Just as the lesser-known winemaking regions of Argentina captured my heart, I find myself falling in love with a smaller wine producing region in Italy: Umbria. We all know Chianti and Tuscany, and many of us are familiar with Super-Tuscans, Prosecco, even the sweet Moscato di Asti. But Orvieto? Sagrantino? I’m surrounded by names I haven’t heard of and reveling in learning about this region. So far I am blown away by the depth and elegance of these wines and I am so excited to share. I will supply tasting notes for each of the individual wines I have sampled, but for now, I offer a rough overview of the region, in case anyone would like to visit the local boutique wine store, purchase a few bottles, and discover this region along with me.
A Brief Overview of Umbrian Wines
White Wine: Orvieto
When you think of the white wine of Umbria, think Orvieto. A wine named after the town which produces it, this is a light, crisp, refreshing white wine with notes of apricot. It is a delicious wine for a summer day and pairs well with cheeses, light pastas, asparagus, and perhaps even the one thing everyone claims can’t be paired: artichokes.
Orvieto wine is made from trebbiano, and other grapes, including verdello, grechetto, drupeggio, and malvasia, can also be incorporated. There are Orvietos and Orvieto Classicos, which originate in the original, much smaller Orvieto zone before it was expanded. Orvieto was originally produced as a sweet wine. Today, it is generally light and dry, although there are the amabile and dulce versions, which are sweet.
Red Wine: Torgiano Rosso Riserva and sagrantino di Montefalco
Made from a village of the same name, the Torgiano wine is made from three grapes: sangiovese, canaiolo, and trebbiano. These are three grapes that are allowed in Chianti wines, and not surprisingly, Torgiano wine tends to have that same medium-body structure as Chianti. I have been told that they can be very long-lived, although I have not had an older bottle of Torgiano.
Torgiano may be medium-bodied and less-robust, the same most certainly cannot be said for the region’s other dominant red wine, sagrantino di Montefalco. Cabernet Sauvignon, beware: there is another, albeit not as established, varietal which has fruit and tannins that will give you a run for your money. I am blown away with the punch that Sagrantino packs: a weighty wine, with mature fruits, good acidity, and a long, lingering finish that truly makes its mark on the palate. Sagrantino di Montefalco is not for the faint of heart… but it certainly is for the wild boar pasta and the lentil dishes of this area. The Torgiano, on the other hand, is beautiful with the truffle dishes that are found throughout the Umbrian region. Sampling these wines and the regional fare, it is easy to see why the adage “if it grows together, it goes together” is my motto for Italian pairings.