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Umbrian Whites

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August 31, 2014 / Italian / By
Anna

This time, we’ll take a look at white grape varieties of Umbria, particularly those grown in the vineyards near Bevagna and Montefalco.

The majority of Umbrian white wine comes from the grechetto grape, and that’s the name to look for on the wine bottle label. An acquaintance of mine, whom I shall refer to as The Doctor, measures all white wine against the spicy and fresh herbaceous flavors of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. As far as The Doctor is concerned, the best thing that can be said about grechettos and other Umbrian whites is that they taste like wine. If the strong and lusty flavors of Aotearoa are what you are after, best look away now, or maybe try the wines of the cooler regions of Northern Italy – Trento, Alto Adige and Veneto. Like all Italian wines, the Umbrian whites are intended for consumption with food and that does make a considerable difference to how they taste.

There’s also a good case for saying that an expensive grechetto delivers more than a cheap one. Expensive? Cheap? How expensive? How cheap? Good grechettos can be bought from vineyard wine shops (cantinas) for as little as €3.50 a bottle, while the top vineyard grechettos rarely exceed €8.00. These prices are often the same, or maybe a euro more in the supermarkets and only €10 – 12 in the top restaurants of the area. So there’s no need to go paying over the top prices, but a bottle in the €10-12 will definitely be more satisfying than a carafe of house white wine – which will still be grechetto – for €4-6.

Umbria’s second most common white grape is the Trebbiano, which also happens to be one of the most common white varieties in the whole world. Specifically, in this part of Southern Umbria, you will probably encounter the Trebbiano Spoletino white, which is a protected name for the Trebbiano whites produced within a certain geographic distance of the town of Spoleto – south east of Bevagna and Montefalco. Trebbiano Spoletino has been somewhat out of favor compared with grechetto-based whites in recent years, but may be staging quite a significant come-back. Even The Doctor commented “lovely” on a recent sampling of a 2013 Perticaia Trebbiano Spoletino. It must have tasted like something more than wine!

Both Grechettos and Trebbiano Spoletinos go very well with fish or white meat dishes, a nice fresh cheese like Pecorino, or a summer pasta served with a fresh tomato sauce.

Watch this space for two relative newcomers to the Umbria white wine scene: Montefalco Bianco and Viognier. Montefalco Bianco is a blended white – a mix of mostly Grechetto, with Trebbiano Spoletino and Chardonnay added. It’s early days yet and some of the better-known local vineyards have been heard to say that they’re not quite happy with the blend yet, but what I have tasted has made me very happy. Viognier is better known as a French wine variety, but at least one Umbrian vineyard is making a blended wine consisting of about 85% Viognier and 15% Muscato Bianco wine with rather spectacular results.

When you visit Umbria, in particular our area of Bevagna – Montefalco, you will certainly see these labels in supermarkets, enoteche (specialist wine shops) and restaurants. Look out for Arnaldo Caprai, Antonelli, Scacciadiavoli, Adante, Perticaia and Tiburzi. The Viognier I described above might be a little harder to find: it is produced by Tenuta San Rocco in the little hamlet of Due Santi, close to the town of Todi. 


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