As somebody who has long loved wine tasting a trip to Umbria was a real treat but I must admit that I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
So, we all know about the super Tuscans but how often have you read about the so-called ‘super Umbrians’?
A decent selection of wines are produced across Umbria which has a perfect climate for vines – hot summers, sun-drenched valley slopes and rich limestone-clay soils.
Umbria has many small to medium sized wine producers so it’s easy to find something unusual that you may not be able to source easily in the UK.
There are several DOC and DOCG wines but it’s also worth looking out for other top-end wines as some vineyards break the rules to experiment with other grape combinations.
It is possible to visit many of the wine producers but it’s best to check ahead of time in case you need to book an appointment. Others are more relaxed and offer tastings if you drop in at the cellar door.
My biggest mistake was not checking the producers out in full on the internet before the trip. I had a list of producers but once on the road, it’s harder to get instant internet access as Umbria isn’t the best place for wi-fi and mobile signals.
It’s worth doing a little homework so you know when to visit, if you need an appointment, and what sort of wines are produced.
The road of wines
Look out for the Colli del Trasimeno wine route which has five itineraries for drivers with wine cellars and producers on each route.
One of the star wines of the region is Sagrantino, a dry red wine with chewy but well-balanced tannins. It is full-bodied and intense with licorice and wild herb notes. This wine works well with roasted meat if you’re looking for a wine to match food.
Montefalco is one of the most interesting DOCG wine areas, well-known for its Sagrantino wine. This medieval town boasts numerous wine shops and vinotecas stocking an excellent selection of locally produced wines.
Montefalco is one of the few places in Italy where grapes were grown inside the city walls, a tradition which continues in a small way even today.
The surrounding region has numerous producers but here is an interesting cross-section of some of the best vineyards.
Cantina Novelli – The vineyard produces the Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG and Montefalco Rosso DOC red wines as well as white wine from the Trebbiano Spoletino grape.
Trebbiano Spoletino once covered much of the large territory of the Duchy of Spoleto. Though disregarded for many years, the grape has undergone a resurgence thanks to wine entrepreneur Stefano Novelli at Cantina Novelli.
Novelli also has its ‘Cube’ range which it describes as “a symphony of three native Umbrian wines”. Rossocube and Biancocube are fruity, modern wines, designed to match light fusion cuisine.
The vineyard has recently produced the first Sagrantino Rose de Noir and Trebbiano Spoletino Blanc de Blanc sparkling wines, using the traditional method. Although I haven’t tried these yet, they sound interesting and worth checking out on my next visit.
Azienda Agricola Tabarrini (Montefalco) – Sagrantino is the main red grape produced at this vineyard. They also make a slightly unusual Passito version of Sagrantino where the grapes are left to dry on racks for three months after harvest, after which they are pressed to produce a sweet wine.
The vineyard produces white wines from the aforemetioned Trebbiano Spoletino grape.
Terre de’Trinci (Foligno) – The first producer to make and bottle the ‘dry’ version of Sagrantino in the 1960s. Also produces red wines from Sangiovese grapes and white wines from the Grechetto grape.
Fattoria Le Mura Saracene – Grapes include Sagrantino, Sangiovese, and other red varieties. The vineyard offers guided visits with a light lunch.
Ruggeri Winery (Montefalco) – Produces dry white wines made from Grechetto varieties, aged in steel drums at controlled temperatures resulting in a very aromatic wine with complex aromas. Also produces red wines made from Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Merlot, mostly aged in barrels.
As you’d expect these dry red wines are characterised by fruity flavours including wild berries, cherries, and plums.
Fongoli (Montefalco) – The 100% Sagrantino DOCG is harvested by hand in late October – this traditional-style red is aged 30 months in large Slovenian-oak barrels followed by six months in the barrel.
It has characteried by a deep garnet colour and intense (but elegant bouquet) featuring ripe red fruits and exotic spice.
Another town worth visiting is Torgiano where there is an excellent wine museum and tasting room run by the internationally-renowned Lungarotti family.
The museum is brilliantly presented with well-curated sections on the history of wine, art and wine (including a Picasso print of wine drinkers), and drinking vessels down the ages.
I loved the Renaissance trick wine glass which looks like it’s full but actually contains a hidden receptable for drinking the wine.
The Lungarotti shop next door has free tastings and the staff are very knowledgeable and helpful (they speak Englaish and killed us with kindness).
They will also ship a crate to the UK for a reasonable fee – naturally we couldn’t resist!
Lungarotti produce high quality wines including Guibilante (a great top quality red made from Syrah, Sangiovese and Merlot), Sagrantino, the Rubesco ( a structured red mixing Sangiovese and Canaiolo) and Toralco (another interesting red).
They also have some decent whites, notably a Torre Di Giano (gorgeous nose and flavour), plus a standard Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is a white and red wine producing area with a wide variety of grapes including Sangiovese, Grechetto, Trebbiano, Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and even Gamay.
The Colli del Trasimeno DOC white wines are pretty decent and make for perfect lunch time or early evening drinking in a hot climate.
I was surprised at the fruity (peaches, melons) and floral notes on the nose which is pretty impressive. This wine goes well with chicken, pasta or salad.
Orvieto is an internationally renowned wine area, famous for its refreshing, white wines dating back to Etruscan times. Today’s wines are made largely from the Trebbiano and Grechetto grapes.
This isn’t my favourite wine as I’ve always found it a bit bland but the best ones are given Orvieto Classico Superiore DOC status so look out for the top-notch bottles.
The Assisi and Perugia areas produce red, white and rose wines including whites made from the Grechetto grape. Further south there are wine producers around Terni and Narni but sadly I didn’t get that far on this current trip.
Tammy tips – Umbrian wine tasting
Look out for enotecas in towns such as Montefalco. Most shops and supermarkets have a good selection of Umbrian wines at very reasonable prices so why not try out something different.
Many wine producers also have olive oil production on site. Lungarotti also has an interesting olive oil museum in Torgiano, near its wine museum and shop.
There is no better way of enjoying Umbrian wine than at the vineyard’s tasting room.
Cheers and happy drinking!