WINES IN UMBRIA - A SMART GUIDE
THE MILLENNIAL HISTORY
Umbria has a very long tradition in wine production, old as its civilization. The vine has been here for centuries, imported from the Middle East and Greece by the first inhabitants of the Peninsula.
The Etruscans, who settled on the rock of Orvieto in the six century B.C., were the first ones who started cultivating the vine and making wine with a modern and commercial aim. Equally, the Romans followed their Etruscan predecessors in cultivating the grape all over the region, as well as in the Middle Ages, a period in which wine producing was taken very seriously with harsh penalties for those who damaged vineyards.
During the centuries dominated by the Popes, who conquered Umbria in 1500, the wine from Orvieto became one of the favourite at the Papal Court and highly valued both in Rome and Florence.
The general tendency in Umbria for the past three decades is making high quality wines. Umbria achieves about the 3% of the entire production of Italy, almost equally divided in red and white wines.
Today the region is divided in thirteen different wine areas, who gained the DOC certification and, two territories, the prestigious DOCG. Each wine area has its own peculiarities in terms of indigenous grapes and/or vinification methods.
DOCG Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita - wine areas:
- Montefalco for its Montefalco Sagrantino dry and Passito (sweet) made only by native Sagrantino grape
- Torgiano for its Torgiano Rosso Riserva made by Sangiovese grape
DOC Denominazione di Origine Controllata - top wine areas:
- Todi for its Grechetto di Todi (Grechetto grape, a unique clone of this variety), indigenous grape cultivated here since the Roman times.
- Orvieto for its Orvieto Classico, blend of indigenous varieties (Procanico and Grechetto) local and international ones in the "Riserva", in all its versions from the famous dry to the golden Vendemmia Tardiva, late harvest and the rare Muffa Nobile (pourriture noble or noble rot) great dessert wines.
- Montefalco for its Montefalco Rosso, blend of Sagrantino, Sangiovese and other local and international varieties cultivated only in Montefalco wine area.
Other minor, but very interesting DOC wine areas:
- Lago di Corbara, surrounding the stunning territory of Lake Corbara between Todi and Orvieto, including the vineyards under the municipality of Baschi and all the villages around the lake under Orvieto. Wines are mainly produced by international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, but also by Vermentino, Grechetto and Sangiovese.
- Colli Martani, a wine area that follows the natural border of Martani Mountains, starting from the village of Massa Martana, via Todi, up to Deruta to reach Cannara and Bevagna. Under this certification we find wines made by Grechetto and Sangiovese but also by international varieties.
Other DOC wine areas: Amelia, Assisi, Colli Altotiberini, Colli Perugini, Colli del Trasimeno, Spoleto.
Umbrian wines are strictly connected with the terroir, i.e. territory where they are made. Here, all the wine-makers have been focusing for the last decades on this important trend, extremely significant in such a small region, but at the same time so rich in local history, micro-climates and in different soils: from clay, sand and limestone of central Umbria to the volcanic rock of the western areas.
An old proverb says: “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”. For wine and food we should apply the same concept: wine is always with food, especially in Italy. Even a very light or sparkling white wine sipped poolside should always be paired with something to eat. From a simple snack like fried vegetables or thin slices of cheese to important meat stews, each wine has its own food pairing to better enjoy the two and the combination between the two.
Thanks to the local grapes and the warm Summer temperatures, Umbrian wines, from the white to the red ones, tend to be quite full bodied, with an alcoholic content around 12.5/13/14, wines that are always perfect in matching with some local specialities like pecorino cheeses, pork cured meat, wild boar and game, but also with seasonal vegetables like wild asparagus, zucchini blossoms, fava beans etc. etc.
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