Umbria is a less touristed region of Italy. Located due east of Tuscany, it always seems to sit in its neighbor’s shadow. It’s one of the smallest regions in Italy and the only one that doesn’t border a coastline or other country. And like the region itself, Umbrian foods and Umbrian wines are often lesser-known and underrated.
Instead of being dominated by large cities, Umbria is less dense than many other parts of the country. Perugia, its largest city and also its capital, has a population of about 160,000. The scenic landscapes of Umbria between cities are dotted with small villages and hamlets, towering forests, and green valleys.
Because the region is so fertile agriculturally, it’s been dubbed Italy’s “green heart.” Here, food lovers will delight in finding an abundance of delicacies such as truffles, local prosciutto, sausages, extra virgin olive oils, mushrooms, legumes, game, and both cow and milk cheeses at markets, farms, and restaurants.
The region also has many wine estates and vineyards that offer tastings of different local varietals, including two of the most popular Umbrian wines: Orvieto and Montefalco Sagrantino.
The story of the Madrevite Winery
Nicola Chiucchiurlotto founded the Madrevite Winery in 2003 when he began to restore his family farm and replant some of his grandfather Zino’s vineyards. The rural property, now spanning almost 150 acres, is close to the border of Umbria and Tuscany. The vineyards, covering some 27 acres, are nestled in the hills of the Colli del Trasimeno DOC zone that surround Lake Trasimeno and Lake Chiusi.
Madrevite sits in the tiny hamlet of Cimbano (population: about 15 families, totaling 50 people), in the town of Castiglione del Lago, in the province of Perugia. The rich soil on the three-generation farm is planted with olive trees and has croplands for growing grains and legumes.
Chiucchiurlotto, a third-generation winemaker, decided to couple past and present, using modern agricultural and winemaking techniques to improve the quality of his Umbrian wines. The name he chose for the winery derives from the term madrevite, an ancient Umbrian farm tool once used to fasten shut barrels of wine.
The winemaker’s approach was to build on his heritage, local traditions, and the history of the land where he was born to create a sustainable, organic winery that would improve the fertility of the soil, avoiding the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides. The origins of viniculture around Lake Trasimeno date back to Etruscan and Roman times.
“My cultural roots cling tenaciously to the land: I have always been a winemaker,” writes Chiucchiurlotto. “In my family, the winemaking tradition tells a timeless story that speaks of wisdom, perseverance, cooperation, scrupulousness, and trust—because the harvest does not always meet expectations, something a farmer knows well.”
The Umbrian wines of Madrevite
The land is blessed with a unique microclimate, ideal for wine-growing: Winters are mild, summers are warm and breezy, and temperatures vary between day and night ensuring freshness. The sun and soil of sand and clay bring richness to the wines.
The vineyards at Madrevite are 20 years old on average, located at elevations ranging from 280 to 350 meters above sea level. Working closely with winemaker Emiliano Falsini and agronomist Stefano Dini, the small producer bottles about 35,000 bottles of wine a year.
The old vineyards that grew Gamay del Trasimeno are now complemented by newer ones. The main red grape varieties cultivated at Madrevite are Gamay del Trasimeno, Sangiovese, Montelpulciano and Syrah; the whites are Trebbiano Spoletino and Grechetto.
A virtual wine-tasting
At a virtual wine-tasting sponsored by Madrevite and hosted by Studio Cru, we got to meet the charming winemaker and were introduced to five of his wines: Elvé 2020, ReMinore 2020, Bisbetica 2021, Opra 2020, and C’Osa 2019.
All of these wines are manually harvested, and the three reds offer different expressions of Gamay grapes. Even the playful labels are suggestive of contemporary wines that are easy and pleasurable to drink; each one offers a glimpse of their different personalities.
Typically harvested at the beginning of September, this is the traditional Umbrian table wine enjoyed by families at home. It’s made from Grechetto grapes. Easy to drink, it is fresh, well-balanced, not too aromatic, and pairs well with appetizers, pasta, fish, or white meats. The wine has a 3.9 rating on Vivino.
With perfect humidity from the nearby lake, the Trebbiano Spoletino grapes used to produce this wine are grown in the western part of the property closest to Tuscany. The full-bodied wine, characteristic of the land, is straw yellow in color. Its perfume shows white fruits and citrus with nuances of chalky minerals from the volcanic soil; it also pairs well with appetizers, pasta, fish, or white meats. Rated 3.9 on Vivino.
This rosé wine is made with Gamay del Trasimeno grapes, considered a sibling of the Grenache grapes of France. It has a bright cherry color with scents of raspberry, pink grapefruit, and strawberry. Fresh and light, it is excellent as an aperitivo or paired with fish or white meats. Rated 3.8 on Vivino.
This bright ruby red wine is made with Gamay del Trasimeno (Grenache) grapes. It offers the elegant perfume of red fruits, like plum and black cherries, with a hint of spice from the mineral soil. It pairs well with first courses, light meats, pizza, and charcuterie. Rated 3.8 on Vivino.
C’Osa Riserva DOC
Once considered a wine for people who work (offering a respite after a hard day), this wine’s name literally translates to “let’s go and work” in the local dialect. Produced in the area of Lake Trasimeno, this ruby red is also made from Gamay del Trasimeno grapes. The nose reveals floral notes, aromas of berries (raspberries and strawberries), and cherries with a hint of spice. Pairs well with risottos and meats. (Not enough ratings for review on Vivino).
Where can I purchase Madrevite wines?
Unfortunately, at the present time, you’ll have to go to the source—which isn’t a very bad thing! Umbria is a wonderful place to visit for lovers of wine, food, art, and history.
If you go, you can purchase these excellent wines at the Madrevite cantina in Cimbano at very reasonable prices (15 Euros for the whites and rose, 18 Euros for the Opra, and 35 Euros for the C’Osa). The winery also organizes tastings from April to October that last about three hours. Visitors can participate in winemaker picnics on the breathtaking grounds beside Lake Chiusi.
Overnight guests can stay “on the farm” at the Azienda Agricola La Poderina Dei Poggi, a classic country villa that has been restored with modern amenities. It’s a perfect base to visit the small towns nearby, as well as the important Umbrian art cities of Perugia and Orvieto, and Siena and Arezzo in eastern Tuscany.
The winery began exporting its wines to the U.S. before the pandemic, which came to an unfortunate halt (like much else). The winery is hopeful that they will begin exports to the East coast soon, starting in New York, New Jersey, and California.
Fagiolina del Trasimeno: Don’t forget the beans!
If you visit the winery, be sure to pick up a package of their delicious beans. One of the most unique food products of the area, the delicately flavored Fagiolina del Trasimeno, is a legume with ancient Etruscan origins.
The small cream-colored beans have dark eyes, and were once one of the main sources of proteins for locals. Once used primarily to feed rabbits, farmers abandoned their production because of low yield given the complexity required to cultivate them.
However, Chiucchiurlotto and other passionate local growers have given the fagiolini new life on their farms, and since 2000, the beans have been recognized as a heritage food by the Slow Food Association. The beans can also be purchased online in the U.S. (from other Italian food producers).
Recipe for Fagiolina del Trasimeno
- Fagiolina del Trasimeno
- 1 carrot
- Small onion or piece of a larger one
- Sprig of rosemary
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Wash the beans and strain them.
- Place the beans in a pot of water with a carrot and the onion.
- Boil for 30 minutes.
- Throw away the carrot and onion.
- Drain the beans and then cover them with water.
- Add the rosemary.
- Cook 15-20 minutes more until the beans are soft and plump.
- Drain any remaining water (there shouldn't be much).
- Salt to taste and serve with drizzled extra virgin olive oil.
Simple to make and a nutritious source of protein!
Coda: Why Madrevite?
Madrevite wines and the winery are the realizations of Chiucchiurlotto’s vision.
“I believe in the synergy between man and nature,” he writes. “My wines respect the land, the time, and the traditions of the place where they are born.”
IF YOU GO
Also on MoreTimeToTravel:
- Perugia in a Day
- TV Biopic Brings Luisa Spagnoli Story to Life
- Altarocca Wine Resort: Breathtaking Views of Orvieto and Beyond
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