Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Umbria Region
The Umbria Wine Region
Main Article Contents
- 1 The Territory of Umbria
- 2 The Viticulture in Umbria
- 3 The History of Viticulture in Umbria
- 4 The grape varieties in Umbria
- 5 The wine production areas in Umbria
- 6 The Appellations of Origin in Umbria
- 7 The regional cuisine of Umbria
The Territory of Umbria
Umbria is one of the most charming and fascinating regions of Italy, famous for its historical, cultural and artistic richness as well as for its enchanting landscapes dominated by olive trees and vines. Olive oil and wine are the two fundamental pillars of the food and wine culture of the region. Umbria’s territory is 71% hilly and mountainous for the remaining part. The climate of the region is characterized by very cold winters and hot and dry summers, with considerable temperature excursions, well distributed rainfalls and infrequent frosts, which make it particularly suitable to viticulture. Umbria is the only region of peninsular Italy not be exposed to the sea. Its territory as said is mostly hilly and particularly vocated to the cultivation of the vine and the olive. Hills are in fact the typical landscape throughout the region, in a continuous up and down of the slopes, the gray-green color of the olive trees and vineyards, with villages rich in art, history and tradition.
The Viticulture in Umbria
Small in size, with its 17,000 hectares of vineyards and a production just over one million hectoliters of wine, Umbria has a high ratio of planted area on the total available surface. The predominantly hilly morphology makes Umbria particularly suited for viticulture and for wine. Umbria is in fact characterized by rather low average yields per hectare (8.7 t / ha), one of the prerequisites for the production of quality wines.
The History of Viticulture in Umbria
During the Roman era some great authors, such as Pliny the Elder and Marziale described the quality of Umbria’s wines in their works. The reputation of Umbrian wines lived moments of varying fortune and merit. The revival of enology and viticulture in Umbria began in the years 1960. The first DOC of the region was Torgiano DOC in 1968, followed in 1990 by the first DOCG, Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG. The Sagrantino, another important red wine from Umbria was grante the DOCG in 1992 (Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG). Years later the winemaking in Umbria bacame focused to quality and the majority of the region’s producers have definitively abandoned the mass production in favor of a high profile wines.
The grape varieties in Umbria
In Umbria both white and black grape varieties are cultivated, with a wine production almost equally divided between white wines and red wines. The Grechetto, a native grape of Umbria, is the most important among those with white grapes. It is widespread throughout the region and with it both varietal white wines and blends, e.g. with Chardonnay, are produced. The Sagrantino, despite its presence limiterd to Montefalco, is the most representative red wine of the whole region. Black berry grapes also present in Umbria are Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo Nero, Montepulciano, Barbera. The Gamay was introduced in the Lake Trasimeno over a century ago. Among the white grapes are Malvasia Bianca, Trebbiano Toscano, Verdello, Canaiolo Bianco and Procanico. International varieties as Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Blanc and Riesling, as well as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, are also present in the region.
The wine production areas in Umbria
Torgiano and Torgiano Riserva
Torgiano is located a few kilometers south of Perugia in an area recognized with both DOC and DOCG appellations. Torgiano in both cases was the first area in Umbria to achieve these goals (the DOC was granted in 1968 and DOCG in 1990). The Torgiano Rosso Riserva is the only DOCG wine of the region and is produced primarily with Sangiovese and Canaiolo Nero grapes. To the Torgiano DOC belong many different wines, both white and red, rosé and sparkling wines. The Torgiano white wine is made from Trebbiano Toscano and Grechetto, there are alsol varietal wines based on Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling Italico. The Torgiano DOC Red wine is produced with Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero and a small part of Trebbiano Toscano. The varietal wines are Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. The Torgiano rosé is produced with the same blend of the red wine.
Montefalco and Sagrantino di Montefalco
The area of Montefalco is located about 40 kilometers east of Perugia and like the neighboring Torgiano, also gives its name to a DOC and DOCG appellation. Dry and sweet wines produced exclusively from Sagrantino grapes have been granted the DOCG appellation. Sagrantino is a robust and powerful wine, with asubstantial tannine content and significant organoleptic richness, appreciated all over the world. Montefalco also produce other red and white DOC wines. The Montefalco Bianco is produced with Grechetto and Trebbiano Toscano, while the Montefalco Rosso is produced with Sangiovese and Sagrantino grapes and is also available as riserva.
Orvieto has been in the past one of the few great names of Italian enology. Its fame was more due to the quantities produced and its worldwide distribution than to its quality. In recent years the quality level of this area is gradually catching up, and its wines as the whites and the “Muffati“, sweet wines made from grapes affected by noble rot “Botrytis cinerea“, are everywhere known and appreciated. Procanico is the name by which the Trebbiano Toscano is named in the region. Verdello, Grechetto, Drupeggio (Canaiolo Bianco) and Malvasia Toscana are the grape varieties diffused in the territory. White wines are also produced as Classico, Superiore and Classico Superiore styles. Red wines (Rosso Orvietano DOC), are present both as blends or as varietal wines, based on Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo Nero and Aleatico grapes.
Colli del Trasimeno
The area of the Colli del Trasimeno is located west of Perugia, around the neighboring Lake Trasimeno. Here the white grapes are Grechetto, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia del Chianti, Verdello and Verdicchio. Grechetto is the only varietal wine produced in the area. Among the black grapes are Sangiovese, Gamay, Ciliegiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Gamay was introduced in the Trasimeno area over a century ago but now it is so widespread as to be considered almost a native grape. The Gamay of Colli del Trasimeno are considered among the best red wines of this DOC.
The other production areas Umbria
Among the other wine areas in Umbria to be mentioned are the Colli Amerini, with red wines from Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo Nero, Barbera and Merlot. Assisi is known for the its Grechetto varietal wine. The Colli Martani produce white and red wines, but above all famous is the Grechetto di Todi. The area of Lake Corbara, near Orvieto, produces red wines based on Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, also as varietal types. The DOC Colli Altotiberini is lopcated between Perugia and the northern boundary of Umbria, with both its white and red wines. At the south of Perugia the DOC Colli Perugini, down till the provincie of Terni, always with white and red wines.
The Appellations of Origin in Umbria
Two DOCG wines, the Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG and Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (the first based on Sangiovese min 70%, the second on the native vine Sagrantino) both of them in the Perugia area, testify the quality level achieved in this small region. Further south the area of Todi (Todi DOC) and the Martani Hills (Colli Martani DOC) characterized by white grape Grechetto. The area of Lake Trasimeno (Colli del Trasimeno DOC), and the area of Orvieto, with the red wine Rosso Orvietano DOC, but best known for white wines and the famous Muffati Orvietani, based on both late (Grechetto, Malvasia) and early (Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay) ripening grape varieties. The particular soil and climate is influenced by the presence of Lake Corbara, and is particularly suited to the development of the “noble rot”. Colli Perugini DOC, Colli Amerini DOC and Colli Altotiberini DOC are three other relevant DOC in Umbria. In the whole, in addition to the already mentioned DOCG, in Umbria there are 13 DOCs and 6 IGTs. The agrifood products are represented by 3 DOP (PDO) and an IGP (PGI), to name one above all, the Norcia ham (PGI) .
The regional cuisine of Umbria
The main feature of the Umbria cuisine is its simplicity. The recipes are focused on both seasonal (mushrooms, wild asparagus) and spontaneous (truffles from Norcia) products. Many legumes and cereals are also present, some protected with PDO or PGI appellations, as the Fagiolina (small beans) of Lake Trasimeno, the Onion of Cannara or the Trevi black Celery. The meats are mainly ovine, pork and venison, grilled on spit or processed as sausages. The bread has here several local styles, such as the pan caciato (with cheese), the pan nociato (with nuts), the Strettura and the unsalted bread of Terni. Umbria has also 5 varieties of DOP extra virgin olive oil: Colli Orvietani, Colli Martani, Colli Amerini, Colli di Assisi-Spoleto, Colli del Trasimeno.
Among the pasta dishes typical of the Umbria cuisine the spaghetti or strangozzi with black truffle, the umbrichelli with sauce Trasimeno, based on perch fillet, shallot, garlic and chilli, the spaghetti with rancetto, with bacon, tomatoes and pecorino cheese, the pappardelle with hare, and the addition of bacon and cloves. Among the soups, the pea soup and the soup with chickpeas and chestnuts. Among the main courses, in the area of Terni typical is the wild pigeon also known as “Palomba“, cooked on a spit. From Orvieto, the “drunk” chicken so called because cooked in wine. In the area of Perugia the baked lamb head or tortello perugina style. From Norcia the sausages, the so-called cojoni di mulo (mule’s balls), the boar sausages, the Norcia PGI ham, and with the Ciauscolo, spreadable salami made with pork shoulder, bacon and ground pork fat finely chopped. Norcia is also the city of the black truffle, appreciated all over the world along with the white truffles from Città di Castello and Gubbio. Among the cheese, the Pecorino Umbro, fresh or aged and the formaggio di fossa (pit cheese) are the most famous. The desserts are in almost all cases cakes from the oven, made with almonds, spices and candied fruit, like the Torcolo of San Costanzo from Perugia, the gingerbread, the ciaramicola (typical Easter cake from Perugia ), the rocciata di Assisi and many others.