Umbria is Italy’s only region that does not border either a foreign country or a sea. This is the heart of Italy, a country of rolling hills among craggier heights. Long a second fiddle to the vinous magnificence of its Tuscan neighbor to the west, Umbria has in recent years seen an upswing in quality wine production, largely as the result of modern winemaking techniques and equipment. Sangiovese is the principal red here, but the local Sagrantino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir are making inroads. Among whites, a cutting edge Chardonnay is barrel fermented with Umbria’s own white grape Grechetto.
Assisi DOC is most famous not for its wine but as the birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Italy itself. Production is small here. The white Assisi Bianco blend is 50-70% Trebbiano, with 10–30 Grechetto, and a maximum or 40% from other white grapes. Assisi also has a varietal Grechetto, requiring a minimum of 85% of that grape. The Rosso (red) blend is Sangiovese blended with Merlot.
The Todi DOC is a 21st century creation. Bianco blends are 50% Grechetto, Rosso blends led by Sangiovese. Sangiovese, Merlot, and Grechetto are also released as varietals following an 85% content rule. These varietals each have a more formidable Superiore version, as well as a dried grape Passito version.
Lago di Corbara DOC benefits from its namesake lake, created artificially when the Tiber River was dammed in the 1950s. The resulting reservoir proved beneficial for viticulture, the area having been previously too dry. Unbound by convention, the new winemakers here took to producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. The denomination is red wine only.
The Orvieto DOC is Umbria’s best known, and it is white wine only. The area is characterized by volcanic tufo rock, out of which wine cellars are dug. Trebbiano Toscano and Grechetto must make up 60% of the Bianco finished blend, finished primarily with Canaiolo Bianco and Malvasia Toscana. Like Chianti, Soave, and Valpolicella, the DOC has a classico zone around the town of Orvieto.
Orvietano Rosso DOC is a separate DOC representing the reds from the Orvieto region, which produces both blends and single varietals from an extremely broad array of Italian grapes (Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Aleatico, Canaiolo Rosso and Ciliegiolo) and their French rivals (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Nero).
Colli Altotiberini DOC means “high hills over the Tiber.” As usual, Trebbiano and Sangiovese lead the blends, with varietal wines from Grechetto, Trebbiano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese.
The Colli del Trasimeno DOC is east of Perugia around Lake Trasimeno. Wines here come in every style and color, blends and single varietals. The same can be said for the Torgiano DOC just south of Perugia and west of Assisi.
The Colli Perugini DOC south of Perugia takes its name from that major Umbrian city, producing the full range of wines, still, sweet, and sparkling, including a highly regarded Vin Santo from semi-dried, pressed Grechetto or Malvasia grapes. Sangiovese leads the red and rosé wines. The Spumante must be at least 80% Grechetto, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero and/or Pinot Grigio.
Montefalco DOC produces no varietals, and just two blends. The Rosso is composed of 70% Sangiovese, helped by the region’s own red grape, Sagrantino. The dry Bianco is a minimum of 50% Grechetto, up to 35% Trebbiano Toscano, finished with up to 15% other local varieties. Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG was established in 1992, to support and recognize the powerful tannic Sagrantino grape. The wines must be 95% Sagrantino. The dry Sagrantino must be aged at least 30 months, at least 12 months in oak barrels. The denomination also produces a sweet Passito Sagrantino, made from dried grapes, also subject to the thirty month aging requirement.
Colli Martani DOC blazes no new trails: its Bianco is based on Trebbiano and Grechetto. These can be made into varietal wines as can Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Vernaccia. Sangiovese leads the reds. This, Montepulciano and Merlot can be single varietal red wines. A sub-variety of Grechetto called Grechetto di Todi is known for its low yield and concentrated flavors, and is so highly regarded that when it is used as a blending component or single varietal its name may be added to wine labels from the region.
Amelia DOC, formerly known as the Colli Amerini DOC, is so well known for its olive oil that viticulture was neglected for many years. Local wines were rustic and consumed within the area. The awarding of a DOC in 1989 changed all that. Principal white grapes here are Grechetto, Malvasia, and Trebbiano. Reds are the local Ciliegiolo, Merlot, and Sangiovese.
Spoleto DOC in the south east of Umbria is known for its white wines, principally from Trebbiano Spoletino. Spoleto produces a Bianco blend, varietal Trebbiano, sparkling Spumante and sweet dried grape Passito.