Ask someone what’s the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Italy and many will invariably respond, Tuscany!  This also couldn’t be more true for lovers of Italian wine.  However, Tuscany’s neighbor Umbria, often regarded as somewhat of an after thought, is full of riches that are not dissimilar from the treasures that Tuscany has to offer.  In fact, crossing the border from Tuscany to Umbria may not be something one even notices, if you are distracted from the seas of sunflower fields, the oceans of vineyards, olive groves, and the hilltop fortress towns that dominate the landscape.

Central to this theme are the medieval hill towns of Orvieto, home to the DOCG white wine of the same name. Made mostly from the Trebbiano grape, the wines are often light, crisp and refreshing and serve as excellent foils to light pasta dishes, pesto, and chicken dishes.  The cultural and religious center of Umbria revolves around Perugia and Assisi, near the center of the province.  Perugia is the capital of Umbria and boasts a magnificent Piazza filled with art, church architecture and amazing mountain top vistas. And of course, it’s home to Perugina, whose “Baci” have become world famous.   Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis is among the most revered sites in Italy. 

Trebbiano Grapes on the vine in Orvieto

Further South in Umbria, is the hill town of Montefalco.  Surrounded by vineyards, it looks like any wine producing hill town in Tuscany.  However, the grape of prominence here is Sagrantino, from which the DOCG wine Sagrantino di Montefalco is produced. With only 250 acres dedicated to the grape, the wine is not widely known outside of Italy, even though it was granted DOCG status in 1991. The grape is one of the most tannic varieties in the world, and creates wines that are inky blackish purple in color. The DOCG regulations require that Sagrantino di Montefalco be made from 100 percent Sagrantino grapes, with a minimum of 29 months aging before release.  I recently wrote about the excellent Colpetrone Sagrantino only a few weeks ago.   

In addition to Sagrantino, Colpetrone also produces a wine called Rosso di Montefalco, which earns DOC status.  Unlike it’s “big brother” Sagrantino,  Rosso di Montefalco is a blended wine, based primarily on the Sangiovese grape.  The 2006 Colpetrone Rosso di Montefalco  is 70% Sangiovese and 30% Sagrantino.   The color looks about as dark as you would expect from a “baby Sagrantino”.  It’s deep crimson, black red. Aromas are full of flowers, crushed berries and fresh pipe tobacco. It’s wonderful to smell. The palate is rougher, a bit more rustic.  There are earth tones and herbs mixed in with the red fruit flavors. It’s well balanced, and from this excellent vintage, can actually benefit from 6-12 months further cellar aging to smooth out it’s ample tannic backbone.  It’s delicious,  90 points. 

The 2006 Colpetrone Montefalco Rosso

Just across the border from Tuscany is a small, quaint, picturesque hill town called Castiglione del Lago.  Loosely translated as “Castle of the Lake”, the town sits right alongside Lake Trasimeno, one of the largest lakes in Italy.  The town is dominated by the church at one end, and it’s castle at the other end, which stands guard over the lake.  Shop owners peddle everything from ceramics to leather goods and the other culinary riches of the region: the black truffle. 

View of Lago di Trasimeno from Town Center
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