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Here we'll provide you with information to help you discover incredible wines from around the world. Join us on our travels and learn more about our latest finds. We'll also share with you tips and tricks for selecting, storing, and enjoying your wine.

Posts Tagged ‘Umbria’
Umbria, the Green Heart of Italy
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Todini vineyardsSituated in the centre of the Italian peninsula – the only region which is both landlocked and doesn’t share a border with another country – Umbria is 16th (out of 20) in terms of size and 17th in terms of population.

Historically, viticulture has not been as important in Umbria as in neighbouring regions like Tuscany. Orvieto, however, the region’s best-known wine, was once the most celebrated Italian white wine, praised for its semisweet (abboccato) style. Today, Umbria produces approximately 6 million cases of wine annually (15th in Italy in terms of production), less than one third that of Tuscany. There are 2 DOCGs, 11 DOCs, and 6 IGTs in the region.

Geographically Umbria is mostly hilly or mountainous, dominated by the Apennines to the east, with the highest point in the region at Monte Vettore on the border of the Marche (at 2,476 m amsl.) In contrast, the Tiber valley basin forming the border with Lazio to the south is the lowest point in the region at 96 m amsl. The climate is Mediterranean (warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters), and the soils in vineyard sites mainly consist of calcareous clay and sand that is rich in limestone. Rainfall in the winter months is sufficient for the vines, and the region has many lakes – including Lake Trasimeno, Italy’s 4th largest lake – springs, and rivers, making it lusher than Tuscany

Principal wine centres include Assisi, Orvieto, Terni, Montefalco (known for Sagrantino) and Spoleto, all mainly in the western, and southwestern parts of the region. While slightly more than half of the region’s production is red wine, the white wine Orvieto represents over 80% of DOC production.  While Umbria is quickly realizing its potential, quality (DOCG and DOC) production currently accounts for only about one quarter of total annual production.

The flagship wine of Umbria is Orvieto – the region’s largest single DOC and produced near the medieval hill city of the same name – a blend of mostly Trebbiano, with Verdelho, Grechetto, Malvasia, and other local varieties allowed (up to a maximum of 60% in total.) There are two production zones, with Orvieto Classico representing more than 75% of total production. Sweet and semi-sweet versions of Orvieto no longer dominate, now making up less than 5% of total output. Typically dry, light and fresh, with aromas and flavours of ripe pear, apple with spice and mineral notes, more interesting (expressive) versions are a result of winemakers decreasing vineyard yields and using higher percentages of grapes like Grechetto in the blend.

Sangiovese, best known in neighbouring Tuscany for wines like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, is also the principal red-wine grape in Umbria, most notably in the Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG. It is also the main grape in most red DOC blends, many of which will age well for many years, while others are better consumed in their youth. Perhaps what differentiates Umbrian Sangiovese most is that it is blended with a range of different grape varieties, from the traditional indigenous Canaiolo (like Chianti) to French varieties like Gamay and Petit Verdot to international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

In the Montefalco DOC, Sangiovese is blended with a small percentage of the indigenous Sagrantino grape. Unique to Umbria, Sagrantino has ancient origins, that some say can be traced back to Spain. Total production of Sagrantino is small and mostly centred on the hilltop town of Montefalco, this tannic grape is capable of greatness in the right hands. It can constitute 100% of the blend of the much-coveted Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG, and sweet versions – made in passito style – can take on port-like status.

For white wines, Grechetto grapes show the most promise, while Chardonnay and Sauvignon can be good too. Our 100% Grechetto Bianco del Cavaliere Colli Martani DOC from Cantina Franco Todini is particularly good, and we urge you to consider giving it a try.

Umbria is also one of the most fertile regions in all of Italy, and is Italy’s prime source for black truffles. Umbria is also a major source of dried pasta (even though it’s homemade egg pastas have few rivals), legumes (lentils from the town of Castelluccio are protected by IGP), meat (beef and pork), olives (and DOP olive oil), and vegetables. Lake Trasimeno is a source of freshwater fish and eels.  

Typical dishes include hand-rolled egg pasta (cariole and stringozzi), Porchetta, unsalted breads baked in a wood oven (panne casereccio), and sweet buns like pan pepato (with almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and raisins). In Perugia, the home of the famous Baci kiss, chocolate is considered “food”.  

Grechetto’s Coming Out Party
Friday, April 16th, 2010

Grechetto (pronounced greh-KEH-toh) is an Italian white-wine grape of (likely) Greek origins. The grape is planted throughout central Italy, particularly in the Umbria region where it is used in the region’s most important Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) wine Orvieto.

Todini-BiancoDelCavaliere[1]As is often the case with indigenous Italian varietals, Grechetto is also known as, among other names, Greghetto, Greco Spoletino, Stroppa Volpe, Greco Bianco di Perugia, and, in Emilia-Romagna, Pignoletto. However despite having a synonym with a similar name, we are told that Grechetto is not related to the Greco Bianco grape of the Calabria region in the south, (where it made into the amazing Greco di Tufo). You would think there’s a link if they both have Greek origins, but there is research so suggest Grechetto is more closely related to Pignoletto than previously thought, and perhaps Ribolla Riminese, which would suggest Slavic roots.

There is consensus that it was brought to Italy, from Greece, by Etruscan traders some 3,000 years ago, but record keeping seems to end there. We’ll have to wait for more conclusive ampelographic research to confirm Grechetto’s origins.

What we do know is the Grechetto vine is low yielding and able to produce grapes with concentrated aromas and flavours. It is also a hearty vine and the grape’s thick skin provides good resistance to downy mildew, a fungal disease which can attack the vines late in the growing season. On a more positive note, this thick skin also makes Grechetto a suitable grape for the production of late harvest dessert wines, and in particular the famous Tuscan vin santo. In making this heavenly nectar (vin santo literally means “wine of saints” or holy wine), the grapes have to be air dried for 3-5 months to increase sugar levels, and grapes with thicker skins are prized for this purpose as there’s less risk of loss due to rot. But we digress.

In the past, Grechetto was primarily used as a blending grape for making dry table wines, often with Malvasia and/or Trebbiano, where it adds richness and structure to the wines. But because of the higher proportions of Trebbiano, Orvieto DOC was usually considered a somewhat bland wine, and popularity was dropping. By increasing the proportions of Grechetto in the blend, wines like Orvieto seemed more interesting, and therefore more marketable.

As winemakers began to see the potential for the grape on its own, more varietal-labeled Grechetto wines are now being produced in Umbria. The DOC of Colli Martani, for example, allows, and is often made from 100% Grechetto grapes. The key for the grape seems to be (low) temperature-controlled fermentation to enhance the unique aromatics of the wine.

Straw-yellow colour, with greenish tinges, typically, the aromas and flavours of Grechetto are reminiscent of apples, pears, white peaches, wild flowers, and lime citrus, with notes of almonds. Usually made in a medium- to full-bodied style, there’s sufficient acidity to make Grechetto a very good food wine – with seafood, chicken, Asian-style dishes, and mild hard cheese like Pecorino. Simple pasta with olive oil, garlic, and peppers is classic Umbria, and a perfect match for Grechetto.

Grechetto is certainly deserving of the attention it’s getting, and if you want to join its coming out party we have Todini’s Bianco del Cavaliere DOC back in stock: from the winery’s own clone of the grape (Grechetto di Todi) and one of the best versions of 100% Grechetto we’ve tasted.

Vinitaly 2009
Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Once again, we vinitaly_testhad a very successful trip to Vinitaly (April 2 – 5), in Verona, Italy. This is our fifth visit, and we are still amazed with how big the show is — 4,200 exhibitors and over 110, ooo vistors. We met and tasted with all our existing suppliers, and will be adding at least two new producers as a result of our tastings – one producer from Abruzzo (Cantine Galasso) and one from Umbria (Cantina Franco Todini). Overall we were very pleased with all the wines we tasted; we just wished we had the consignment space to bring them all in.