In addition to focusing on specific producers and the wines that they create, Xtrawine also likes to take a look at some of the many regions of Italy that are dedicated to creating great vintages, particularly those that may have flown under the radar of people who are still exploring the world of Italian wine and the many joys that it has in store for them.
Here we will be taking a look at the Umbria region and some of its contributions to the Italian winemaking industry, in addition to a little of its history so that you can get a better idea of the role that this region plays in the makeup of Italy and the wine industry as a whole.
Umbria is unique from the off in that it is the only region in all of Italy that does not have either a coastline or a border with another country. As you may expect, this places the region almost in the centre of the country. It is perhaps characterised best by the many hills that make up the region, many of which are ideal for growing grapes on. It also plays host to Lake Trasimeno, Cascata delle Marmore and it is crossed by the famous River Tiber.
The capital of the region is the great Italian city of Perugia, which is a name that we are sure will be familiar to many football fans. It is also the region where Assisi is located, which is of course associated with the famous St. Francis of Assisi. Throughout time it has been important due to its artistic legacy and the influence that the region has had on Italian culture as a whole.
Umbria began life as the home of the Umbric people, who were eventually absorbed into the ever-expanding Roman Empire. Early legends claimed that they had survived the infamous ‘Deluge’ of Greek mythology, due to Pliny the Elder claiming that the Umbric name was derived from the Greek for “a shower.” However, it is more likely that the Umbric people belonged to a broader family of neighbouring tribes and people during this time.
The region has issues with the Etruscans, as did many of this era, with the Etruscans at one point managing to capture 300 Umbric towns. However, it appears that the Etruscans had no interest in eradicating the Umbric people and records show that they still lived in these conquered towns from 700 BC through to the end of the Etruscan intrusion in 500 BC.
In fact, they later allied with the Etruscans in their battles against the expanding Roman empire, which led to them being unable to provide help to the Samnites in their own battles. This eventually led to defeat and the integration of the Umbric culture into the Roman Empire, giving slow birth to the Umbria region as we know it today.
The region also played a role in the Roman Civil War between Mark Antony and Octavian, with the city of Perugia offering aid to Antony. Though Octavian eventually destroyed the city, the region continued to thrive and under Augustus, it became the Regio VI of Roman Italy.
Upon the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Ostrogoths and Byzantines competed for supremacy in the region. The Ostrogoths won this conflict, leading to the Lombards founding the duchy of Spoleto, which covers much of modern day Umbria. The region was further complicated by Charlemagne’s efforts to conquer the Lombard kingdoms, leading to some Umbrian territories being given to the Pope. This led to some cities establishing autonomous power, which resulted in further conflict within the region.
The Papacy has control of the region until the end of the 18th century, after which time it fell under the stewardship of the Roman Republic and, eventually, the Napoleonic Empire, during which time it was named Tasiméne.
Upon Napoleon’s defeat, the region fell back under Papal rule until 1860, before being annexed by the Piedmontese King Victor Emmanuel II under the context of the Italian Risorgimento. This led to the region being incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, laying the seeds for what would become a major economical shift for Umbria, as the traditional agriculture of the region was replaced with major steelworks.
The round things off, Umbria’s borders were fixed in 1927 upon the creation of the province of Terni. It was an intense battleground during World War II, coming under heavy bombing on a number of occasions in addition to playing host to battles between the Allies and retreating German forces. Upon the conclusion of World War II, Umbria became a part of the Italian Republic and remains as such to the present day.
Of course, the region has also developed a reputation for the creation of great wines over the years, despite the fact that it is one of the smallest wine producers in the entire country, so let’s now take a look at some of the superb vintages that you may find coming out of Umbria.
When we think of wines that come from the Umbria region, the one that immediately springs to mind is Montefalco. Developed in the province of Perugia, which, as we discussed earlier, is Umbria’s capital city, the Montefalco range includes Montefalco Sagrantinosecco, which is a dry DOCG red wine and Montefalco Sagrantinopassito, which offers the opposite by being a sweet DOCG red wine. Interestingly, despite beating the name of the comune of Montefalco, the wines themselves often don’t originate from this comune.
Torgiano is a gorgeous, medieval town to the south of Perugia that is defined by a stunning defensive tower located on a hill. Interestingly, the town also plays host to the Museo el Vino Torgiano, which is recognized as one of Italy’s most important wine museums. It is known for crafting stunning red wines, including the Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG, which was the first wine in the Umbria region to obtain the DOCG status.
Of course, there are also a number of other famous wines from this region. Why not search through the Xtrawine catalogue to find them all and sample the many wonderful flavours that come from Umbria.