Wine Tasting in Umbria

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“Everyone goes to Tuscany, but I just can’t understand it”.

These were the words I heard time and again during my time at Casa Rosa: from fellow holidaymakers; locals; especially those in the wine industry. And it’s little wonder. Umbria is indeed a “special place”, seemingly unspoiled in its entirety and positively bursting with fertile landscapes – verdant, sprawling scenes that are not only a dream to behold, but ensure the wine produced there is some of the best in the world. No offence to Tuscany, but for this lover of all things vinous, Umbria is up there with the best. It’s not about quantity (Umbria produces just 35% of what its neighbour does, after all) – there’s just something magical about Italy’s green heart. And reluctant as I am, I feel I should share it.

From the moment I arrived at Casa Rosa, I knew I was in for a treat. Accommodation is home-from-home in many ways (hand-painted furniture and wild flowers picked from the garden ensure that), but a wine rack stocked full with a selection of local wines meant I could really slow to the pace of life there; simply sit back with a luscious glass of red, and soak up my surroundings as the sun’s rays dappled down over Mount Subasio.

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And it was a wonderful introduction to the wine I would come to enjoy: my first Casa Rosa offering was the easygoing Rosso della Pia from Cantina Dionigi, an IGT Umbria from a family-run vineyard just a short drive away. Made up of 100% Merlot, it was a fantastic all-rounder for evenings spent at Casa Rosa: full-bodied, deep in colour and with hints of ripe red fruit, it paired as well with our Lasagne as it did with cured cuts of Umbrian pork.

But of course it’s the prestigious Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino that most come here to savour, and so although I was able to sample these from the comfort of Casa Rosa, I still wanted to visit the vineyards – particularly those of Cantina Dionigi, but also neighbouring Tenuta Castelbuono, famed for its incredible carapace designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro.

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A young winery, Tenuta Castelbuono was purchased by the Lunelli family back in 2001; since then, their organic wines have grown from strength to strength, and the carapace – the jewel in the estate’s crown – has been open for visits and tastings since 2012. An enormous copper-covered dome, its position is marked by a large red dart rising vertically from the hills, and yet it doesn’t seem out of tune with its surroundings; it only serves to highlight them. Reminiscent of a tortoise, it really is a special and distinctive winery, suited to the special wines that lie deep at its core. But I won’t go into the incredible detail of its design: visit their website, Tenute Lunelli [www.tenutelunelli.it], to pre-book a guided tour. It comes highly recommended.

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We heard the history of the Lunelli family and the inspiration behind the carapace itself, before venturing down to the enormous oak barrels at its heart. After our fascinating survey of the structure, we were eager to sample the products of such intricate thought and care. Moving from the balanced Ziggurat and complex Lampante (their Montefalco Rosso varieties made up of Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Cabernet and Merlot) we finished with Carapace, their Montefalco Sagrantino – at once gentle and creamy, and yet pleasantly bold with cherry brandy and chocolate. And all this before the joy of their Montefalco Sagrantino Passito, a seductively sweet dessert wine heavy with blackberry jam. Paired with a biscotto (or three), we couldn’t help but leave with a beautifully packaged bottle to relish. Whether it made the journey back to the U.K. – I’ll leave that to your imagination.

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Outside, Cantina Dionigi’s own Montefalco Sagrantino Passito awaited us. The two vineyards are just a short drive from one another in Bevagna, and both can be viewed in their totality from the position of their respective, prestigious neighbour. Of course, we had already completed our homework regarding what to expect of Dionigi – each evening at Casa Rosa was made ever more perfect by sampling their collection, glass in hand on the balcony as we watched fireflies dance in the dark. And yet we wanted to see the winery for ourselves: recently renovated to include a tasting room in its cellar, the family have been producing wine since 1896. Today, they are particularly well known for their dessert wines, with four different varieties to sample. There is, of course, the Montefalco Sagrantino Passito, but also Scialo (100% Moscato), Civic 92 (100% Merlot) and the delightful Passo Greco (100% Grechetto), nothing less than a little glass of Umbrian sunshine. An intense golden-yellow colour, it is lively in almonds and honey – a real treat.

After much talk, laughter and – of course – myriad tastings of wine, I knew a guided tour of Dionigi was another must-see suggestion for fellow guests of Casa Rosa: connoisseur, enthusiast or simply interested in Umbria’s offerings, it won’t disappoint. Visit their website, Cantina Dionigi [www.cantinadionigi.it] to email and book your own guided tour.

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Of course, for the true oenophile, there are dozens of vineyards to be visited from Casa Rosa, and grape varietals can differ so much from one town to the next, that they promise to persistently satiate the senses. From a picnic at the Munelli family’s SAIO farm [http://www.saioassisi.it/en], to a history lesson and wine tasting in Assisi’s wine bar Bibenda [http://www.bibendaassisi.it], it’s clear Casa Rosa makes an ideal base for wine tasting in Umbria – even if, like me, you can enjoy it equally of an evening from the balcony.

Guide to Umbrian Wine

DOGC: Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita

(or wine produced in a defined region, with original location certified and guaranteed)

Montefalco Sagrantino
Torgiano Rosso Riserva

DOC: Denominazione di Origine Controllata

(or quality wines produced in a defined region, with original location certified)

Assisi
Colli Altotiberini
Colli Amerini
Colli del Trasimeno
Colli Martani
Colli Perugini
Lago di Corbara
Montefalco
Orvieto
Orvietano Rosso
Torgiano

IGT: Indicazione Geografica Tipica

(or table wines typical of the geographic area)

Allerona
Bettona
Cannara
Narni
Spello
Umbria

Suggested Wineries in Umbria

Agricola Ruggeri G. S.S. (Location: Belvedere, Montefalco)
Antonelli S. Marco (Location: San Marco, Montefalco)
Arnaldo Caprai (Location: San Marco, Montefalco)
Azienda Agraria Brunozzi Giorgio (Location: Colle Arfuso, Montefalco)
Azienda Agricola Adanti (Location: Via Belvedere, Bevagna)
Bea Paolo (Location: Cerrete, Montefalco)
Benincasa (Location: Capro, Bevagna)
Bocale (Location: Via Fratta Alzatura, Montefalco)
Còlpetrone (Location: Strada Ponte la Mandria, Marcellano)
Cantina di Giano (Location: S. Sabino, Giano dell’Umbria)
Cantina Le Cimate (Location: Via Cecapecore, Montefalco)
Colle Ciocco (Location: Pietrauta, Montefalco)
Di Filippo (Location: Conersino, Cannara)
Dionigi (Location: Madonna della Pia, Bevagna)
Fattoria Colleallodole (Location: Colle Allodole, Bevagna)
Fongoli S.S. (Location: San Marco, Montefalco)
Lungarotti (Location: Turrita, Montefalco)
Pennacchi Domenico (Location: Sant’Angelo, Marcellano)
Perticaia (Location: Casale, Montefalco)
Poggio Turri (Location: Poggio Turri, Montefalco)
Raína (Location: Via Turri Case Sparse, Montefalco)
Romanelli (Location: Colle San Clemente, Montefalco)
Scacciadiavoli (Location: Cantinone, Montefalco)
Tabarrini (Location: Frazione Turrita, Montefalco)
Tenuta Castelbuono (Location: Castellaccio, Bevagna)
Terre de la Custodia (Location: Palombara, Gualdo Cattaneo)