When she’s not taking Tuscany Now & More guests on wine adventures around central Italy, our friendly sommelier Valentina Mazzetti loves to explore grapes and regions off the beaten track. In Umbria, says Valentina, you’ll find some of the most delightfully undervalued Italian wines, from dry white Grechetto to rich, complex Sagrantino di Montefalco. Below, Valentina picks 7 Umbrian wines to seek out when you stay in one of our Umbria villas. The best Umbrian wines Umbria may be one of Italy’s smallest producers in terms of quantity, but the country’s “green heart” offers wine and food pairing options for an entire meal — from an easy-drinking starter to a dessert with finesse. This is Valentina’s Umbrian wine guide. Sagrantino di Montefalco What is it? 100% Sagrantino grapes aged for almost 3 years. Valentina says… “The most important DOCG of Umbria is this very special red grape which grows around the village of Montefalco. Sagrantino di Montefalco seems to have the highest content of polyphenols (antioxidants) of any red wine, anywhere. With its high tannins, Sagrantino wines can age for 30-plus years.” Tasting and food pairing? Sagrantino di Montefalco is deep opaque with notes of black plum, cocoa powder, blackberry, violet, vanilla and sage. On the palate, it’s bold with black fruits and minerals. Enjoy it with aged cheeses, roast boar or braised meat. Note… “There is also a dessert wine, Montefalco Sagrantino Passito, made using partially dried Sagrantino grapes. These wines burst with dark berry flavours and nuttiness, with sweetness to balance Sagrantino’s rigorous tannin. Simply amazing with a dark fruit jam tart (especially blackberry).” Torgiano Rosso Riserva What is it? DOCG red wine made with 50–70% Sangiovese, 15–30% Canaiolo, up to 10% Trebbiano and other local red grapes including Ciliegiolo and Montepulciano. Being a Riserva, appellation rules require it to age for at least 3 years in the winery, with a minimum of 6 months in the bottle. Valentina says… “The grapes for Torgiano Rosso Riserva are sourced from vineyards only in the elevated growing areas around Torgiano town, not in the flatlands. These wines offer elegant red fruit and floral characteristics with ample aging potential. This is a wine to store in your cellar for a minimum of 5 or 6 years.” Tasting and food pairing? The wines appear brilliant semi-translucent ruby-red with notes of raspberry, strawberry, leather and potpourri. Tannins are bold with tangy acidity. To be enjoyed with elaborate meat dishes or aged cheese. Montefalco Rosso What is it? A DOC red blend of 60–70% Sangiovese, 10–15% Sagrantino and 15–30% other varieties. Valentina says… “With its addition of Sagrantino, Montefalco Rosso has a deeper colour, more tannin, and richer plummy fruit than many other Italian Sangiovese-based wines. It also benefits from the added fruitiness of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. Many producers experiment with oak-aging to make Montefalco Rosso delicious on release.” Tasting and food pairing? Translucent ruby-red with aromas of raspberry, strawberry, cinnamon, leather and rose. On the palate it’s bold and spicy, with medium to high tannin and juicy-fruity acidity. Great pairings are meat pasta dishes and cold cuts. It’s perfect with a BBQ. Orvieto What is it? Orvieto wine is a DOC white made by blending a minimum of 40% Grechetto with 20–40% Trebbiano and up to 40% other non-aromatic white grapes. Valentina says... “Grechetto is the region's star white grape varietal. It is a great Italian alternative to unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Gris/Grigio.” Taste and food pairing? Orvieto wine is typically a fruity, dry white with aromas of lemon, crisp apple and juicy acidity. Great with spaghetti alla carbonara or pici cacio e pepe (pasta with pecorino cheese and black pepper). Note… In Umbria, Trebbiano is also called "Procanico.” Colli Martani What is it? Standard Colli Martani Bianco is usually based on Trebbiano and Grechetto di Todi, a sub-variety of the Grechetto grape named after the Umbrian town of Todi. Colli Martani Rosso is a blend of Sangiovese (minimum 50%) and usually Montepulciano. As with the white varieties, the two components of the DOC's basic red can also be used as varietals, as can Merlot. The standard aging period for a red Riserva wine is 24 months. Valentina says… “The region is steeped in history. The Etruscans first established road links, which enhanced the development of the area, resulting in its wines being held in great esteem through the centuries.” Taste? Both wines are characterized by low yields and so have concentrated flavors. Grechetto di Todi adds structure and richness to many Colli Martiani whites. Lago di Corbara Pino Nero What is it? Both Pinot Nero DOC and Pinot Nero Riserva DOC require a minimum of 85% Pinot Noir grapes. Valentina says… “So much organic and biodynamic agriculture and winemaking experiments take place around the Lake of Corbara, east of Orvieto. The unique microclimate creates Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and especially late harvest (sweet) wines like nowhere else in Italy.” Taste and food pairing? Pale ruby-red with fragrant aromas of strawberry, the wines are smooth and elegant. This is a wine you can enjoy without food, but also with chicken and fish courses. Muffato What is it? Late harvest sweet wine made from Grechetto and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Valentina says… “If you like French Sauternes, you will fall in love with Muffato (from ‘muffa’, mould). Specific local weather conditions see grapes attacked by a "noble rot," Botrytis Cinerea. This grey mould requires an alternation of humidity and sun. In Europe these conditions appear only in very few places, like Tokaji in Hungary and close to Bordeaux, in France.” Taste and food pairing? Golden yellow to amber, with an intriguing nose from honey to ripe apricot jam, candied fruit and the mysterious touch of mould. On the palate it is rich, sweet, long and silky, balanced by a good acidity. Its perfect marriage is with blue cheese like Gorgonzola or Roquefort, and also some meat pâtés, short pastry desserts, or dry cookies.