Archive for the Towns Category

Wine In Tuscany Part VII, Central Tuscany: Wines Other Than Chianti, Brunello & Montepulciano

Carmignano, Pomino, Colline Aretine, Colline Senesi, San Gimignano, Siena, Val d’Arbia and Val d’Orcia

Colline Fiorentine and Colline Pratesi (hills around Florence and Prato). 

Carmignano is in the hills to the west of Florence, there are 200 hectares of vineyard here. The area has traditionally grown the uva francese, (better known as cabernet sauvignon) and blended it with sangiovese, long before this blend became fashionable all over central Italy. In 1975 the area was awarded its own DOCG which stipulates that the wine should be at least 50% sangiovese, a maximum of 20% canaiolo, between 10 and 20% cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc and other varieties up to 10%. Because these rules are flexible Carmignano DOCG wines can vary greatly in style: alcoholic and structured if the maximum amount of cabernet (20%) and other international grapes (10%) are used; softer and full of minerals if the maximum 80% sangiovese is used. You may also come across another wine from Carmignano called Barco Reale Rosso DOC, it has the same blending rules but shorter ageing in oak.

Pomino is to the north east of Florence and overlaps with the Chianti Rufina zone. Like Carmignano, it is an area where French grapes have been traditionally grown. Pomino is available as both white and red wines. Pomino Bianco DOC can be made from 100% chardonnay or blended with pinot bianco and pinot grigio. Pomino Rosso is made with sangiovese, pinot nero and merlot.

Colline Aretine (hills around Arezzo) there are three distinct areas to this wine growing area, Valdarno Aretino, Valdichiana and Cortona. As well as producing Chianti Colli Aretini DOCG, a wide range of wines are made in the Valdarno and highly regarded Syrah is produced around Cortona.

The Valdichiana (the wide flat valley floor below Cortona) was once known only for Bianco Vergine della Valdichiana DOC (current rules stipulate that it should be made with at least 20% trebbiano and up to 80% chardonnay, in addition pinot grigio, pinot bianco and grechetto are also permitted). Today there are several DOCs from the area that include whites made with chardonnay and grechetto and reds made from sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. There are also DOCs for sparkling wines, rosé and Vin Santo.

Colline Senesi (Sienese Hills). This area includes San Gimignano, Val d’Arbia, Montalcino, Montepulciano and the Val d’Orcia.

San Gimignano The white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, is made with the vernaccia grape (vernaccia has the same latin root as the English “vernacular” and therefore implies that the grape is specific to the area, just to add to the confusion, I have come across another (red) grape with the same name in Umbria). There are 800 hectares of vineyard around San Gimignano producing Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG wine. The wine is soft and has a decisive minerality with notes of dried fruit, flint and hydrocarbons. Look out for the Riserva, which has had a year ageing in oak.

Siena look out for Terre di Casole and Grance Senesi, both wines with a sangiovese base.

Val d’Arbia produces vin santo and some dry white wines.

Val d’Orcia is between Montalcino and Montepulciano, it includes the towns of Pienza and San Quirico Val d’Orcia. The wines vary in type thanks to soils that range from clay in the north to more sandy and rocky, becoming volcanic further south, the reds are sangiovese based.

 

Monte Amiata & The Val d'Orcia

Other Wines From Central Tuscany

Wine In Tuscany Part VI, Central Tuscany: Montepulciano

Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG

Montepulciano has its own variety of sangiovese, prugnolo gentile, which is used to make Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG and Vino Rosso di Montepulciano DOC. A word of caution, do not confuse the red montepulciano grape (grown widely in central Italy) with the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany (famous for sangiovese based wines). If you come across a wine called Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or see montepulciano listed in the grape blend then the wine is made with the grape and doesn’t come from the town. 

The rules for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano stipulate that sangiovese should be at least 70% of the blend with a maximum of 30% complementary grapes such as canaiolo nero and merlot (the latter is a recent addition to the rules).  is aged for 2 years (minimum 1 year in oak), 3 years for a Riserva (with, I assume, 2 years in oak). 

There are 1300 hectares of vineyard producing Montepulciano wines, they are planted between 200 and 600 metres and this variation in elevation, along with diverse soil types ranging from sandy to clay / sand and stone, means that different styles of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are available. In addition there are traditionalist producers who blend sangiovese with local varieties and age in large oak barrels (botte) and modernists who blend with merlot and use barriques. Traditional wines tend to have aromas of dried violets, wild cherry and pepper, they are soft and full of flavour. Modern style wines are still soft but have more structure.

Rosso di Montepulciano DOC has the same grape blend but is aged for a shorter time. They tend to cost less than the DOCG and have  aromas of fresh violets and cherries, they less structured than the Vino Nobile and accompany lighter dishes.

Montepulciano, Home Of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG

Wine In Tuscany Part V, Central Tuscany: Brunello Di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Brunello di Montalcino the hills around the Tuscan town of Montalcino produce some of the most expensive and sought after wines in Italy, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. In fact, in 1980, Brunello became the first ever area to be awarded DOCG status (if you’re not sure what this means look at my post on Italian Wine Terms. The area in which Brunello di Montalcino can be grown is a rough square shape with Montalcino located in the north east of the square, it is about 16km across, there are around 250 producers, of whom one third own less than three hectares of vineyard. The production is limited, around 6.5 million bottles are produced each year. The grape used to make Brunello is a particular sangiovese clone, brunello or sangiovese grosso, which has a high level of polyphenols and tannin in the skin. The soils here are chalk and schist, a combination of grape, microclimate, soil and elevation mean that the wines here are highly structured and suitable for lengthy ageing. Brunello is made from 100% sangiovese grosso grapes, has been grown in the DOCG area, has to spend at least two years in oak and cannot be released until 50 months after the harvest. If you come across a bottle labelled Riserva, it will have spent three years in oak.

There are four distinct areas within the DOCG zone, north, east, south and west. The north facing slope has the widest change in temperature and limestone soil known as crete. The wines made here are robust and packed with aroma, in the mouth they have noticeable minerality and acidity.

The western facing slope has a warm climate mitigated by winds blowing in from the Mediterranean, the wines here are noted for their minerality and longevity. The eastern slopes are the coldest and the grapes take longer to mature on the vine, producing wines that are highly structured with lively acidity and decisive tannins. The southern slopes produces wines with the highest alcohol content thanks to the lower rainfall and higher temperatures.

In addition to the variation caused by terroir, there are two distinct winemaking styles, some producers opt for ageing in botte, the traditional larger barrels, which give a more subtle oak influence whilst others use smaller barriques. Traditional style Brunello di Montalcino has a intense garnet colour (an orange tinted red) with earthy aromas along with leather and tobacco. In the mouth it has a good acidic backbone and important tannins. Modern Brunellos have a deep ruby colour with intense aromas of fruit and sweet spice, they tend to be softer and less austere.

Other wines from Montalcino include Rosso di Montalcino DOC, again made with 100% sangiovese grosso but aged for less time, Sant’Antimo DOC, a very flexible denomination that allows for several types of wine including red and white wines and Moscadello di Montalcino DOC, a sweet wine made with moscato grapes. The Brunello DOCG area overlaps with a part of Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG, however, most producers will not release any wines under this denomination thanks to the higher price commanded by Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.

Montalcino & The Surrounding Area

Wine In Tuscany Part IV, Central Tuscany: Chianti

The Chianti Wine Region In Central Tuscany

The term Chianti has been around since 1398 but the original wine produced in the Chianti area was white. By 1716 the area now known as Chianti Classico was officially established. In 1870 Barone Riccasoli wrote a recipe for Chianti which listed sangiovese as the principle grape blended with 15% canaiolo and 15% malvasia bianca. There are still producers who will make Chianti with a percentage of malvasia bianca or trebbiano but this is not permitted in Chianti Classico.

Today the area producing Chianti has increased and there are now eight officially recognised Chianti growing areas, including the original area, Chianti Classico. The Chianti region now stretches between Montalcino in the south and Pistoia in the north, and from Arezzo in the east and San Gimignano in the west. The Chianti Classico region is more or less directly between Florence and Siena. Total production of Chianti is 70,000,000 litres of which 25,000,000 litres are Chianti Classico DOCG, recognisable by the black cockerel on the label around the neck.

Because there are so many Chianti zones and rules it is quite easy for the consumer to become confused. The latest rules state that a Chianti Classico (from the original Chianti zone) should be at least 80% sangiovese with no white grapes added, the other permitted grapes are local red varieties such as canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera or the international varieties cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Chianti from outside the Classico region should be should be at least 70% sangiovese with the remaining made up with local varieties or cabernet sauvignon and merlot. A small amount of white grapes (trebbiano and malvasia) are permitted. Additional varieties are not obligatory, a Chianti can be 100% sangiovese if the winemaker wishes.

To the best of my understanding the following correct: If a Chianti is attributed to one of the sub-zones (Chianti Classico, Rufina etc.) it will be labelled as a DOCG. There are, however, many Chiantis produced within the Chianti region that are outside one of the DOCG sub-zones (or made with grapes that derive partially from a sub-zone) and these are labelled as DOC wines. This is because the region is actually larger than the eight DOCG zones. I’ve trained as an Italian sommelier and I still feel a bit uncertain about this, so, if you are an ordinary consumer, don’t be surprised if you are feeling confused! 

Chianti Classico as mentioned above there are rules that distinguish Chianti Classico from other Chiantis. Not only does it come from the original Chianti area but the minimum amount of sangiovese is higher (80%). There are three distinct styles of Chianti Classico, traditional, innovative and international.

Traditionalists use the local Varieties Of Grape (sangiovese, colorino, ciliegolo, malvasia nera) and age the wine in large barrels called botte. Innovators use traditional grapes but age the wine in small barrels (barriques) which give the wine a pronounced oak. Internationalists use international varieties of grape in the blend and also age in barriques.

There are 6800 hectares of vineyard in Chianti Classico. Greve, San Casciano, Radda, Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga are the main towns and slight variations in the soil type produce different wines from each each area. In general, the wines produced here are elegant and can withstand a long ageing thanks to their tannins and acidity.

Colli Senesi to the south of Chianti Classico, the Colli Senese actually comprises three separate areas. The northern area includes San Gimignano, Colle Val d’Elsa, Monteriggioni and Siena, some of this area overlaps with the DOCG for Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The south east includes Murlo and Sovicille and the south east Sinalunga, Pienza and Chiusi, the latter overlaps with the Brunello di Montalcino and Montepulciano DOCG zones. There are 1400 hectares of vineyard in the Colli Senese and generally, wines with a good structure and typical cherry aromas are produced here

Rùfina 800 hectares located at the north east of the Chianti zone, the area overlaps with that of Pomino wine. Historically, wines from Rufina supplied the city of Florence as they could be loaded onto boats and taken down the river. The wines, when young, are fruity and tannic but a Riserva can age for twenty years.

Colli Fiorentini The hills surrounding Florence comprise 620 hectares of vineyard. The wines are fruity with moderate structure, often undergoing a short period in oak.

Montesperstoli became part of the Chianti region in 1996, a small area next to Colli Fiorentini, there are 1400 hectares of vineyard producing wines with a lively acidity.

Colli Aretini The hills around the town of Arezzo have 140 hectares of vineyard producing wines of medium structure.

Colli Pisane the westernmost Chianti region has a milder climate influenced by  the Mediterranean Sea. The wine here is softer with distinct notes of cherry.

Montalbano at the north west of the region makes less structured wines for drinking at a younger age.

Wine In Umbria

Umbria & Wine – An Overview

The region of Umbria is located right in the centre of Italy, the landscape comprises hills, valleys and mountains as well as Lake Trasimeno. Most of the wine growing areas follow the Tiber and other river valleys or are found around the Lake. Since the 1990’s the region’s wines have increased considerably in quality, and, although, by no means as famous (or easily found) as wines from neighbouring Tuscany, their reputation is growing steadily. The climate in this landlocked region is continental, hot summers and cold winters with plenty of ventilation for the vines and rainfall throughout the year (but predominately in the autumn and winter).

You may have come across Orvieto Classico DOC, the famous white wine grown on volcanic soil in the south of the region around the town of the same name. Other wines that you may have noticed outside of Italy are the reds Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG and Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. There are several other DOC wines produced in the region as well as a number of excellent IGTs. If you’re not sure what the terms DOCG, DOC and IGT mean, don’t worry, read my post on Italian Wine Classification and hopefully all will become clear!

A View Of The Pian di Marte From The Preggio Vineyard, Umbria, Italy
A View Of The Pian di Marte From The Preggio Vineyard, Umbria, Italy
A wine glass full of Trebbiano Spoletino, a white wine from Umbria
A wine glass full of Trebbiano Spoletino
View towards Ursula's house and surrounding vineyards.
View towards Ursula's house and surrounding vineyards.

Umbrian Wines & Vines

Around 90,100,000 litres of wine are made in Umbria each year, from roughly half red and half white grapes, 45% DOP (DOCG and DOC) and 44% IGP (IGT).

53% of the wines are red or rosé, the main red grapes are sangiovese, merlot, sagrantino, cabernet sauvignon and montepulciano. The main white grapes are trebbiano and grechetto.

Grape Varieties Grown In Umbria

Red Grapes (percentages are of all grapes grown in Umbria):

Sagrantino (8%) is found mainly around the town of Montefalco from where it originates, and is known for making tannic, full bodied wines. There are hardly any wines with Sagrantino in it from outside Umbria. It is used to make Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG (as a varietal) and blended to make Rosso di Montefalco DOC.

Sangiovese is the most widely grown grape in Umbria contributing to 20% of the total. Sometimes blended (often with cabernet sauvignon and merlot) or made as a varietal, it is most famously used in Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG where it is blended with Canaiolo and other varieties.

Ciliegiolo (2%) is grown all over Umbria but has become associated with the town of Narni which produces a varietal wine with this grape. The wine is delicate, fruity and light in tannin.

Canaiolo Nero (1%) is a local grape, usually added to blends for alcohol, body, softness, fruity aromas and a slight bitterness in the finish.

Montepulciano (2%, note this is a grape and is not the town in Tuscany also famous for wine) is grown all over Umbria but particularly around Terni.

Gamay (1%, confusingly, this is not the Gamay grape used in Beaujolais Nouveaux but is actually Grenache, also known as Garnacha or Cannonau if you drink Spanish and Sardinian wine.) This grape is grown around Lake Trasimeno where it is suited to the climate, sometimes called Gamay del Trasimeno.

Merlot (11%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) are the main red international varieties, these are often blended with Sangiovese (frequently used in Umbrian IGTs) and sometimes released as Bordeaux style (Cabernet and Merlot) wines.

White Grapes (percentages are of all grapes grown in Umbria)

Grechetto (11%) is found all over Umbria, in the past it was often used to make rustic wines intended for local consumption, however, with the use of modern winemaking techniques, the quality of wines from this grape is rising steadily and there are now some excellent examples available. The two main varieties are Grechetto di Todi and Grechetto di Orvieto (used with Trebbiano and other varieties to make Orvieto Classico wines).

Trebbiano (15%). The main varieties grown in Umbria are Toscano, Giallo (yellow) and increasingly Spoletino (Spoleto is an Umbrian town). Trebbiano is a high yielding vine and in the past was often grown for this reason, however, if the crop is kept under control with good vine management it can produce wines with a good acidity, structure, citrus and vegetable aromas, sometimes reminiscent of a sauvignon blanc.

Malvasia Bianca (4%) grows mainly in the north of Umbria, where, if you can find a bottle, it produces a delicate wine with good acidity and aromatics. My local vineyard, I Girasoli di Sant’Andrea, blends it with grechetto and a grape from northern Italy, friulano, to make an excellent, reasonably priced white.

Il Verdello (2%) often blended with grechetto and trebbiano toscano to add intensity and freshness.

Chardonnay (3%) and Sauvignon Blanc (1%) are also widely grown in Umbria. sauvignon blanc is used in the famous “muffato” (moldy) dessert wines from Orvieto which are made from grapes dried out by the botrytis mold, also known as noble rot.

Wine Growing Areas In Umbria

Wine Regions In Umbria

There are six principle wine growing areas within the region of Umbria, these are Perugia-Assisi, Torgiano, Lake Trasimeno, Montefalco-Todi-Colli Martani, Terni and Orvieto. I should add that the Upper Tiber Valley, where we are based, is an up and coming wine area where you can find some superb wines at very reasonable prices.

The Upper Tiber Valley is the most northerly wine growing area in Umbria. The vineyards are scattered around the hills of the Tiber and adjoining valleys. Most producers seem to ignore the Colli Altotiberini (Upper Tiber Hills) DOC because no one has heard of it, and instead put out some excellent value for money wines (mainly reds) that usually feature sangiovese under an IGT label. This is the area where most of our rental villas are located, if you come here, don’t expect to drive through endless vineyards but do be prepared to discover some good local wine at a very reasonable price.

Trasimeno, Perugia, Assisi and Torgiano: these four wine regions stretch across the centre of Umbria, Trasimeno borders Montepulciano in the west and, in the east, the Assisi region finishes on the western slopes of the Appennine foothills.

Lake Trasimeno wine area borders Montepulciano in Tuscany, Colli Perugini to the east and Colli Altotiberini to the north. Wines from the Lake area do not command the same price as those from Montepulciano, but, on the western side of the Lake, the vineyards from the two regions are often adjacent. I have drunk many excellent wines from small producers in the Trasimeno area and will be definitely be writing more posts about vineyard visits here in the future. The climate and soils around Trasimeno are suited to growing sangiovese, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and ciliegiolo. Also look out for Gamay Trasimeno DOC, in reality the grape called gamay trasimeno is identical to grenache. White wines are made with grechetto, trebbiano toscano, pinot grigio and bianco and there is also a small amount of chardonnay produced.

Colli Perugini The area covered by Colli Perugini DOC (Perugian hills) is south of Perugia and is bordered by the right bank of the Tiber. To the west the zone borders the Lake Trasimeno DOC.  The Assisi DOC Sangiovese and trebbiano toscano are the main varieties grown here. Typically, red blends are sangiovese with the local variety ciliegiolo or merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

Torgiano A small (250 hectare) wine area to the south east of Perugia that produces wines of great structure with high alcohol content and minerality. The area has its own DOCG, Torgiano Rosso Riserva, (note that only the riserva is DOCG, if a wine is labelled simply “Torgiano Rosso” it will be the less prestigious DOC. Maybe you’re starting to feel confused, I didn’t say this would be easy! Until recently there was only one vineyard that made Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG, Lungarotti, who basically had a DOCG created for their wine. They have now been joined in production of the DOCG by their neighbours, Terre Margaritelli. The Torgiano reds are blends of (mainly) sangiovese with ciliegolo and montepulciano grapes. Torgiano Rossa Riserva DOCG is the same blend (supposedly the white grape trebbiano is also permitted, but I would be surprised if either of the two producers add it) and is aged for three years giving it more structure and intense, complex aromas of dried flowers, chocolate and Mediterranean herbs.

Assisi As in the rest of central Umbria, the main grape is sangiovese, often blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot to make Assisi Rosso IGT. The Assisi Rosso blends that I have tried are reliably good and great value for money. White wines are usually made with grechetto and trebbiano toscano.

Montefalco The Montefalco area is directly south of Torgiano and to the east of Colli Perugini, it is just to the south west of Asissi The countryside around Montefalco and the small towns of Montefalco, Bastardo, Bevagna, Castel Ritaldi, Giano dell’Umbria and Gualdo Cattaneo comprise the Montefalco wine growing area which is famous for the uniquely Umbrian grape, sagrantino.

Sagrantino is a thick skinned late ripening variety that (due to its thick skin) is rich in polyphenols and high in sugar (due to late ripening). It is possibly the world’s most tannic grape and needs careful ageing in oak to mellow out. Traditionally made as a “passito” sweet wine, sagrantino’s thick skin means that the grape is ideally suited to being dried indoors after harvest.  The drying process has the effect of concentrating the sugars and when the grapes are pressed a small amount of juice is obtained. Most of the wineries making sagrantino make a limited amount of Sagrantino Passito DOCG (usually sold in half bottles) but these days the grape is most commonly used to make a dry wine,  Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG (also called Sagrantino Montefalco DOCG). Be warned, this is not a wine for the  faint hearted, it is not made for sipping gently on its own, it requires a hearty meal to balance the tannins.

Sagrantino di Montefalco is a deep ruby red, it has to be aged for 34 months before release and 12 months of this should be in the bottle. The nose is usually of dark fruit, sweet spice, tobacco and balsamic notes.

Colli Martani, Todi and Spoleto The Colli Martani district includes both the Montefalco and Todi wine areas as well as some of the Spoleto wine area too. As a result, many of the wineries in these areas will put out a white wine made with grechetto under the Colli Martani DOC. There is also a Colli Martani Sangiovese DOC but I don’t think that I have ever tried a bottle.

The town of Todi has its own variety of grechetto, Grechetto di Todi, this makes a wine high in alcohol and acidity with a nose of tropical fruit, yellow flowers. As with all wines made with the grechetto grape, it usually has a delicate aftertaste of almonds.

The town of Spoleto is best known for the trebbiano variety called Trebbiano Spoletino. This increasingly popular grapes make wines with intense fruit aromas and flavours. I definitely recommend trying some when you come to Umbria.

Orvieto and Lago di Corbara The Lago di Corbara wine area is almost all within the Orvieto Classico region. The Corbara Lake was created by a dam across the Tiber. Here you will find grapes such as aleatico, cesanese and colorino grapes as well as pinot noir and merlot. The lake created ideal conditions for making sweet wines from grapes that dehydrated on the vine by botrytis mold, for this to occur you need regular foggy mornings and sunny afternoons.

The Orvieto wine growing area actually crosses into the region of Lazio in the south and borders the Lago Trasimeno region in the north. It is famous for Orvieto Classico DOC white wines with good structure and minerality thanks to the area’s volcanic soils. Trebbiano toscano and grechetto are the principle grapes but verdello, canaiolo bianco, malvasia and chardonnay can also go into the blend. Traditionally the wine was slightly sweet (aboccato) but these days 95% of production is dry wine.

If you like dessert wines do look out for Orvieto Muffa Nobile, produced around Lago di Corbara by allowing the Botrytis cinerea (noble rot) mold to dehydrate the grapes (see above).

Terni The Colli Amerini (Amelian hills) DOC covers the extreme southern point of Umbria, the local grape variety, ciliegolo, is used in the red wine here but also look out for wines made with malvasia toscana. Sangiovese is also widely grown here and is used in many IGT wines from the area.

A Long Lazy Ferragosto Lunch At Trattoria Del Verziere, Montone

In the middle of August there is a bank holiday called Ferragosto in Italy and the whole country pretty much shuts down for the day. This year the 15th fell on a Monday and we booked a table with friends at Taverna Del Verziere in the nearby hilltop town of Montone. It had been a few years since we had eaten at Taverna Del Verziere and we thought the shady outside terrace would make an ideal place to celebrate the Virgin Mary’s assumption into heaven (at least, I think that’s what this holiday is about!).

 

I chose to cycle the 15km to Montone on my electric bike whilst everyone else travelled by car. It was an intensely hot day and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lowest gear and highest battery output combined with some pedalling made light work of the long climb up to the village.

 

The long climb up to Montone means that you can enjoy marvellous views across the Upper Tiber Valley and the outside terrace at Taverna Del Verziere is an excellent spot from which to enjoy them. There was a new roof which provided shade for everyone until about 15:30, however, by then, the restaurant was emptying out and we were able to move the table in.

 

We had an excellent lunch, most of us had three courses, sharing two large plates of antipasti at the start and a combination of primi, secondi and dlci at the end. The restaurant seemed a little understaffed considering that it was full and we had to wait a little longer than we would have liked for a drink or something to eat, however, once the first plate arrived everyone began to relax into the holiday mood.  The wine list was extensive but every bottle that I recognised was marked up nearly three times from it’s shop price, an unusually high mark up in Italy. As a result we ordered the house wine, a red and white from the Pucciarella Winery, always perfectly drinkable, but priced at €12 when you can buy it at €3.50 in the shop.

 

The view and the food made this a great location for lunch, I would definitely return here for a special occasion, our meal cost around €30 /head. I am willing to accept that our (initially) slow service was because the restaurant was exceptionally busy but the price of the wine would be the only thing that might make me decide in favour of a different location. If you are here on holiday this is likely to be outweighed by the stunning location, the great food and the fact that you probably don’t have a list of local wine prices stored in your head!

A Tour At The Mezzetti Winery, Vernazzano, Lake Trasimeno, Umbria

As you may know I run a tour a I Girasoli di Sant’Andrea Winery in the Niccone Valley. I have recently qualified as an Italian sommelier and am always interested to try wines and visit other wineries. In the last few years, the wines from Lake Trasimeno have caught my attention for their quality and great value for money. As the Lake is close to many of our rental villas I’ve been thinking about putting an itinerary together for a wine themed tour in this area. Last week I visited the Mezzetti winery on the north shore of Lake Trasimeno. The winery is just outside the village of Vernazzano, well known in the area for its leaning tower. You can read about a Walk From Tuoro To The Leaning Tower of Vernazzano by clicking on the link.

The Mezzetti winery owns around 13 hectares of vineyard and several thousand olive trees. The vineyards are in Umbria (Lake Trasimeno) and Tuscany (Cortona) and the wines produced from each area are kept separate. The tour (in English) lasts around 45 minutes and covers olive oil and wine production followed by a tasting. We tasted seven wines and for me the best were the two Tuscan Sangiovese, one priced at €7 and the other €15. In my opinion the best value for money was the €7 Sangiovese, aged for four months in oak.

The wines priced at €7 were a Grechetto (white), Syrah (rosé), an unoaked Sangiovese / Cabernet / Merlot blend (all Umbrian) and the pure Sangiovese (Tuscan with 4 months in oak) that I mention above. I also quite liked the unoaked blend but, given that it was the same price as the more structured (and interesting) Sangiovese, the latter was the obvious choice to buy.

The wines priced at €15 were a Sangiovese, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, all Cortona DOC, all good wines but the Sangiovese was my clear favourite for the money. They do make a Cortona DOC Syrah too but, unfortunately, there wasn’t any available to try.

The tour takes place on Wednesday mornings, it starts at 10am and the tasting finishes around 12 midday, the cost is €5/head, phone ahead to book a place.

Tel 0039.0.575.678528 – 0039.335.8305853.

 

Olive oil production is explaned during a visit to the Mezzetti winery near Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy
In the vineyard at the Mezzetti winery near Lake Trasimeno, Umbria, Italy
The wines from the Mezzetti Winery are grown in both Tuscany and Umbria

The Waterfalls At Sasso, Città di Castello

A great place to go on a hot summer day are the waterfalls at Sasso, a hamlet on the picturesque road between Città di Castello and Pietralunga. The waterfalls cascade through a series of large pools where you can swim and cool off from the heat. The pools are large enough for a decent swim, particularly if you face the current. At first, the cold water can be a bit of a shock but take the plunge and you won’t be disappointed!

There is a large children’s playground above the river and an open space where many of the young people from Città di Castello congregate in the summer months. The hamlet also has a bar that specialises in serving Torta al Testo, an Umbrian flat bread cooked on a flat stone left in hot ashes. The torta al testo is split, filled with a choice of roasted vegetables, greens, sausage and cheese and grilled before serving.

A Visit To Assisi

A Day Trip to Assisi in Umbria

Last Sunday we decided to spend the day in Assisi. We started our visit with a great lunch at Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba and then went for a quick wander around the town, our final objective being the huge Basilica of Saint Francis at the furthest end of the town.

The temple of Minerva in assisi, Umbria

The temple of Minerva in assisi, Umbria

The weather was unsettled and our youngest daughter tired after a late night visit to the disco the evening beforehand. Consequently we stuck to the lower end of town, first taking in the central piazza with an impressive Roman temple, now converted to a church.

Columns on the Temple of Minerva, Assisi, UmbriaColumns on the Temple of Minerva, Assisi, UmbriaColumns on the Temple of Minerva, Assisi, Umbria

Columns on the Temple of Minerva, Assisi, Umbria

The temple / church features in Giotto’s frescoes that depict the life of St. Francis in the Basilica. Next stop was the Basilica itself.

The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Umbria

The Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Umbria

We wandered through both the upper and lower churches, taking in some of the world’s most famous frescoes as we did so.

Pope Francis souvenirs, Assisi, Umbria

St Francis and Pope Francis souvenirs, Assisi, Umbria

Before returning to our car past shops selling kitschy souvenirs  we stopped to admire the huge flying buttresses on the Basilica di Santa Chiara.

Basilica di Santa Chiara, Assisi, Umbria

Basilica di Santa Chiara, Assisi, Umbria

 

Lunch In Assisi, Osteria Piazzetta Dell’Erba

Osteria Piazzetta Dell’Erba, a Restaurant in Assisi

Last Sunday we drove to the Umbrian town of Assisi, we started our day out with Sunday lunch at a great restaurant, the Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba, a short walk from the central piazza. The weather was quite unsettled last week so we had a table inside but there are a few tables outside where you can sit in good weather.

The entrance to the Osteria Piazzetta dell'Erba in Assisi

The entrance to the Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba in Assisi

The food really was delicious, we chose a starter and some of us went on to have pasta whilst others chose a meat course before moving on to dessert.

Pureed tomatoes with basil and olive oil

Pureed tomatoes with basil and olive oil

I can thoroughly recommend the food here, whilst many of the dishes were based on traditional Umbrian fare, they were presented imaginatively and the ingredients used were slightly different.

Octopus starter

Octopus starter

Our meal cost €140 for 5 starters, 4 primi (pasta course), 1 secondo (meat course) and 4 desserts plus half a litre of house wine, coffee and water.

A plate of tagliatelle at osteria piatta dell'erba

Tagliatelle

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