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The Wines of Umbria

Updated: May 23


The region of Umbria is not as well-known as Tuscany, and Umbrian wines also suffer from a lack of recognition. However, the truth is that here, in the heart of Italy, several excellent wines await to be discovered. If you’re seeking something new and interesting, you can explore high-quality Umbrian wines waiting for you to give them a chance…


Grapes in umbria
Grapes in umbria - Photo: unsplash

Umbria is one of the most important agricultural centers in Italy. Here, you can find high-quality products such as beans and lentils, olive oil and grains, pasta and truffles, meat, and cheese. This region excels in culinary abundance. A lesser-known fact is that Umbrian wines also boast exceptional quality. If you have any doubts, consider that a white wine from Umbria called Castello della Sala (see below) won the title of ‘Best White Wine in Italy’ a few years ago.

The tradition of winemaking in Umbria boasts a rich and ancient history. The Etruscans were already cultivating grapevines and producing wine here 2500 years ago, and the Romans, of course, followed in their footsteps. The grapevines thrived on the hills during the Middle Ages, and in the 16th century, Pope Paul III announced that the wines of Umbria were “perfect for both summer and winter.” He was not wrong. While most wines from this region are not widely known outside of Italy, a change has become evident in recent years. Wine tourism in Umbria is thriving, attracting increasing numbers of both Italian and foreign tourists in search of the region’s traditional wines. In addition to the ‘older’ wines, you can find some new and interesting wines being vigorously developed by local and adventurous winemakers.


The Most Famous Wines of Umbria

In general, the most well-known wines of Italy are classified as DOCG or DOC, indicating that they are produced in specific geographical regions and are subject to certain, possibly strict laws. These laws guarantee that wines carrying the name of a protected brand (such as Chianti Classico DOCG, Barolo DOCG, etc.) must meet clear and publicly known criteria. Although these laws limit winemakers’ freedom, they ensure that each bottle carrying the brand name maintains a certain threshold of quality and faithfully represents it. Among other things, the laws of DOC and DOCG define the permitted grape varieties and their percentages, irrigation methods, minimal aging time (in barriques or bottles), and more.

The Region of Umbria prides itself on two wines defined as DOCG: Torgiano Riserva DOCG and Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. Additionally, there are thirteen others defined as DOC, including Todi DOC, Colli Martani DOC, Orvieto DOC, Montefalco DOC, etc.





The Most Common Grapes in Umbria

Both white and red wines are produced in Umbria. The most famous white grape of the region is Grechetto, which serves as the base for countless wines. The most famous red grape is Sagrantino. While Umbria may not boast as many grape varieties and wine types as other regions in Italy, you can still discover some very interesting and good value-for-money surprises.


Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG

Torgiano is one of the flagship wines of Umbria and is a favorite at restaurants. This powerful wine is produced not far from Perugia, near the town of Torgiano. It is made primarily of Sangiovese grapes (at least 70%) blended with other grapes – either common, such as Canaiolo, or international varieties. Torgiano is definitely not a light lunch wine; it is big, full-bodied, and pairs well with meat courses. The meticulous manufacturing process requires winemakers to release the wine to the market only after aging for 36 months, six of which are spent in a bottle.

A simpler version of this wine is available: Torgiano DOC. This category includes both white wines (Torgiano DOC Bianco) and red wines (Torgiano DOC Rosso), with a sparkling version also available.


Where can I find an excellent Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG?

You can try the Tenuta di Torgiano winery of the Lungarotti group, one of the largest and most important wine producers in Umbria.


Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG

The Sagrantino is produced in the ancient town of Montefalco, founded by the Romans and developed in the Middle Ages. The town’s name was given to it by Emperor Frederick II, due to its location close to the top of the mountain (monte means mountain in Italian) and the numerous falcons (falco) in the sky. A successful wine festival takes place here every year, attracting large crowds.

The Montefalco Sagrantino is made from 100% Sagrantino grapes grown within the designated area. The Franciscan Friars probably brought the Sagrantino grapes to Umbria, although some researchers claim that this type of grape was introduced to the region earlier by Byzantine monks. In any case, the wine manufactured from those grapes was usually used in religious ceremonies.


After years of neglect, Montefalco Sagrantino experienced a small renaissance in the 1990s, thanks to several wine enthusiasts who rediscovered it and began marketing it internationally. Nowadays, it is one of the most renowned wines in Umbria.

It is a big, full-bodied, and intense wine, mainly due to the fact that the Sagrantino grapes contain particularly large amounts of tannins. An important part of wine production is dedicated to refining and softening these tannins. By law, the wine must be aged for at least 30 months (with 12 months spent in wooden barriques). The wine must then ‘rest’ in a bottle for another four months.


With its velvety taste and aromas of black fruit, leather, and vanilla, the Montefalco Sagrantino pairs well with local meat dishes, from grilled meats to pasta with rich Bolognese sauce.

Another variation of this wine is the Sagrantino Passito. In this case, the grapes are pre-dried, and the result is a rich dessert wine characterized by a dominant taste of red fruit.


Where can I taste an excellent Montefalco wine?

You can try the wines from Azienda Agraria Moretti Omero. For details on the winery, click here. You can also buy their award-winning wines at our shop.


Orvieto Classico DOC and Orvieto DOC

This is one of the highest-quality white wines in Umbria and is likely the most well-known. Its name refers to the city of Orvieto in Umbria, of course, but it is also produced in the area of the city of Viterbo, located in the northern part of the Lazio region.

Like many of the Etruscan wines, this wine’s roots are particularly ancient. The ancient Etruscans were the first to plant grapevines here, using the caves they carved in the tuff rock to produce and preserve their wines.

The Orvieto wine is known to have been very well-liked by both rulers and clergymen and was sent south for trade in Rome. Legend has it that Pope Gregory XVI requested that his body be washed in this wine before burial.


Nowadays, Orvieto Classico wines, produced in their historic place, are available in and around the city of Orvieto. Orvieto DOC wines are distributed all over the region, beyond the city limits. The Orvieto wine is made with Grechetto grapes and Trebbiano Toscano grapes (also known as Procanico in this region).

The blend of these two grape varieties is a winning one, and the result is balanced, round wines, with the aroma of flowers and ripe peaches, and wonderful minerality. Wines manufactured in volcanic areas are mostly characterized by such minerality. It is interesting to note that there are two types of Grechetto grapes – Grechetto di Orvieto and Grechetto di Todi. Both are used to manufacture Orvieto wine, but there is a notable difference in taste.


In addition to the classical white wine (Orvieto Classico), a dessert wine called Orvieto DOC Muffa Nobile can also be found in this region. It is mostly manufactured in the neighboring region of Lazio, not far from Lake Bolsena. The grapevines in this area benefit thrice – from the structure of the earth, from the humid breeze, and from the significant difference in temperatures between night and day. The word muffa means mold, but mold is not always a danger to wine. In this case, the mold is a blessing because the attack of the Botrytis cinerea fungus creates “noble decay”, which significantly raises the sugar concentration in the grapes. Thanks to this process, dessert wines become rich and complex both in taste and aroma.


Where can I taste Orvieto Classico DOC?

Decugnano dei Barbi winery is a beautiful historic winery near Orvieto, known for offering several high-quality wines, including a particularly delicious version of the Orvieto Classico DOC.


Todi DOC

The Todi wine is almost unknown outside of Umbria. However, if you happen to visit the beautiful, ancient city of Todi, trying the local wine is highly recommended. Like the vast majority of the white wines in the area, Todi wine is produced from Grechetto grapes. It is interesting to compare Todi wine and its ‘cousin’ from Orvieto. This is a balanced, floral, and full-bodied white wine.


Where can I taste excellent Todi DOC wine?

Try the wines at the Peppucci family winery.

 

Castello Della Sala

Castello della Sala is not a type of wine but rather an important winery, one of several owned by the famous Antinori family. The winery spreads over 200 hectares, and at its heart is an ancient fortress dating back to the 14th century. Most of the grapevines planted here are white – local (Grechetto) and international (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc) – and also one slightly surprising type: Pinot Nero. According to the winemakers of the manor, it thrives exceptionally well here.

The most famous wine produced here is Cervaro della Sala, the flagship wine of the winery. It is made of Chardonnay and Grechetto grapes and goes through malolactic fermentation and aging in barriques.

This wine won first place on the list of “Top 100 Italian White Wines for the Summer” by the well-known wine critic James Suckling.

It is highly recommended to taste the Cervaro della Sala if you visit the area. And while you are there, if you’re looking for a high-quality dessert wine, you should try the Muffato della Sala wine produced here. It is golden in color and full of the aromas of dried fruit and saffron, making it absolutely fantastic.


Colli del Trasimeno DOC

Another lesser-known wine, which is actually a category of wines, is the Colli del Trasimeno. The red and white wines in this category, also simply known as Trasimeno DOC, are produced from grapevines grown on the steep hills around Lake Trasimeno. The favorable weather conditions enable local wineries to produce wines that are particularly enjoyable. Red wines are made from Sangiovese and Gamay grapes, while white wines are made from Grechetto grapes.


Where can I taste high-quality Trasimeno DOC wine?

Try the charming winery of Pucciarella.


100% Grechetto Wines

There are several wines in Umbria made exclusively from Grechetto grapes, and it’s often a good idea to taste them. For instance, try the Montefalco Grechetto DOC, manufactured in the Montefalco area.



I hope this short list has made you curious about tasting something new. These Umbrian wines may not be considered particularly sophisticated or luxurious in Italy, but they are undoubtedly tasty, fun, and much more interesting and complex than most visitors imagine. They also offer great value for money. Cheers!”



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