Umbria may be the fourth smallest producer of wine in Italy, and the region may be lesser known than its neighbor Tuscany, but as the saying goes, good things come in small packages. With Umbria’s varied landscape — rolling, fertile hills in the west; mountains in the east; and volcanic tuff and limestone in Orvieto — and a moderate climate similar to Tuscany, there are a number of different wine routes to experience the region’s plethora of wine varieties, including 13 DOCs and 2 DOCGs. Whether you’re a wine lover of reds, whites, roses, or even sparkling, there’s something for you.
The most well-known grape of the region is, hands down, Sangiovese, with its vibrant cherry flavors. While the grape is popular in Tuscan wines as well, it pairs particularly well with Umbrian cuisine, which traditionally includes meat, such as Chianina beef, wild boar, game birds, sausages, and even chicken.
One popular production area for Sangiovese is Montefalco. Many of the Italian wines here began as sacramental wines, but as the distribution of the wines spread, they’ve become a local and worldwide favorite with their dark ruby colors and spicy aromas.
Today, Sangiovese remains one of the top-produced wines in all of Umbria, but the tannic-laden Sagrantino has been growing in popularity in recent years. Plus, Sagrantino is unique in that its only grown in Umbria. But like Sangiovese, Sagrantinos go well with meat dishes. Some varietals from Montefalco also now feature a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino grapes, which can be experienced with a wine tasting and tour during our cooking vacations, A Food Lover’s Paradise in Norcia or Cooking and Walking in Umbria.
Northwest of Montefalco is Torgiano, which is about 650 feet above sea level. With its higher altitude, and vineyards growing side by side with fields of tobacco, the Umbrian wines here have a flavor all their own. It’s a particularly wonderful climate for other Sangiovese blends, but also Cabernet Sauvignon.
For white wines, head over to the picturesque town of Orvieto. Made with Trebbiano Toscano and Grechetto grapes, its Classico wine can be either sweet or dry, depending on the production. The crisp fruity wine pairs well with Italian appetizers as well as white fish.
Considering Umbria is only spread over about 3,200 square miles, its wine offerings are immense. While exploring hilltop towns and the historic charm of this lovely landlocked region, you’ll discover a wine culture unlike any other in Italy.
By Peg Kern
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