Picturesque towns and glorious scenery make Umbria one of Italy’s best-kept secrets.
Umbria, the ‘Green Heart of Italy,’ is the only landlocked region in central Italy, and although the area produces excellent white and red wines, it lives under the shadow of the ultra-famous Tuscany to the west.
Mountain ranges and rolling hills cover most of the region, and it’s between these geographical features where passionate winemakers craft some of the most exciting wines in Italy.
Here’s all you wanted to know about the wines of Umbria.
At the heart of Italy
Tuscany neighbours Umbria in the west and north, where both regions specialise in red wines. Umbria’s southern border collides with Lazio, where the region shares the tradition of crafting fine white wines.
The Apennine mountain ranges run through the heart of Umbria and dominate the landscape. Two valleys remain hidden among the mountains, the Tiber Valley and the Umbrian Valley.
At the center of it all, you’ll find Montefalco, a gorgeous town known for making the most structured and sturdy red wines in Italy with the local Sagrantino grape.
History in the making
Today Umbria covers 8,456 km2 (3,265 sq. mi) and has a population of under one million people, and it was inhabited by an ancient civilization called the Umbri, sworn enemies of other influential pre-Roman culture the Etruscans. Both ended up yielding against the might of the Roman empire, but a strong sense of local pride remained.
Umbria was sheltered under Papal protection, not without ups and downs, until the Italian unification. This is why the region has a strong, unaltered personality, which you can taste in the wines.
Grapes and wines
Umbria holds 2 DOCGs, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG and Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG. It’s also home to 13 DOCs, including the famous Montefalco and Orvieto. 6 IGPs take care of most of the table wine produced in the region.
The three most planted grape varieties are Sangiovese (22%), Trebbiano (17%), and Grechetto (13%), but there are over 10 distinct varieties scattered around the Umbrian hills and valleys, including the acclaimed Sagrantino.
Sagrantino is grown around Montefalco and is one of the most structured, inky and tannic grapes in the world, It took the region’s winemakers centuries to tame the stubborn grape and now craft with it wines of contemplation. Try the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2015 – Napolini for a potent, intense wine with no equal, with cassis, tobacco and spice aromas over a thick, coating palate.
Umbria’s whites are equally memorable, particularly the ones made with the native grape Grechetto, a mineral, peachy wine is lush and thirst-quenching.
Umbria has no competition
Although it would seem the pressure of neighboring Tuscany would take a toll on the region’s wine industry, Umbrian wines are crafted in a category on their own.
Crisp whites and concentrated reds that are uncontested even in Tuscany. Montefalco could very well be considered a prime wine region along with Chianti, Brunello and Barolo, and it’s time we give its wine the respect it deserves.