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Umbrian Reds

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August 30, 2014 / Italian / By
Anna

If, during a stay in Umbria, you find yourself in the wine section of a supermarket in Bevagna, Montefalco or Foligno, the array of red wines may be a little confusing. You’ll probably search for familiar names like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz or Pinot Noir and indeed, you’ll find a few, but you’ll be taking your drinking pleasures well outside of this lovely region. Here’s a brief guide to the red wines of my part of Umbria and a few names to look out for in supermarkets, specialist wine shops (enotecha) and restaurant menus.

 

Two key names on labels to look out for are Umbria Rosso and Montefalco Rosso. What’s the difference? Well, price, to be sure, but apart from that, not a lot, as both are blended wines, using basically the same three reds in the mix, though of course there will be subtle differences in percentages used and quality and age of grapes in different vineyards. The main component wine of an Umbria Rosso, or a Montefalco Rosso is the lovely, velvety red produced by the Sangiovese grape. Typically, it accounts for around 70% of the mix. The remaining 30% is comprised of two other grape varieties – Merlot and Sagrantino, though just in what percentages is down to the individual preferences and skills of the vineyard alchemists. Roughly 20% Merlot and 10% Sagrantino is probably about right.

So if they are basically the same, why the different names? Montefalco Rosso usually comes from quite a wide circle with the beautiful town of Montefalco at its centre. You wouldn’t find a Montefalco Rosso being produced from vineyards in the Lago Trasimeno area, for example, but you will certainly see Umbria Rosso coming from this area. Another key difference is that Montefalco Rosso is a registered name – like Champagne – and to qualify as a Montefalco Rosso, the wine has to be certified as meeting the required standards and characteristics by a Certifying Authority (D.O.C.). This can be quite an expensive process for some of the smaller vineyards, hence they leave their perfectly good wines at the Umbria Rosso level of labeling, where all that is required is that the grapes are grown and the wine fermented within Umbria. This is all good news for the consumer, as an Umbria Rosso is usually cheaper than a Montefalco Rosso.

The rock star grape of the Montefalco region is undoubtedly the Sagrantino and all the vineyards pride themselves on the quality of their 100% Sagrantino wines. A word of caution here though – the Italians would never dream of sitting down and just drinking wine alone. Food should always be present and Sagrantino is always intended to accompany a strong, gamey meat dish. As a wine on its own, it’s like the driest Pinot Noir you have ever tasted – but drunk with a wild boar stew, or venison, or a Norcia salami, it’s in a class of its own.

Sagrantino has another attractive quality that sadly, summer visitors won’t get to see. In the late Autumn – the last half of October to early November, the leaves on the vines turn a spectacular fiery red, as glorious as the autumnal maples of the forest of Japan.

 

Finally, a quick word about some labels you will certainly see in supermarkets, enoteche and restaurants. Look out for Arnaldo Caprai, Antonelli, Scacciadiavoli, Adante, Colpetrone and spectacular newcomer, Tenuta Castelbuono. There are many wonderful vineyards in Umbria and discovering a new star is all part of the fun. Buon pranzo!


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Country: Italy

Province/State: Umbria

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$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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