Wine Dharma

September 2012

DharMag September 2012 Umbrian Renaissance

Last Judgment by Signorelli. Resurrection. Travelling in Umbria for wine lovers The Last judgment of Signorelli. Resurrection This is a kind of diary about our last wine trip in Umbria, a wonderful land where human genius and the generosity of Nature have been interweaving with one another for centuries, creating a fabulous landscape made of hills draped with olive trees, forests, vineyards and small stony villages, which recalls the Renaissance frescoes by Perugino.

Umbria is traditionally considered the green heart of Italy, a too simplistic definition for a region that actually has an inestimable artistic and cultural, as well as oenological and culinary, heritage. Umbria has a discreet, hidden charm and luckily also the tourism is less frenetic: tourists are rarefied and roam around warily, as if they wouldn’t break the silence that, a part from some lonely bells, reins supreme. The silence covers also Assisi, and its crows of pilgrims, when the sun goes down, all slowly cools down, the shadows lengthen on the walls, and this calm does nothing but accentuate the feeling of being in a land where the past has never stopped living.

Assisi and St. Francis church. Free travel guide to Umbria: wines and cities! St. Francis That this is the land that gave birth to an army of saints, led by St. Francis and St. Clare, should not be a surprise: the atmosphere is mystical, the mountains surrounding the great Umbrian plains are full of monasteries, churches and solitary places that remember the peace of the Buddhist monasteries on Mount Koya, in Japan: it’s easy to indulge in the pleasure of meditation among these rocks, in search of your ego.

By the way, what is surprising is the variety each area has to offer. Scrolling the map of Umbria you will notice that each city is linked to something good: a specialty reported by Slow Food, a plate of umbricelli topped with delicious truffle slices that will enlighten your day, a white wine in the land of bold reds, a bloody anecdote related to one of the many feudal lords who battled from one castle to another, but mostly will be the simple beauty of the villages to seduce you.


Our journey starts from the south of Umbria, from the beautiful churches in the historic center of this ancient city, which has suffered a sudden industrialization, after the unification of Italy, which has completely changed its physiognomy. On the right bank of the Nera river you can immerse yourself into a steam-punk location that has few equals: old factories, derelict warehouses, iron and steel skeletons sadly dozing among the houses built in the late nineteenth century in what was to be a neighborhood based on the precepts of Industrial positivism. If you like old Industrial architecture this is your place.

Marmore falls. Umbria wine tourism & travel guide to Umbria. Best wines & cities Marmore falls After so much metal, a trip to the Marmore’s waterfalls will quench your thirst for natural wonders, then we can continue to the West, along the border with Lazio: we are entering the DOC Colli Amerini, the youngest in Umbria. You know those fairy tales books’ illustrations, where a castle dominates a sea of chubby wooded hills, with a lot of sunflowers popping in sunny fields and everything seems so peaceful? Well, this is the view that awaits you, many feuds scattered along the road that winds along the course of the Nera river. Stroncono emerging from a sea of ​​olive trees, the fortress of Narni and Amelia, surrounded by walls built by the Cyclops, these are the few, but necessary stops. You do not have to stay here for days and days, cities are delicious on their whole, a walk is enough, and even just traveling from one village to another is a real pleasure.

Wine revelation

Majolo, from Zanchi, unblended Tuscan Malvasia. A white that seems cut in a stone, full and structured, with a warm roundness that unfolds in flowers, butter and ripe yellow plums.

Top Wine

Castello delle Regine’s Merlot. Sumptuous, rich in spices and substance, able to translate the nuances of this rocky terroir into a round and supple elegance.


Orvieto's cathedral. Discover the wines of Umbria and lovely cities of art. Orvieto's Gothic cathedral The particularity of Orvieto is the volcanic stone that grows up in the hills around, making the landscape unique and the wine inimitable. The view of the city standing on a red cliff, with the pinnacles of the cathedral rising in the sky, is so perfect that it seems unreal, like a giant plastic built by divine hands. Maybe watching Las Vegas appears on the horizon, from the Interstate 15, is a comparable shock.

An entire day should be dedicated to the city: the cathedral with the mind blowing frescoes of the Last Judgment by Luca Signorelli and all the finest art collections housed in the palace of the Popes. And if you spare some time, Soliano palace is a monumental tower made of tuff, inside of which you can find a nice statue museum. The next day, lose yourself in the narrow streets and explore the less famous churches, take a jaunt to the Etruscan necropolis just outside the walls and get ready for the wineries tour. Don’t forget to pay a visit to Decugnano dei Barbi, one of the oldest—they have been known since 1212, when it was ecclesiastical possession. Expect very fine whites, a maze of tunnels dug in the tuff and the first Spumante Metodo Classico (sparkling wine) produced in Umbria. Palazzone winery instead has the opposite philosophy: they grow mostly native grapes-Grechetto and Procanico-according to the ancient, classic Orvieto recipe, but with a modern approach and you can find pleasant surprises such as Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Wine revelation

Vigna del Sole, from a small organic winery called Tenuta di Freddano, it is an ode to this land. Clean, saline, with an elegant bouquet of herbs and a zipping thickness that keeps rolling in the mouth.

Top wine

It’s the Orvieto Classico Campo del Guardiano, from a very small cru belonging to Palazzone winery. This is a first class white wine, which displays uniqueness and harmony: it starts with plenty of ripe fruit, broom, almonds, melon, weeds, and suddenly turns to herbs, it becomes almost pungent, always supported by an incredible mineral escalation. The more significant of those tested.

Ficulle, into the wild

Autumn in the vineyard. Umbria wine region guide: plan you own wine trip! Autumn in the vineyards, Vitalonga winery Going north, towards Lake Trasimeno, you’ll come across a less busy, but pristine, rustic charm land. The western hills of Umbria are the ideal destination for those who want nature, hiking in the woods, castles perched on the rocks and very difficult to reach wineries, but which are perhaps among the most original and sincere as output. After a stop in the picturesque and Gothic Ficulle, you just have to prepare to lay siege to the Castello della Sala, where among these peaks is grown a awfully good Pinot Noir. Muffato della Sala is a iconic wine, one of the most stylish and popular Sauterne style wine in Italy and to be honest its reputation is deserved. Although with the 2007 vintage, Palazzone’s Muffa Nobilis has launched down the gauntlet, a gauntlet inlaid with diamonds.

If you love red, bold wines, Vitalonga is your go-to winery. They produce only red wines and with knowledge of the facts, since the surrounding soil is predominantly made of clay. Montepulciano, Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are opulent, tamed by the elegance of oak, very warm and exuberant, even if the goal is to create elegant wines. We are on the right track.

Wine revelation:

Terre di Confine, Vitalonga, a supple wine with plenty of spiced and herby nuances that are gently fading into an echo of plum, cocoa and cherries.

Top wine

Cervaro della Sala. Elegant and fruit driven, with hints of almonds and honey wrapped in a salty zestiness that keeps this gold nectar always ans bravely straight. The finish is carved by a good riddle of sweet and sharp spices with a flash back of slices of ripe golden apple and baked peaches.

Lago Trasimeno

Lake Trasimeno: romantic view. Tourist tips and wine trials in Umbria, cities. Lake Trasimeno A couple of days are enough to stroll along the banks of the lake and discover the villages around. To the east, Castiglione del Lago is clearly the most charming village, thanks to a water bordering walk on the walls of the Castello del Leone. Even Panicale and Magione are lovely towns, especially Magione, for the castle of the Knights of Malta and their winery, which produce unpretentious but juicy wines. We are not so far from Montepulciano, so the soil pedigree is not in question, the lake too helps to create a warm microclimate, making this location ideal for the cultivation of good quality vineyards, among which the most notably are Gamay, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Cabernet.

Wine revelation

The 2008 Nero di Cavalieri. A Pinot Noir in central Italy? Produced from the Knights of Malta’s winery? Are you kidding me? Not at all! It’s fresh, with currants, anise and a delicious minty finish: definitely to try.

Top wine

Capofoco 2008, from Madrevita winery. A delicate wine that has silky textures and the fruity liveliness of the Montepulciano grape: to sip in front of the waves of the lake.


Torgiano is the ultimate city for wine lovers. A small enclave where everything revolves around the precious grape juice fermentation: like a living amphitheater the vines hug the hill on which it stands and inside you will find both the museums of wine and oil and a couple of pretty churches. After that you are free to visit the wineries, with Lungarotti and Terre Margaritelli standing out of the pack.

Focus on Torgiano bianco, made of Trebbiano toscano and Grechetto, a nice, salty and lean edged white wine with plenty of herbs and then Torgiano rosso, made of Sangiovese, a simple, everyday wine with a tart plum and cherry vitality that will seduce you. Torgiano rosso riserva is the high quality DOCG, produced only with the best grapes and has to do one year of barrel aging and a couple of years in the bottle. 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir is the formula for Torgiano Spumante Metodo Classico.

Wine revelation

Costellato 2011, a top notch white Torgiano from Terre Margaritelli, for its mineral freshness that accompanies a vibrant fruit storm.

Top wine

Torgiano rosso riserva Monticchio 2008, from Lungarotti. Monumental structure and mineral intensity condensed into the glass, with spices in the the right spot to make the fruit mysterious and round, yet deliciously tart with rhubarb and tea leaves in evidence.

Our journey in Umbria ends here, for further grape musings check our Montefalco report and the Umbrian wineries pages, but we want to close with a remark to the title: Umbrian Renaissance. We have chosen it in homage to the glorious past of this region, but also because we hope it could be a good omen for the future, for the potential that this area has to become one of the most coveted destination, not just among foodies and wine and St. Francis lovers, but for anyone who wants to discover a wonderful land too.

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