Umbria is one of the regions of Italy that many folks have been heading to in the past few years. It’s right next to Tuscany and has a similar landscape and a shared history. Places like Assisi with its historical link to St Francis and Orvieto with it’s beautiful cathedral have been on many travelers’ radar screens. It’s a gorgeous region for sure.
But, it’s not necessarily a region that you think of when I say “exceptional wine”. I know I didn’t on my first visit. You think of Tuscany. You think of Piedmont. But, think again. The little town of Montefalco holds a nice surprise for you wine lovers out there.
Montefalco is located pretty much in the heart of the region. It sits up a bit at 473m or 1552ft. It’s a small town of a little under 6000. It’s slow and relatively quiet making it a wonderful place to relax. I’ve loved wandering about this town, camera in hand, taking photos of the streets, the architecture, and Italian life.
The town itself has a few sites such as the Church of San Francesco and the town hall or Palazzo Comunale. The city walls are still somewhat intact and as a result there are a few lovely gates including Porta Sant’Agostino, Porta Camiano and Porta Federico II. The main town square is a beautiful place as well. It’s a fabulous spot to sit and relax, especially with some vino…
In the past few years, Montefalco has been earning a reputation for its wine. There are some incredibly gorgeous vineyards surrounding the town and they are producing outstanding wines, namely the Sagrantino di Montefalco and its little brother, the Rosso di Montefalco.
The Sagrantino di Montefalco is a DOCG wine made with the local Sagrantino grape. This grape is not grown anywhere else in the world. It’s a rich, robust wine. It has a lot of tannins yet also has hints of dark, sweet fruit and a bit of spice. Many folks are putting the Sagrantino up there with Brunello and Barolo. It’s delicious!
Sagrantino’s little brother, the Rosso di Montefalco DOC is a blend that is made with a small amount of Sagrantino, about 10-15%, and a fair amount of Sangiovese. Usually some other grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are added to the mix as well. It’s not as bold as Sagrantino, but is a great wine to pair with some of the local dishes such as pork and lamb.
There’s also a dessert wine called the Montefalco Sagrantino Passito. This too is a DOCG wine. It’s production is limited, but it’s a wonderful dessert wine for those who like sweet wines. Think about having it with chocolate or blue cheeses.
Some of the best producers in the area are Antonelli San Marco, Arnaldo Caprai, Tenuta Castelbuono, Scacciadiavoli, Goretti and Cantine Novelli.
There is now signage for the “Strada del Sagrantino” so you can hop in your rental car and drive through the vineyards, stopping by to taste the wines. Keep in mind that unlike here in the US, appointments are typically needed for wine tastings in Italy.
You can also taste some of the wines at the shops around town if you’d rather do that. I did this on my first visit stopping at Eat Montefalco, a small shop just off the main pedestrian way. A lovely young lady took me through some of the wines as I tasted a few of the producers. They were all fabulous. I also tasted some of the olive oils which were divine!
You’ll find some nice places to stay out in the vineyards. Agriturismi (farm stays) are popular in Umbria just as in Tuscany. And a few of the wineries have even opened B&B’s. Fattoria ColSanto and Antonelli both have opened places in the past few years. There are also a few options right in the heart of town as well. I stayed in Casale dei Frontini near the hill town of Todi. It’s about a 30km drive but through a beautiful landscape filled with grapevines, olive groves and rolling hills. Needless to say, I stopped frequently to take snap some photos!
And the food? Well, Umbria is the green heart of Italy so the food is divine. Simple, local dishes are the best. Lentils are popular in Umbria as is pasta (this is Italy!), the local specialty being stringozzi. Chianina beef and pork also find their way onto your plate. And the black truffles are to die for in Umbria. Some of the best. And don’t forget about the pecorino cheese! Yum! It’s Italy so the food of the region goes well with the wine of the region. So, put some Chianina beef on your plate and some Sagrantino wine in your glass…and this coming from a vegetarian.
Seriously, Montefalco is a wonderful stop in Umbria for wine lovers. Stay for a few hours or stay for a few days. It’s up to you. But, I guarantee – you won’t be disappointed.