Exploring the Wines of Umbria? Discover the essentials of this renowned Italian wine region in a concise, informative guide.
In this article, you’ll learn about:
- Umbrian winemaking history.
- The evolution of Orvieto wine.
- Colli Altotiberini and Colli Amerini wines’ profiles.
- Wine varieties from Colli Martani and Colli Trasimeni.
- Montefalco Sagrantino‘s characteristics.
- Torgiano‘s acclaimed wines.
- Highlights of Rosso Orvietano, Grechetto, and Lago di Corbara.
Umbria Wines Compared
In a hurry?
Below is the complete comparison table for the wines of Umbria I talk about in the article. I did my best to provide a concise and informative overview of each wine’s key characteristics.-Luca
|Best Known For
|Procanico, Verdello, Malvasia, Grechetto, Drupeggio
|Elegant, savory, full-bodied
|Historical prominence of Orvieto
|Colli Altotiberini (DOC)
|Trebbiano, Malvasia, others
|Dry, harmonious; Round, dry
|Longevity and the need for aging
|Colli Amerini (DOC)
|Trebbiano, Grechetto, others
|White, Red, Rosé, Others
|Velvety, dry, slightly bitter; Solid, intense; Fresh, full-bodied
|Diversity of wine types
|Colli Martani (DOC)
|Trebbiano, Grechetto, Sangiovese
|Dry, clean, acidulous; Velvety, off-dry, acidulous; Dry, slightly tannic, well-balanced
|Unique grape varieties
|Colli Perugini (DOC)
|Grechetto, Trebbiano, others
|White, Red, Rosé
|Acidulous, dry, slightly fruity; Dry, sapid; Dry, fresh
|Versatile wine pairings
|Colli Trasimeni (DOC)
|Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, others
|Red, White, Rosé
|Powerful, ripened red fruit; Fresh, dry, lively; Fresh, lively
|Variety in color and taste
|Elegant, savory, full-bodied; Harmonious, medium-bodied
|Rich wine heritage
|Montefalco Sagrantino (DOCG)
|Full-bodied, slightly tannic
|Vinous, lively, herbaceous, harmonious
|Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Trebbiano, others
|Red, White, Rosé
|Complex, vinous; Flowery, pungent vinous; Delicate, fruity
|First Umbrian wine to receive DOC
|Torgiano Rosso Riserva (DOCG)
|Trebbiano, Canaiolo, Sangiovese, others
|Vinous, complex, full-bodied
|Exceptional aging and elegance
|Soft, elegant, velvety
|Intense herbaceous scent
|Subtle fruity, slightly acidic, elegant
|Light, elegant taste
|Lago di Corbara
|Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon
|Vinous, lively herbaceous, harmonious
|Blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon
One Of The Italy’s Best Wine Regions
Umbria, nestled in central Italy and surrounded by regions like Marche, Tuscany, and Lazio, stands out for not being coastal. Yet, what it lacks in coastline, it makes up for with its breathtaking landscapes of forests, lakes, and historical sites.
These beautiful green hills and valleys are perfect for growing vines and olives, contributing to the region’s unique wine profile.
When we talk about the wines of Umbria, we’re talking about a tradition of high quality. For a small region, its output is impressive—around one million hectoliters per year, with a significant portion, almost 20%, coming from its esteemed D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. areas.
The variety of grapes here is diverse. You’ll find Trebbiano, Grechetto, Chardonnay, and several others for white wines. As for red wines, Sangiovese and Sagrantino lead the pack, alongside Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, to name a few.
Umbria Wine Production History
Umbria wine’s long history is fascinating and deeply rooted. Archeological discoveries, including crockery and tools, reveal that the Etruscans were passionate winemakers well before the Romans arrived.
They didn’t just make wine; they cherished it, using it in religious ceremonies and taking great care in its wine production. This dedication to winemaking set a foundation that even the Romans, known for their discernment, admired, especially the region’s sweet white wines.
The writings of Plinio il Vecchio, a renowned agronomist and historian of the Roman era, highlight the region’s historical significance in winemaking. He detailed how the Etruscans favored Apiane grapes for their high sugar content, perfect for the sweet wines they were famed for.
Fast forward to the 16th century, and Umbria’s reputation for fine wine had only grown. Andrea Bacci, a respected wine expert and physician to Pope Pio VI, wrote in his “De Naturali Vinorum Historia” that Umbria was among the premier wine production lands.
This historical perspective shows Umbria’s long-standing relationship with wine and cements its place as perhaps the only Italian region where winemaking is not just a practice but a legacy.
White wine is Umbria’s pride, especially the famous Orvieto. This wine’s acclaim stretches back centuries, praised by poets, artists, and even popes. Imagine a wine so revered that Gabriele D’Annunzio called it “the Sun of Italy in a Bottle,” a testament to its fragrance, strength, and color. There’s even a historical anecdote about Pope Gregory XVI wanting to be washed in Orvieto wine before his burial.
Its history is as rich as its flavor. Originating from the Etruscan era, these ancient winemakers had a unique method. They carved cellars into the soil, letting the wine ferment in the cool underground caves for months.
This process left the wine with a distinctive sugary residue. Over the centuries, Orvieto wine has transformed. What was once a semi-sweet and golden drink has become a crisp, fruity, and pale yellow wine today.
Interestingly, there’s a shift happening now. Some producers are looking back to their roots, aiming to recreate the original Orvieto wine. They’re doing this through more meticulous grape selection and fermentation processes. It’s like a nod to the past, blending ancient winemaking traditions with modern techniques to bring back a taste that’s been cherished for centuries.
If you’re into wines with a story and a flavor that’s evolved yet stayed true to its origins, Orvieto from Umbria is definitely worth exploring.
Best Wines from Umbria (DOC & DOCG)
Orvieto, a classic wine from Umbria, is crafted using a blend of Procanico, Verdello, Malvasia, Grechetto, and Drupeggio grapes. The fermentation and aging process in wood lends this wine a distinctive character. It exhibits a pale straw-yellow color, which is visually appealing.
The nose of Orvieto is broad and complex, offering ripe fruit aromas with slightly spicy notes of vanilla, a testament to its wood aging. This wine is elegant, savory, long, and full-bodied on the palate, making it a delightful choice for wine enthusiasts. With an alcohol content of 11.5%, it strikes a nice balance of flavor and potency.
Orvieto is best enjoyed within its first two years when its best characteristics are most pronounced. It pairs exceptionally well with a local specialty, rice fritters. The elegant and savory profile of the wine complements the lightness and subtle flavors of the fritters, making for a harmonious and enjoyable pairing.
Colli Altotiberini (DOC)
Colli Altotiberini Bianco is a wine crafted from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. This wine stands out with its pale straw yellow color, which can vary in intensity. When you take a sip, you’re greeted by a complex and evolved bouquet brimming with fruit scents. It’s a dry wine, yet it perfectly balances the palate.
For an ideal pairing, try it with a plate of spaghetti in black truffle sauce. The wine’s subtle complexities and harmonious flavors complement the rich, earthy tones of the truffle.
Colli Altotiberini rosso: a wine that captivates with its intense ruby red hue. Its aroma is convincing and delicately fruity, making it an inviting choice. When it comes to taste, it’s round and gracefully dry, offering a refined drinking experience.
An excellent pairing for this wine would be chicory sautéed with pancetta. The wine’s fruitiness and smooth dryness beautifully contrast the savory, slightly bitter flavors of the dish, creating a delightful culinary harmony.
Colli Amerini (DOC)
Here we have a few options:
Colli Amerini bianco: this one is made from a blend of Trebbiano, Grechetto, Verdello, Garganega, and Malvasia grapes and presents a pale straw yellow color with greenish tinges. Its bouquet is delicately fruity and of sound intensity.
On the palate, it’s velvety, dry, and full-bodied, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. With an alcohol content of 11%, this wine pairs wonderfully with asparagus risotto or pansotti pasta with walnut sauce, enhancing the subtle flavors of these dishes.
Amerini Rosso: this wine is dark red when young, which evolves into a deeper burgundy as it ages. It offers a broad and ethereal aroma, leading to a solid, intense, and lengthy taste experience on the palate, accented with complex nutty notes.
Also, with an 11% alcohol content, it’s perfect when served with rabbit and polenta, complementing the rich and hearty flavors of the dish.
Colli Amerini Rosé: it stands out with its salmon color, offering a delicate, fruity scent and a fresh, round, full-bodied taste. This wine is an excellent match for capon in a creamy walnut sauce, where its freshness balances the creaminess of the sauce.
Colli Amerini Novello: this one is notable for its ruby-red color with purple streaks. It has a fruity, persistent scent and a fresh, full-bodied flavor, making it a great choice with short pasta in pork meat sauce, where its freshness and body can stand up to the robust flavors of the sauce.
Colli Amerini Malvasia: it is a straw yellow wine with an intense aroma and a dry but velvety essence. This wine, with its 11% alcohol content, is an excellent choice for those who enjoy a wine with a strong aromatic presence and a smooth finish.
Colli Martani (DOC)
In the Colli Martani DOC area, stretching from Todi to Montefalco, you’ll find a variety of distinctive wines:
The Colli Martani Trebbiano is a greenish-yellow wine with a subtle, vinous, fruity scent. It offers a dry, clean, and elegantly acidulous taste, with an alcohol content of 11%. It pairs excellently with linguine with clam sauce, whose clean and crisp flavor complements the dish’s seafood notes.
Then there’s the Colli Martani Grechetto, a straw yellow wine with a nose of exotic fruits. This leads to a velvety, off-dry, and acidulous essence. It also has an alcohol content of 11%, making it an excellent choice for those who enjoy a wine with a fruity aroma and a smooth, slightly acidic taste.
The Colli Martani Sangiovese is a ruby red wine that develops orange or garnet nuances as it ages. It undergoes at least a year of aging in oak barrels, contributing to its depth of flavor.
On the nose, it’s vinous and intense, while on the palate, it’s dry, slightly tannic, and well-balanced, with an alcohol content ranging from 11% to 11.5%. This wine is a perfect match for a soup with bread dumplings, whose tannic and balanced flavor complements the hearty nature of the dish.
Colli Perugini (DOC)
The Colli Perugini bianco presents a straw yellow color with greenish nuances. Its bouquet is ethereal and pleasantly intense, leading into a long, full-bodied taste that carries subtle fruity hints.
With its elegant profile, this wine pairs beautifully with fresh cheeses like stracchino and ricotta, whose entire body and slight fruitiness complement the creamy textures and delicate flavors of these cheeses.
Then, there’s the Colli Perugini rosso. It features a ruby red color, which can vary in intensity. Its aroma is vinous, spicy, and distinct, leading to a dry, sapid, and well-bodied taste.
With an alcohol content of 11.5%, it’s a robust choice for wine enthusiasts. This red wine is an excellent match for poultry dishes, where its body and unique taste profile can stand up to the flavors of the meat, enhancing the overall dining experience.
Colli Trasimeni (DOC)
The Colli Trasimeni DOC, another jewel in Umbria’s winemaking crown, offers a range of wines with distinctive characters:
Colli Trasimeni Rosso boasts a ruby red color, captivating with its long and intense nose. On the palate, it’s deep and powerful, with notes of ripened red fruit. This wine is a fantastic companion to the local dish impastatoia, where its robust taste and fruitiness beautifully complement the flavors of polenta and beans in tomato sauce.
Colli Trasimeni Bianco is a straw yellow wine with greenish tints. It’s fresh and delicately fruity on the nose, leading to a dry, fresh, and lively taste on the palate. This white wine pairs excellently with shrimp and cannellini beans, where its freshness and liveliness enhance the lightness and flavors of the seafood.
Colli Trasimeni rosé, with its varying intensity of pink tint, offers an intense, spicy scent and a fresh, lively flavor. With an alcohol content of 11%, it’s a delightful choice for those who enjoy a wine that is both aromatic and vivacious.
Montefalco, a medieval little town south of Perugia, stands as one of Umbria’s richest winemaking districts. The Benedictine friars, who introduced vine growing here, cultivated the land and planted some of Umbria’s most ancient and typical varieties, leading to a range of excellent whites and reds under this appellation.
Montefalco bianco is a wine with a pale straw yellow color. It offers a slightly fruity, distinctive, and unique bouquet, leading into a palate that is notable for its good acidity and length. With an alcohol content ranging from 11% to 11.5%, it’s an excellent choice to serve with cold appetizers like liver crostini, where its acidity and distinctive taste can enhance the flavors of the dish.
The Montefalco Rosso, made from Sangiovese, Sagrantino, and other red-fruit grapes, is another standout. This wine undergoes a mandatory aging process of at least eighteen months. Those aged for thirty months in wood barrels earn the title “Riserva.”
It presents a dark ruby shade with garnet streaks, an intense and unique fragrance, and a dry, harmonious, medium-bodied palate. With a minimum alcohol content of 12%, Montefalco Rosso pairs excellently with roasted lamb, complementing the rich flavors of the meat with its harmonious and robust profile.
Montefalco Sagrantino (DOCG)
This distinctive wine from Umbria is made exclusively with Sagrantino grapes and comes in two varieties: dry and passito.
The dry Montefalco Sagrantino showcases a darkish ruby color with purple nuances, indicating its depth and richness. It has an intense and long nose, filled with aromas of ripe red fruit, which immediately captures the attention. On the palate, it presents a clean, dry taste with distinct berry flavors.
This wine has a minimum alcoholic content of 13% and undergoes a rigorous aging process of thirty months, including twelve months in wooden barrels. This process imparts depth and complexity to the wine. It pairs exceptionally well with rich dishes like rabbit in chestnut sauce, where the wine’s robust flavors complement the hearty and nuanced taste of the dish.
The passito variety of Montefalco Sagrantino, on the other hand, also features a dark red color. It has a fruity nose reminiscent of blackberries, which is both inviting and complex. The palate is full-bodied with hints of fruit, well-balanced, and marked by a high tannin content.
This makes it an excellent dessert wine suitable for pairing with dry pastries. The balance between its fruitiness and tannins makes it a delightful end to a meal, complementing the textures and flavors of various pastries.
Torgiano, a picturesque community centrally located in Umbria near Perugia and Assisi, is not just a hub of natural beauty and historical significance but also a prolific wine-making area.
In 1968, Torgiano wine was the first from Umbria to be awarded the DOC designation. More recently, it’s the quality of its wines, rather than just its scenic and historical allure, that has been drawing attention.
Torgiano Rosso, a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Trebbiano grapes, is particularly noteworthy. It features a complex, vinous bouquet with berry scents, leading to a dry, well-balanced, medium-bodied taste.
Its ruby red tint is visually appealing, and with an alcoholic content of 12.5%, it pairs excellently with robust dishes like roasted spicy pork, mixed fried foods, and aged cheeses, where its balance and medium body can complement the rich and spicy flavors.
Torgiano Bianco, the wine made from Grechetto and Trebbiano grapes, offers a different yet equally enticing profile. It has a straw yellow color of varying intensity, a flowery and pungent vinous scent, and a pleasantly acidulous palate, dry and slightly fruity.
Its alcohol content ranges between 10.5% and 11%, making it an excellent match for seafood dishes, mainly baked scrod, where its acidity and light fruitiness can enhance the flavors of the fish.
Torgiano Rosé: a blend of Canaiolo, Trebbiano, and Sangiovese grapes, stands out with its bright salmon-pink hue. It has a delicate, fruity bouquet and a brisk, dry, fresh flavor.
With an alcohol content of 11.5%, it’s ideally paired with lighter fare like vegetable omelets and legume soups, where its freshness and delicacy can complement the dishes’ flavors without overpowering them.
Torgiano Rosso Riserva (DOCG)
The Torgiano Rosso Riserva, a distinguished wine under the DOCG classification, is a blend of Trebbiano, Canaiolo, Sangiovese, and other red grapes. This wine is renowned for its longevity and must age for three years starting from the first of November of the harvest year. This aging process is key to developing its unique characteristics.
It exhibits a dark ruby color, indicating its depth and richness. On the nose, it presents a vinous and complex aroma, distinguished by its exceptional length and elegance. When you taste it, you’ll notice a warm, full-bodied experience with well-balanced and slightly tannic notes, making it a robust and sophisticated choice. With an alcohol content of 12.5%, it strikes a perfect balance between strength and flavor.
This wine is excellent for hearty meat dishes like roast beef and game meats. Its full-bodied nature and slight tannins are well-suited to complement the rich and savory flavors of these dishes, enhancing the overall dining experience.
Three More Umbrian Wine Options
This wine captivates with its intense ruby red color, accented with purple nuances. Its aroma is intriguing, characterized by an intense, herbaceous scent. Rosso Orvietano is soft, elegant, and velvety on the palate, offering a refined tasting experience.
With an alcohol content of 11.5%, it pairs beautifully with hearty dishes like barley or sweet potato casserole, whose soft and velvety texture complements the richness of these comfort foods.
Hailing from Assisi, the town of Saint Francis, Grechetto is a delightful white wine. It showcases a light straw yellow color, appealing to those who enjoy lighter wines. The nose is subtly fruity, leading to a slightly acidic yet elegant taste.
Its alcohol content is 11.5%, making it a great companion for simple, flavorful starters like bruschetta. The wine’s lightness and subtle acidity perfectly match the olive oil and fresh tomato flavors typically found in bruschetta.
Lago di Corbara:
This wine, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, presents a ruby color with purple streaks. Its vinous scent is pleasant, featuring lively herbaceous notes. The body is harmonious and sometimes austere, creating a balanced and intriguing tasting experience.
With an alcohol content ranging from 12% to 12.5%, Lago di Corbara is versatile enough to pair with various dishes, adding an extra layer of flavor to each meal.