The state of Umbria
produces only approximately 35% (1 million hl)
of its neighbour Tuscany
one of Italy's smallest wine production regions. Orvieto
the region's most renowned wines.
Its interior, land-locked location brings a deep continental climate with
summer temperatures often touching 40 celsius. The spectacular Apennine
backdrop brings vineyard elevation, especially round Montefalco, as well as a
variety of soils: deep sandy calcareous clays around Orvieto and finer
free-draining stony soils in the best Montefalco sites.
During the Middle Ages
the region was so famous for
its sweet white Orvieto
that its production was tax-exempt. A far cry from
the mainly anonymous dry white version now bottled in large quantities, mainly
by northern merchants; indeed of the 120 bottlers of Orvieto, only 25 are
actually resident in the state. As recently as thirty years ago, Orvieto
was rated more highly than either Soave
now it is lagging far behind. Recent initiatives to increase the proportion of
ignores the importance of the better quality/smaller Trebbiano
, as a key component of top Orvieto.
More important though has been the rise of the full-bodied dry/Secco
red wine Sagrantino di Montefalco. First documented in 1549, the richly
tannic Sagrantino grape was prized for its ability to produce sweet
'Passito' wines; the trend towards dry/Secco wines has only outstripped the
sweet over the past 15 - 20 years.
Lacking the infrastructure of its wealthier neighbour Tuscany, Umbria
quickly fell behind, aggravated by Communism; it became a relatively poor
agricultural state reliant upon cereal, sunflowers, olives and grapes. The
olive oil issuing from the presses of Trevi and Spoletto is considered among
Italy's finest and they refer to its elixir in exulted tones. The centuries old
trees claim the best, stoniest, sunniest sites, while the more recent
newcomers, grapes, often have to contend with the deeper clay soils lower
Since being awarded the DOCG status in 1992
(in an attempt to
kick-start the potential) the number of wineries making Sagrantino di
has rocketed: rising from 15 in 2000 to 42 (a total of 660
ha) in 2008. Many seek to ape the commercial American success enjoyed by
employing consultants to push the grapes to even darker,
more extracted & alcoholic levels. While this might suit American scribes,
the wine's natural balance and long-term ageability is called into
question. Added to which a vineyard's very best fruit is still often reserved
for the production of 'Passitio'.
Sagrantino di Montefalco
has one of the lowest maximum yields
at 48 hl/ha and must be aged for 30 months pre-release, of which 12 mths
must be in wood - increasingly French barriques. Montefalco Rosso
earlier drinking blend of Sangiovese
(10-15%), Cabernet Sauvignon
Recent great vintages include 2008, 2007, 2005 & 1998; while 2006,
2004, 2003, 2001, 2000 were deemed good to very good.
Az. Agr. Palazzone
produces fine authentic Orvieto
while Az. Agr.
is an outstanding producer of elegant Sagrantino di