Umbria

Perugia is the administrative center of Umbria, whose other province is Terni. The region ranks 16th in size (8,456 square kilometers) and 17th in population (833,000).

In Umbria, the modern Orvieto is a commercial success as one of Italy’s best-selling DOC whites with a solid following abroad. Recently, some producers have achieved more character in the wine through lower grape yields and more meticulous selection and by letting the grape skins remain in contact with the juice for a while before fermentation. Just lately Orvieto’s abboccato and amabile versions have made a comeback as dessert wines.  Although Procanico (a local species of Trebbiano) and Malvasia prevail in Orvieto, growers in the zone have been working successfully with such outside varieties as Chardonnay, Sauvignon and the Pinots, as well as the admirable local Grechetto. Red wine from the area is now covered by the DOCs of Rosso Orvietano and Lago di Corbara.

The most prestigious Umbrian wine is the red Torgiano Rosso riserva, which has special status as DOCG (though Torgiano DOC appellation covers a range of other wines). A modern classic based on Sangiovese, Torgiano Rosso riserva, under the name Rubesco, has been known to age to unique splendor for two decades or more.

Sagrantino, an ancient variety grown only around the hill town of Montefalco, is an intriguing native that makes both dry and sweet wines of unmistakable grandeur. It, too, has been granted a special DOCG, separate from the DOC Montefalco for lighter red and white wines.

Among the many outside varieties planted in Umbria, Merlot and Barbera have been prominent for more than a century. More recently, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have shown promise in varietal wines and in blends. Even Pinot Nero has given indications of more than the usual class here.

Umbria has numerous curiosities among its vines and wines, though few of the local rarities ever leave the region. Vin Santo, pressed from semidried Grechetto or Malvasia grapes, is usually sweet and most prized by Umbrians as a wine for any occasion.