Getty Images
Here are the show notes:
- As of January 2023, Umbria has just 2 DOCGs, 13 DOCs, and 6 IGPs, 48% is DOP wine, 42% IGP, 10% table wine. 12,400 ha (30,600 acres) is 7.2 million cases of wine
- The main grapes of the region are: Sangiovese, Trebbiano Toscano, Grechetto, Sagrantino
- Umbria has had winemaking for more than 3000 years
- Climate: Landlocked Umbria has no sea breeze, although its lakes do help moderate the temperatures. The climate varies, but is mostly Mediterranean with cold, rainy winters and dry summers with abundant sunshine to ripen grapes
Photo: Chiesa in Assisi. Getty Images
- Umbria is 29% Mtns, 71% hills, no plains. Most vineyards are on terraces cut into hillsides. The vineyards have good diurnals, which maintains acidity.
- Umbria is the only Italian region with no coastline nor a common border with another country.
- It is partly hilly and mountainous from the Apennines, and partly flat and fertile from the Tiber River Valley and the Umbrian valley around Perugia
- 53% red/rose, 47% white
- Sangiovese 20% of plantings, Trebbiano Toscano –12%, Grechetto 11%, Sagrantino 7%
- Grechetto is two distinct grape varieties, Grechetto di Orvieto and Grechetto di Todi
- Grechetto di Orvieto: is light bodied, high in acidity with apple, pear, citrus, white flower notes
- Grechetto di Todi is Pignoletto (called that in Emilia Romagna). It is very floral with a soft mouthfeel
- Trebbiano Spoletino: Only found in Umbria around Spoleto and Montefalco. This wine is like limes, it can range from light to heavy and high in alcohol and can be barrel aged, or made into orange wine – no set identity
- Reds: Sangiovese and Sagrantino with Colorino, Mammolo, Vernaccia Nera
- International grapes: Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc for, Umbria Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)
Photo: Sagrantino. Getty Images
- Producing wine since the Middle Ages when it was a famed sweet wine, today this wine is more of a dry white. Despite a long history, Orvieto was the victim of overproduction in the 1960s and its reputation suffered
- There are many styles and it is Umbria’s biggest appellation – 10%+ of all Umbrian wine production
- Known for whites made of mostly Trebbiano and Grechetto, DOC Orvieto and Orvieto Classico. Other grapes include: Malvasia Bianco, Drupeggio, Verdello, Canaiolo bianco
- Styles: very simple and boring from Trebbiano or wines that use more Grechetto
- Red wine and 8 varietal wines sold under Rosso Orvietano DOC—French grapes plust Aleatico, Barbera, Canaiolo, Colorino, Dolcetto, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Cesanese, Ciliegiolo
- Wine made in hills around Torgiano, southeast of Perugia where a tributary joins Tiber River
- Torgiano DOC is 81 ha/200 acres, 40K cases
- Whites: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano, Riesling Italico (Welschriesling) (Labeled by grape, 85%+ of grape in bottle), Torgiano Bianco – 50-70% Trebbiano Toscano with Grechetto
- Reds: Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Sangiovese (known for elegance, high-quality Sangiovese). Rosso di Torgiano DOC is made with 50–100% Sangiovese
- Rosato of Sangiovese min 50% and other approved native grapes
- Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG, can age for decades It must be made with 70–100% Sangiovese with other native grapes. It must age at least three years before release
- The Lungarotti family is famed in Torgiano growing area
Montefalco and Sagrantino
Montefalco Sagrantino – DOCG 1992
- Montefalco is ancient hilltop town and its specialty is Sagrantino – a dry, powerful, complex red grape with herbal notes that is made into the Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG wine, a famed wine that is aged a minimum of 37 months, 12 in barrel, 4 in bottle minimum
- With vines on the slopes of the hills, around the ancient town of Montefalco, and in surrounding villages, this area has a continental, that is warm and dry.
- Montefalco Sagrantino used to be a sweet wine but evolved into the dry version, which is one of the great reds of Italy
- Notable winerw are: Scaccia Diavoli, Fratelli Pardi and Arnaldo Caprai
- Montefalco Sagrantino is on only 990 acres/400 ha, producing just 108,000 case (5 year average)
- Established as a DOC in 1979, and lying on just 524 ha/1294 acres, this DOC Makes:
- Bianco: Grechetto, Trebbiano (Minimum of Trebbiano Spoletino with other native non aromatic whites). There is a varietal Grechetto as well
- Rosso: 60-80% Sangiovese, 10–25% Sagrantino with a maximum 30% with other native reds
Photo: The wine we drank during the show.
Other DOCs: Assisi, Amelia, Colli Altotiberini, Colli Perugini, Lago di Corbara, Spoleto, Todi, Collie Martani, Colli del Trasimeno
All are the same combo of grapes
- Whites: Grechetto and Trebbiano for whites with supporting native and non-native grapes
- Reds: Sangiovese with native and French grapes
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THE GRAPES AND WINES OF ITALY: The definitive compendium region by region, Ian d’Agata, Michelle Longo
Native Grapes of Italy, Ian d’Agata