Wines from Umbria Perfect for Any and Every Holiday Event

Wine for december – under $20

Falesco, Vitiano Red Blend 2013 (about $11)

Renzo and Riccardo Catarella founded the Falesco winery in 1979. Renzo and Riccardo are brothers and both are highly regarded winemakers. Riccardo is one of Italy’s most famous consulting winemakers and counts dozens of major wineries throughout Italy as his clients and Renzo is a proficient crafter of wines and also serves as technical director for Piero Antinori’s wine operations.

Originally located in Montefiascone in the northern part of the Lazio region the winery significantly expanded its scale of operations with the acquisition of 650 acre winery in Montecchio, a small town just south of Orvieto in the neighboring Umbria region. Here they established a large, new cellar with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment and technology. The vineyards surrounding the cellar are also the source of some of the estate’s most popular red and white wines.

With 925 acres under vine and annual production of 2.5 million bottles the Falesco estate may be classed as supersized when compared with the small to medium-size wineries that dot the Umbria and Lazio landscape. Despite the scale of its operations the winery has maintained tight quality controls and boasts a line-up of high-quality wines popular with consumers and wine critics alike. While it produces white as well as red wines, Falesco’s reputation is based primarily on its red wines such as the robust Montiano and the popular Vitiano and Umbria Merlot wines.

The Vitiano Rosso is a blended wine consisting of equal proportions of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes harvested from 2013 Falesco Vitiano Red BlendFalesco’s Montecchio vineyards. It is a wine fashioned with a contemporary style and “international” character. The grapes are fermented separately and at different times depending on the maturation of the 3 varieties. The Merlot, for example, is harvested and fermented in early September while the Cabernet Sauvignon with a late September harvest is fermented last. Each variety is fermented in stainless steel for about 15 days. The individual wines are then combined and aged in small barrels (barriques) for 3 months, then bottled and after a short period released for sale.

The Vitiano Red Blend is a medium-bodied, fruity wine with fresh acidity that is made to be enjoyed within a few years of release. It has a wide range of red fruit and spice aromas that follow through in the flavors which are deep, textured and intense. The inherent fresh fruit and sweet flavors of the Merlot are nicely balanced by the structure and complexity provided by the Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine’s muted tannins and fresh acidity make this a very food-friendly wine that pairs well with most meat, risotto, pasta and tomato-based dishes.

This wine has a lot going for it and is hard to beat on a value-to-price basis. Falesco's Vitiano Red Blend is the perfect wine to buy by the case for casual dinners as well as those impromptu holiday get-togethers.

Wine for december – $20 and over

Villa Mongalli, Sagrantino di Montefalco della Cima 2006 (about $44)

Villa Mongalli is a small-scale, family-owned and operated winery located in the hills not far from the small town of Bevagna in east-central Umbria. While vineyards have flourished on the estate for centuries, it wasn’t until the Menghini family purchased the villa and the surrounding vineyards in 1999 that the estate became a serious winemaking operation. The vineyards were replanted and a modern wine cellar was built in 2005. As word spread about the quality of the estate’s wines its market expanded from a largely local market area to all of Italy and then other parts of Europe and internationally.

While Villa Mongalli offers a small portfolio of both red and white wines it is the estate’s 2 Sagrantino di Montefalco wines that have garnered the most recognition and attention for the winery.

Sagrantino is both the name of a grape variety as well as the name of the wine produced from that variety. Sagrantino grapes grow in a very limited area in the hills surrounding the village of Montefalco and several nearby communities in Umbria.

The Sagrantino grape produces big, intense and full-bodied wines that are chock-full of tannins and acidity. They can be tight as nails in their youth but modern vinification practices and ageing protocols are able to soften the tannins and tame the grape’s natural acidity, thereby making the wines more refined and approachable in their youth.

However, Sagrantino di Montefalco wines are capable of long ageing and these wines typically don’t really start to come into their own until 8 to 10 years or more after their vintage date.

Villa Mongalli’s Sagrantino di Montefalco della Cima is a single-vineyard wine with the grapes coming from a 2 acre plot at the top of the hill (cima is Italian for summit or top of the hill) on which the winery is located. The wine is made entirely of Sagrantino grapes from the estate’s vineyards. The wine spends 3 years in small oak barrels and an additional year in the bottle prior to release for sale.

This 2006 Sagrantino is a dense ruby red with a hint of purple and intoxicating 2006 Sagrantino di Montefalco della Cima fromt he Villa Mongalli wineryaromas of ripe dark fruit and spices. It is full-bodied, rich and packed with mouth-filling dark cherry, prune, vanilla and dried spice flavors. Despite its age it still has impressive tannins with balancing acidity that should enable the 2006 vintage to age gracefully for another 10 years or more. The finish is a real treat, long and persistent with ripe, black fruit notes.

While I don’t think it necessary to appeal to a higher authority, it is worth noting that this wine is a serial recipient of Gambero Rosso’s prestigious Tre Bicchiere award. And the 2006 vintage is no exception.

This full-bodied wine should be paired with equally robust dishes such as roasted or braised meats, game, savory dishes such as lentils with sausage, and aged cheeses. It is also an excellent “meditative” wine that is a delight to drink by itself with perhaps only a small bowl of almonds or walnuts within arm’s reach.


©Richard Marcis
December 8, 2015

To view other wine of the month selections, see Monthly Wine Reviews

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