Umbria is a relatively small region tucked up against the eastern edge of Tuscany and the Marche’s western border. A rich agricultural area famous for olive oil, grains and black truffles, commercial winemaking was not a priority until the mid-20th century, when Giorgio Lungarotti slowly turned his family’s long-held estate from a general agricultural enterprise to commercial vineyards and a winery. In 1968 the area was awarded its first DOC appellation. Today there are two DOCGs and ten DOCs in Umbria, and 30% of the 41,000 vineyard acres are in classified appellations. Umbria is now the sixth largest of Italy’s 20 regions in the quantity t of DOC wines produced. Until the last decade or two, the white wines of Orvieto were Umbria’s best-known wines. Orvieto blends often include the regional grapes Grechetto and Verdello, and may also include Trebbiano and Drupeggio. With the rise of the Lungarotti winery and several others, however, distinctive red wines have also become part of the Umbrian wine portfolio. Sangiovese is the dominant red grape, and it is used for blending. But the unique red grape of Umbria is Sagrantino, a deep, dark grape that makes tannic, spicy wines. Sagrantino accounts for only about 250 acres of Umbria’s vineyards, and it grows nowhere else in Italy, one reason why Sagrantino has become something of a cult wine. Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Canaiolo are also grown.
This white variety originated in Burgundy, but is now grown around the world. Its flexibility to thrive in many regions translates to wide flavor profile in the market. Chardonnay is commonly used in making Champagne and sparkling wines.