Umbria, also called the green lung of Italy.
Bordering on Tuscany and right above Rome is the lesser-known and lesser-traveled region of Umbria without access to either the sea or international borders is affectionately referred to as the “green heart of Italy.”
Umbria offers an array of grape varieties, wine styles and price points. It’s a compact, cautious and focused region that has something special for every palate, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet and the DOCG Torgiano Rosso Riserva, despite changes in style over time, the Orvieto DOC based on the Trebbiano grape variety, remains the region's largest appellation. There are two DOCG Wine Zones, namely Montefalco Sagrantino and Torgiana Riserva, and a dozen DOC Zones.
Sangiovese is the crown jewel of Tuscany. It was introduced by the Etruscan population, and its name recalls the Etruscan word “Sanisva,” which refers to a funeral offer. Legend also suggests that since the grapes were very juicy, rich and strong, they were thought to be associated with the glorious blood of Jupiter, as the name suggests. Sangiovese stands on its own as a monovarietal wine, but is also commonly blended with weaker grapes to lend the final wines strength. The soil for this varietal is crucial and can make a big difference in the quality of the wine and how its aromatic profile is expressed.
Sagrantino is a red grape from Umbria that produces high quality, very ageable wines. The DOCG is called Montefalco Sagrantino, is also one of the most tannic wines produced in Italy. However, they are smooth and polished, and this full body red is a perfect match for rich, umami dishes.
This grape takes its name from the shepherds who used to eat its berries while accompanying their sheep’s flocks up and down the valleys searching for food. Pecorino is usually delicately herbal with balsamic nuances and with crisp apple and pear aromas and flavors. As the wine ages, it develops an almost milky, cheesy aroma. Acidity is high in these typically medium-bodied wines.
The Passerina grape is a hardy variety that can be quite complex and special, with herbal notes, ripe citrus, and tropical fruit flavors and high acidity. Passerina is used to make sparkling wine as well.
Grechetto is a white grape with thick skins that makes light-bodied, lemony, and easygoing wines with an hint of white flowers, chamomile, lime and apple, generally with high acidity.
Before DNA typing existed, Ciliegiolo used to be commonly confused with Sangiovese and other grapes growing in Tuscany and Umbria. Its name comes from the Italian for “cherries,” which is the dominant aroma that characterizes the wine. Often used to blend, Ciliegiolo yields fruit forward, crisp, slightly sweet wine with a graceful, refined mouthfeel, red cherry-berry notes and smooth tannins. It does not need much in the way of bottle aging, but even though drinkable young, it has strength of character and real interest.
It’s here where you’ll find some of the most amazing, delightfully undervalued Italian wines – from the crisp, dry white wines of Grechetto to the deep colored, antioxidant-rich reds of Sagrantino. This is a landlocked region and is quite mountainous in parts, harboring game such as wild boar, lentils and spelt, a cereal grain similar to wheat. But the prized produce of this region are norcinera, black truffles and high-quality olive oil.