From delicious cuisine to the Renaissance, Italy has given us incredible works of art for centuries. Stepping into Italy’s wine industry is like stepping back in time.
Italy not only holds the distinction of being one of the most prestigious Old World wine-producing countries, but they’re also the largest producer and provide most of the United Kingdom’s wine exports.
Still, red wine is the most popularly consumed type, though you’ll want for nothing when browsing Italy’s white and rosés. Umbria is one of the lesser-known regions, though it’s not for lack of quality!
Curious to learn more about Italian wines? Continue reading to learn more about the wines of Umbria and what makes them distinctive from other regions.
A Brief History of Italian Wines
Where to even begin with Italian wines? While New World regions like Australia and New Zealand got their start a few centuries ago, Italy is believed to be one of the oldest wine-producing countries.
While the oldest wine-producing country is Georgia, Italy follows close behind. Italy’s winemaking roots stretch back all the way to the 2nd Century.
In fact, every single region in Italy is an official wine region. Greek influence would see Sicily becoming the spearhead for complex viticulture, although Roman influence would later prohibit wine exports outside of Italy.
What Italian Wine Terms Should I Know?
When browsing wine, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of vocabulary you don’t know. We have a few keywords you should check out to make your browsing experience more enjoyable.
Also known as Reserva in Spanish, a Riserva is an Italian wine that has had a minimum of two years of oak aging and three years aging in the bottle.
Aged wines often display complexity and subtlety not found in their younger counterparts, mainly highly tannic and acidic red wine.
This term is Italian for red wine. You’ll often see the origin and wine type following afterward, though even this isn’t always clear! For example, a Rosso Piceno is a red wine grown in the Marche region of Italy.
Similar to how specialty coffee roasters focus on a single origin, many Italian winemakers focus on a single vineyard.
Vigna refers to a single vineyard, often held to stricter quality control standards than bottles that come from multiple vineyards.
Which Wine Grapes Originated in Italy?
If you regularly browse the wine rack at your local grocer, you may be familiar with a few Italian wine grapes already. Wine grapes that originated in Italy include (but aren’t limited to):
It’s estimated Italy is home to at least two thousand grapes native to the region.
Breaking Down the Umbria Wine Region
Umbria is centered in a prime location for both wine and history buffs. With Rome to the South and Tuscany to the East, you won’t have to travel far to find fascinating detail to pair with your glass of Sangiovese.
Although Umbria isn’t quite as visited as Piedmont and Veneto, it enjoys the attention as an antiquated slice of Italian culture.
Small and landlocked, Umbria has been seeing slow-yet-steady economic expansion in several agricultural sectors. Unsurprisingly, the Umbrian wine scene is receiving acclaim for delectable single-origin wines.
What is Umbria, Italy Known For?
Fun fact! This region earned its name due to being a key producer of umber, a reddish-brown paint favored by traditional painters.
What Wine is Umbria Known For?
Umbria is the origin of the red wine grape Sagrantino, producing it alongside Italian heavyweights like Sangiovese and Brunello. When it comes to white wine, Umbria predominantly produces Grochetto and Trebbiano.
What is Orvieto?
Orvieto is both a zone and a popular Italian wine region in Umbria. Italian zones will encompass areas such as provinces, towns, and lakes.
The Wine Regions of Umbria
While Umbria is an official wine region, this location is divided into several subregions that also double as winemaking methods, all of which are named after the town or city they’re created in.
Freshly introduced into Italy’s DOC back in 2010 (that’s short for Denominazione di Origine Controllata), Todi is a wine region that blends old-fashioned winemaking techniques with a distinctly modern twist.
Unlike most Italian wine regions, Todi is particularly fond of Merlot and uses it in both blends and standalone bottles. You may have a difficult time finding the Todi label on wine bottles due to its new status as a region.
Montefalco is somewhat older than Todi, but is still not nearly as ancient as some regions. Established in 1979, Montefalco is a rustic town residing in Central Umbria.
This quaint region has a slew of designations to make its wine stand out. For starters, Montefalco Rosso is required to be aged at least eighteen months. Their Montefalco Rosso Riserva is even more prestigious and often fetches a high price.
This wine region doubles as both a small town and a commune with its roots in medieval times. Historians are still uncovering ancient Roman remains in this traditional town.
Assisi officially became a wine region in 1997, becoming well-known for producing a high volume of red wines such as Pinot Nero and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Like many Italian wines, the region name is often attached to the grape varietal name. For example, Assisi Bianco is a term that immediately tells you it’s a Trebbiano white wine blend made in Assisi.
Wineries of Umbria, Italy
You could focus on Umbrian wines for the next several years and still run into dazzling surprises. The culture and history of this little region are incredibly deep!
Here are a few wineries for you to get started, all with their own compelling perspectives on an old tradition.
This family-owned winery is located in Orvieto, Umbria. The second you open up their site you’re given breathtaking photos of golden hills and tenderly maintained vineyards.
Decugnano Dei Barbi first got its start producing wines back in 1978, holding the distinction of crafting both the first traditional sparkling wine and Noble Rot wine in Umbria.
Just what is Noble Rot wine? This phenomenon occurs when a specific type of fungus grows on wine grapes, dramatically increasing sweetness and altering flavor. Despite the name, it’s perfectly safe to drink.
While that may sound unappealing, several foods people eat today are actively designed with safe, edible mold in mind. Dried salami and blue cheese are two popular examples.
That said, don’t think you can just go eat any mold. Most mold isn’t safe for consumption, so stick to the classics!
History buffs, eat your heart out. Madonna del Latte is a dream for wine drinkers who want to dive in deep into the architectural and cultural details behind the bottle.
Madonna del Latte is an old estate that was converted into a winery in 2007. Its wine cellars are believed to have their roots in an ancient tomb, now outfitted with modern wine-making technology such as fermentation cellars and humidity control.
Likewise, the winemakers overseeing the estate commit to organic farming methods to preserve the rich, volcanic soil.
This winery boasts Italian staples such as Pinot Nero and Grechetto alongside French grapes like Viognier.
With a history stretching back several centuries, the Tili family are longtime experts in growing quality wine, olive oil, and fruit.
This winery is located in Assisi, a region that’s known for soil rich in sodium and organic matter. To protect their investment, Tili Vini avoids the use of herbicides and pesticides in favor of traditional farming methods.
Today Tili Vini offers virtual wine tasting events to keep its portfolio as accessible as possible. These events are accompanied by food pairings, history classes, and guided tours.
Best Wines of Umbria, Italy
Eager to add a few Umbrian bottles to your shelf? We’ve selected a handful of red, white, and rosés across a variety of price points so you’ll find a match.
Ruffino Orvieto Classico
Let’s start off with a wine that’s both light on the palate and your wallet. The Ruffino Orvieto Classico is a refreshing sipping wine just begging to be chilled on a hot day.
Expect dominant flavor notes of pear and lemon zest. Blended with Trebbiano and Ugni Blanc, this bottle has a uniquely nutty and mineral finish you won’t find in many white wines.
We recommend pairing this wine with a lean fish and rice dish or a fresh salad.
Cantina Dell’Alunno Montefalco Rosso
A must-have pit stop on your Italian wine journey is trying one of the famed Montefalco Rossos. This Sangiovese is hearty and savory, ideal for drinkers who want to experience red wines that lean away from traditional fruit notes.
The dominant flavors here are earthy and herbal, hearkening to rustic tomato and cranberries. The full-bodied mouthfeel and long finish would pair beautifully with a potato or ravioli dish.
Orvieto DOC Classico Superiore
Another necessary stop is with the classic Orvieto wine. Named after the region, this bottle is blended with Grechetto and Trebbiano to balance out each grape’s propensity for herbal flavors and fruitiness, respectively.
The winemakers recommend this dainty and refreshing bottle as an aperitif or with appetizers.
Decugnano Dei Barbi Villa Barbi Rosso
This red wine was given a serious head start, nurtured by soils filled with fossilized remains. Just like us, wine grapes need a healthy and varied diet to bring out their best.
This blend mixes Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Merlot for an incredible result. Expect dark, jammy fruit, baking spices, and a husky leathery finish.
Tili Vini Assisi Rosso Doc
With four years of oak aging and organic farm methods, this wine is as carefully nurtured as a newborn babe. You’ll instantly smell the quality when you pop open this bottle over your next homemade dinner.
This red blend combines Sangiovese, Merlot, and Canaiolo for a spiced red wine with a velvety mouthfeel.
Baiocco Sangiovese Umbria Rosso
Want to just stick with Sangiovese? This bottle is a single-origin Sangiovese that is proudly advertised as being on the younger side, designed for easy sipping and pairing.
Unlike their more savory counterparts, young Sangiovese is often bright and fruit-forward. Expect cherry and raspberry notes in this sweet, tasty bottle.
Azienda Agraria Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Grechetto
As explored above, the most popular white wine in Umbria is easily Grechetto. Interestingly enough, Grechetto is not often compared to other white wines, but pale rosés.
This acidic and fruity bottle leans on the drier side, ideal when paired with juicy chicken or a nutty salad.
Why Should I Drink Umbrian Wines?
The Umbria region of Italy is a hidden gem just begging to be explored. With several fantastic wineries to their name and fascinating art history, you’ll have a lot to think about as you sip your newest purchase.
Umbria is known for producing high-quality Grochetto and Sangiovese. To top things off, Sangratino originated in Umbria, known for being a highly tannic red wine grape with amazing aging potential.
When you select an Umbrian wine, be on the lookout for terms like Riserva or Vigna. With every new term you learn, you get closer to finding bottles that completely change the way you look at wine.
Want to keep learning about wine regions? Check out our pieces on Victoria and Bordeaux!
- The Top Wine Producing Regions In The World
- Grape Varieties – Know The Grapes That Make Up Your Favorite Wine
- Best Gifts For Wine Lovers – Something To Enjoy With Their Tipple!