16 June, 2019
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For centuries the area around the lake Trasimeno lake has been an important reference point for the cultivation of wine in Umbria.

A difficult search for identity

The production territory has always had a significative difficulty in finding an identity with regard to its wine production. Quite hard identifing a specific wine variety, as it is possible in other areas of Umbria, like Orvieto, Torgiano or Montefalco.
Since the very beginning of the millennium, the lake area, like many others in Italy, has seen the spread of the production of Sangiovese and of other international wine varieties, first of all the well – known merlot and with large use of small wooden barrels. A type of production influenced by the trend of that moment, but which leaded to a lack of common identity among the wineries of the Trasimeno.
The same disciplinary of production of the DOC “Colli del Trasimeno” is very varied, as it admits numerous international vine varieties, from the chardonnay, to the pinot noir, as well as typically Umbrian ones, such as the Grechetto and the Trebbiano.

 

Trasimeno wine, photo by Facebook

A reference point in the middle of chaos

In recent years, this difficult search for identity, seems to have reached a turning point: we are talking about the increasing discovery and enhancement of Gamay del Trasimeno, already included in the DOC, cited above.
The history of this vine variety is not one of the most lucky, since it has been confused with the most famous Gamay cultivated in France, in the Beaujolais region, for a long time.
Actually, the Umbrian Gamay  is part of the Sardinian Cannonau family, the Alicante and the Spanish Garnacha.
Its ancient origins are Hellenic and from that area, it spreaded to the rest of Europe, above all, it took root in the Iberican peninsula. Eventually, Spanish people introduced it to Sardinia, around the middle of the fifteenth century. From here, originated its journey towards our Umbria.
This happened thanks to the numerous Sardinian shepherds migrated to the Trasimeno area from the middle of the nineteenth century, who brought with them the wine varieties of their lands.

An example of adaptation to the territory

 

The Gamay of Trasimeno wine varieties has been protagonist of innumerable displacements, but it has always managed to adapt and take root in the territories in which it was brought, assuming different names, while the original one has been lost in the memory of the places. The Gamay of Trasimeno has, in fact, a twin brother also in the Marche, called Bordò, cultivated by a handful of wineries in the Piceno area. Instead, in Veneto its name is Tocai Rosso, and in France, Grenache.In any case and whatever its name, the Gamay Of Trasimeno produces many bunches and can be harvested in two moments: a first harvest, for rosé wines, while the second one, gives ruby-red wines with hints of bitter almonds and red fruits.Today Gamay Perugino or Gamay of Trasimeno is increasingly appreciated and known, as shown by the three gold medals won last April by some of the wineries from the Trasimeno lake, at the 2018 edition of the Grenaches du Monde in Catalonia. This is an international event that compared over 850 wines from all over the world, made with grapes from the Grenache family.

When Autumn comes, it is time to harvest and to collect olives. Once, in our countryside after the harvest, the rents had to be paid, and if the harvest was scarce, the farmers had to move.

A palette of colors

The colors are so special during this period: the hills that surround the town of Montefalco are cultivated with the Sagrantino wine variety, a multi-awarded DOCG red wine. The beauty of Sagrantino explodes in the colors of its vineyard: at a distance, they seem to be mainly red; but if we go closer, we can note that the leaves have taken the whole palette of autumn colors, ranging from yellow to red, passing through the burgundy, and with shades of dark green. The Canadian maples have become a worldwide attraction for the magnificence of their autumn leaves: the vineyard of Sagrantino is no less beautiful, but at the moment it is little known. Compared to the others vine varieties, the leaves of the Sagrantino do not take on the sad and crumpled aspect of the vineyard that are bound to die, but they widen and seem to acquire a still summer vitality.

 

The olive harvest

Another important aspect of the Autumn in Umbria, is the social one, which consists in the ritual of bruschetta with the new olive oil. Many people in Umbria harvest olives, those with hundreds of trees and those with only a few dozen. Suddenly the fields are filled with nets stretched out under the trees to collect the falling fruits, because none must be lost. Those who have few plants still collecting by hand, those who have more trees collect with the electric beater, a kind of whisk that quickly drops all the fruits from the trees. Umbrian trees are small and hand harvest is still possible, even though the advantages of the new technologies are replacing ancient methods.

The smell of the milled olives

Fun begins here, at the olive oil mill, where you are greeted by large baskets full of black and green olives. You can hear the noise of the machines that are milling them, eventually the scent of the fresh olive oil with its intense flavors.At the olive oil mill you can start enjoying the new olive oil. «How many olives did you collect? How much does olive make this year?» These are the two fundamental questions that everyone exchanges. The collection varies from year to year, once it could be affected by the drought or too much rain. During other years, the flies arrive, another time, the frost ruins gems and trees. Nature owns a factor of uncertainty that cannot be ignored or avoided.

 

Christmas arrives early

Between a chat and another, you can taste the new olive oil. All the olive oil mills in the area of Gualdo Cattaneo have a room with a fireplace, with fresh bread and a bottle filled directly in the mill.The olive oil is still a little dense, not transparent, perfumed with fresh fruits, it is poured slowly on the bread called bruschetta. Then you taste it and it is a wonderful sensation. This is not only for the quality of the olive oil, as it comes after, but, above all, it is important to be together, to discover, with curiosity, the magic of the new season. It is a bit like at Christmas, with the difference that it does not last only a day, but a whole month.

“I experienced the countryside from an arcadian point of view in the first part of my life; with a wish for innovation and above all, under a cultural outlook in the second one».

Maria Grazia Marchetti Lungarotti is a cultured woman: as it is easily understood, talking to her. She is courteous and kind as a woman of other times. Her passion for art and archeology, for wine and olive oil, and the rigor in her studies are the cornerstones of her life. A life also based on discipline: “I have never left much time for amusement and I have never been a “Latin mother.” I have always demanded a lot from my children and this has borne fruit “. In 2011 she was awarded the highest honor conferred by the President of the Italian Republic: Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
In 1987 with his second husband, Giorgio Lungarotti (they had already created the Wine Museum in 1974) opened the Lungarotti Onlus Foundation, of which she is the director, to promote and enhance the culture of wine. Among the activities of the Foundation, today, there is the management of the two museum complexes: the Museum of Wine and the Olive and Olive Oil Museum, dedicated to wine as well as to olive oil. They are private museums which host precious art collections and are visited by tourists from all over the world.

 

Chiara Lungarotti, Maria Grazia Marchetti Lungarotti, Teresa Severini

How did you come up with the idea of ​​ opening the Wine Museum and later the Olive Oil Museum?

I joined the Umbrian culture and its typical products, a combination that belonged to me. I am an art historian and an archivist: from my interests in the cultural field came the idea of ​​combining high quality production – which was started by my husband, an enlightened entrepreneur, first in Umbria to do that – with a rigorous and complex opening on the historical and artistic aspects related to wine: we speak about Umbria, but above all, about the Mediterranean area. The second museum, the MOO, was opened in 2000, when my husband had already disappeared, and it responded to the same needs to get out of a merely agricultural-productive perspective. In both of them, you can take a real journey through time to discover origins, mythology, imaginary, and other many aspects of the two products.

The New York Times in a review, called The Wine Museum: “The best in Italy”. It was a great satisfaction…

Not only in Italy, but in Europe. It is an unusual reality that proposes a 5,000 year journey through art collections including cups, jugs, amphorae, pottery, medieval, Renaissance and baroque ceramics up to contemporary ones, ancient engravings, as well as ethnographic collections. Both are family-friendly museums, also thanks to the cognitive paths dedicated to children.

For the town of Torgiano they are really meaningful.

Definitely. my husband and me wanted to promote an area of ​​Umbria, very beautiful in terms of landscape, but little known despite the proximity to Perugia and Assisi. The realization of the two museums was very demanding, but today the result is a specialized complex that gives voice not only to the territory, but, to the Italy of wine. This project underlines the tourist potential of our land.

Mrs. Lungarotti what is your bond with Umbria?

I am umbrian and not etruscan – she smiles – a naturalized “Perugina” from Gubbio. With this region I have a very strong bond, which is conneted to the land itself, to culture and to wine. They are the reasons why I have taken this path and I have achieved these results.

How do you see the Umbrian and the Perugia reality, in a social and in artistic point of view? 

I can see interesting effects and a real interest in art, music and culture. Umbria is a fascinating land, unfortunately back compared to other regions, Tuscany for example. We have a beautiful and compelling history, under many aspects. There are some periods of our history which deserve to be discovered such as Umbria during the phase of the Municipalities. In these days an exhibition dedicated to this historical period is taking place in Gubbio: “One day in the Middle Ages. Daily life in the Italian cities of the eleventh-fifteenth centuries”. We contributed through a substantial loan of art works by MUVIT to this event.

Is there a project by the Lungarotti Foundation that you particularly care about?

We have so many exhibitions and conferences. An idea I would like to realize is giving more expository space to the Etruscan period.

The first thing that comes to your mind thinking of this region…

Assisi and San Francesco that have made it famous, but Umbria must be more valued even in the historical and artistic fields.  This suggests major attention to the means of transport system, considering the difficulty in reaching it.

Is it better to start from the sandwich with the porchetta or from the sandwich with the Cicotto?
Hamletic doubt. I think it’s better to start with the delicate and soft taste of pork, and tomorrow move on to the more intense and rich flavor of Cicotto, enjoying the succulent pleasure of sandwiches without thinking about cholesterol.

 

A porchetta is nothing but roasted pork. But not all pork is the same, and so does porchetta. The one produced by three families in Grutti, on the plateau, is divine. Benedetti, Biondini and Natalizi have got roast in their DNA and follow the tradition elaborated by their ancestors. In an increasingly industrialized world, where every possible item can be bought on Amazon, Grutti’s porchetta is handmade prepared, cut and stuffed and each sandwich is sold through the company’s van around the region.
I visited Benedetti’s laboratory: I was expecting a horrid environment with blood splatted everywhere. Instead I found myself in front of a clean room like an operating room. White walls, white floor, clean operating tables, processing waste slipped into special buckets. No unpleasant odor, there was only the scent of aromatic herbs and pepper. The herbs that flavor the pork are collected in the area and chopped by hand, so they don’t lost even one molecule of aroma. It is a long job that a person does for two days a week. A huge amount of herbs, collected  to flavor the 20-25 porchette that will need to fill about 2500 sandwiches a week. The only spice that doesn’t grow in the area is pepper, which comes from India. All the pigs are born, grow up, are kneaded and sold by 40 kilometers from the starting point.
If we multiply the production by three – Benedetti, Biondini and Natalizi – it seems that the Umbrians of the plateau and the valley have withdrawal symptoms if they do not eat at least one pork sandwich a week.

 

Porchetta, photo by Facebook

Feed the hungry

Until the Second World War, the pig was present in every house for private use – sausages, meat, fat and more – and the pork was prepared only for parties, festivals and weddings. Then after the war, hunger began to bite and the money was few, then the butchers of Grutti let people collect the fat dripped under the spit during the long cooking of the pork. All for free. The fat was used to season soups, to cook and also to soak in bread.
Meanwhile, the economic boom was coming, during which the truck replaced the donkey cart and the porchetta became a regular presence in all weekly markets.

The Slow Food Presidium

Grutti also boasts a Slow Food Presidium of very ancient origins and now a real delicacy called Cicotto, a deformation of a Latin word that indicated the pork leg. Starting from the principle that all the pork is edible, butchers also used wasted parts. Ears, trunks, tongue, shin and tripe, after being thoroughly cleaned and washed, are placed in the container under the spit and bake in the oven together with the roast pig. The spit rotates slowly for 12 hours, letting the fat, gifted sixty years ago come down and ennoble even the scraps, creating a stew rich in aromas and perfumes that go to impregnate the round sandwich.
The Grutticiani are so sure of the goodness of their product that every year they bring the porchetta and cicotto to the streets, and they celebrate for three days. In Porchettiamo there are also the producers of porchetta from other regions and there are the stands of many typical street food.

 

Porchettiamo tenth edition

 


Scopri Porchettiamo, dal 18 al 20 maggio

Citerna belongs to the Club
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


For someone it was born in Siena, during the furious plague of 1348, when a doctor gave it to the sick; for others, however, it was born out of an exclamation flown in the canteen of the Council of Florence in 1439 as a misunderstanding. However, it is no doubt that vin santo owes its attribute to some particular property, perhaps miraculous. Or perhaps to the sacred procedure used to obtain it.

Grapes for vin santo

Grapes for vin santo

A Work to be done with Waning Moon

«Do you want to taste this nectar? But this is not a vinsanto, it’s a nectar! Oh lovely sorbet, precious and delicate nectar». (Goldoni)

As an amber colored drink, vin santo is the finest product of the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, as well as the Grechetto, Cannaiolo, Vernaccia and San Colombano ones. In Tuscany it is also obtained from San Giovese grapes: so, it is called Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice.
Besides the grape variety, the creation of vin santo comes from the choice of the best bunches, with a state of ripeness not too advanced – so that the peels can resist the withering. They are hrvested and hung for three or even four months, so that they could wilt. It was a widespread belief that the bunches, single or double, would not rotten if they were hung with waning moon.
Widespread in the Upper Valley of the Tiber and in the nearby Tuscany, the vin santo acquires in Citerna that smoked note that has made it one of the Slow Food Presidia. The vast plains below the village, as well as the abundance of water, had in fact allowed the area to be elected as an ideal place for the cultivation of tobacco, intended for State Monopolies. So, to optimize the spaces, bunches and leaves were hung together, so that they could dry up with the heat of the stoves and fireplaces. Sources of heat that, inevitably, ended up also emitting smoke, giving the grapes the typical aftertaste of smoking.

 

A hard fermentation

The grape is then pressed and fermented – with or without marcs – in wooden caratelli with a capacity ranging from 15 to 50 kilograms. The dimensions of these containers show the quality of the drink that you will end up getting. First of all they give the measure of the production of the vin santo, extremely limited: on average a quintal of grapes, once the drying phase has finished, it reaches weighs 30-35 kilograms, and must still be crushed.
In the second instance, containers of this size allow to sacrifice only a small part of the precious vintage, in case something would go wrong during fermentation. This passage is in fact extremely delicate: given the strong drying, vin santo’s must has a very high sugar concentration which, in turn, involves a high alcohol content. The leavening agent contained in the pruine – the waxy substance that covers the grapes protecting them from ultraviolet rays and dehydration – can hardly survive alcohol contents of more than 13%, and here we are talking about values ​​that can reach even 19%.
The producers, to solve this problem, use the scum of previous years, a sort of precipitate that, preserved from year to year and divided into the various caratelli, can stimulate fermentation. It is called mother and, since it remains in the wood of the caratelli, they are re-used without being washed first.

Amber wine

Once filled for ¾, the containers are sealed and stored – in the past they were placed in the attic, so that they were exposed to thermal excursions, considered benefic – remain there for at least three years. The uncertainty about the success of the wine hovers until the opening of the caratelli.
It is curious that, in Citerna, just the vin santo was used to soften the leaves of tobacco that, taken away from the State Monopoly, were hidden in tin crates and buried in the fields. Still in Tuscany, cigar smokers are used to soak them in vin santo to taste them better.

 


Sources:

www.fondazioneslowfood.com/it/presidi-slow-food/vinosanto-affumicato-dellalta-valle-del-tevere/

www.ilportaledelleosterie.it

www.wsimag.com

INGREDIENTS
  • 500 g of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • fresh white grape must
  • ½ brewer’s yeast
  • 1 pinch of salt

 

PREPARATION

Pour the flour on a pastry board, melt the yeast in warm water, mix it with a little flour, place it in the center of the fountain you have created and cover with other flour. Leave the dough to rise, covered, for about half an hour. Then mix it with oil, a pinch of salt and must in sufficient quantity to obtain a soft but substantial dough. Make sticks in order to create many little donuts. Place the donuts spaced from each other on an oiled baked plate, bake at 180 ° and cook for 35-40 minutes.

 

 

Must biscuits were typical of the grape harvest period, throughout Umbria. In Southern Umbria, with a more or less similar mixture, they prepared a must bread.

 

 

Courtesy of Calzetti-Mariucci Editori

A renewed interest in quality and healthy food has grown over the last 20-30 years and Umbria finds itself in the middle of a Renaissance that includes heritage, biodynamic and organic foods.

Ancient Tastes

Heritage or heirloom foods refer to cultivars that have been re-discovered after years of non-use or little use. Seeds have been traced back for generations and sowed to produce fruits and legumes that had been “lost” due to newer varieties or hybrids. Often times you can no longer find these fruits in commercial stores. Some might not as aesthetically attractive as their modern counterparts but they possess a unique and delicious taste.

For almost 30 years, growers near Città di Castello have been hunting down and creating a collection of heritage fruit trees—their orchards include apple, pear, cherry, plum, fig and almond. All the trees have been catalogued and the seeds preserved. Along with promoting heritage fruits, they sell their historical trees to the general public, via Azienda Agricola Archaeologia Arborea.

Let's Staring at the Stars

Biodynamic, instead, refers to a way of farming that believes in a very close partnership with the rhythms of nature. Based on the principles outlined by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, its goal is to restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. Important tenants include crop diversification, the use of complimentary crops such as clover or barley to re-introduce nitrogen into the soil, frequent crop rotation and even considering the position of the moon and stars in terms of your sowing and reaping.

In Umbria you can find a number of different products, including biodynamic wines by Azienda Fontesecca in Città della Pieve, by Fattoria Mani di Luna in Torgiano, or by Raìna, whose headquarter is placed in Cannara. Similarly, some farms produce biodynamic oils – such as Azienda Agraria Hispellum in Spello or Fonte Vergine in Terni – or grains – e.g. Azienda Biodinamica Conca d’Oro in Gubbio or Torre Colombaia in San Biagio della Valle (near Marsciano). Local Umbrian dairies also produce cheeses milked from goats raised under biodynamic principles, such as Fattoria Il Secondo Altopiano, placed in Orvieto.

One can apply for membership into various biodynamic associations, of which Demeteris recognized world wide and theAssociazione Nazionale per l’Agricoltura Biodinamica, a national Italian group, has it’s Umbrian seat based in Spello.

The Matter of Organic

Organic is perhaps the most strictly controlled, yet mis-understood name that can be found on many tables today. Just a decade ago, the term “organic” was placed on products loosely, and without certification, but now very strict labelling requirements mean that you can only use the word “organic” if you have received certification from government controlled agencies. Acceptance into organic involves strict control over the amounts and types of fertilizers, prohibits the use of pesticides and herbicides, and dictates that you treat your crops sporadically—and only when rain or climate indicates it is necessary.

The famous Green Leaf guarantees organic and indicates that a product has met the controls set by a comprehensive European law referred to as 834/2007. There are a number of entities that can award the green leaf in Umbria, including ICEA, Ecocert (French), Suolo e Salute, Bioagricert.

A Delicate Method

To qualify as organic, you must also harvest or prepare your product on organically approved tools.

So, a grain farmer will need to send his crop to an organic mill, such as the Molino Silvestri in Torgiano. The Molino grinds and sells a number of grains and flours for private use and restaurants in Umbria and Tuscany.

Likewise, to produce organic olive oil you need to press in a mill that has obtained organic approval. Often you are the first to press in the morning so that you are on clean machinery, with no residual from non-organic fruit.

Every product of the Earth can be organic: we can have wine, such as the one produced by Azienda Agricola Di Filippo in Cannara or the one by Cantina Antonelli in Montefalco; we can have saffron, like the one by Azienda Agricola De Carolis Adelino in Civita di Cascia, jams from Azienda Agricola Sibilla in Norcia, cheese from Azienda Agricola Rossi Rita, which collects and processes organic milk from cows breed in several farms placed in Valnerina.

In the decades between the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, the Italian winemaking was on the way towards modernisation.

Poor Quality Wines

At that time the reviews on Italian wines were unanimously merciless. The methods of manufacture were antiquated and the result, except for rare exceptions, was the prevalence of poor quality wines that spoiled easily.
The main reasons accounting for the lack of quality in wines were the physical and environmental conditions of the facilities, which were described as damp, unhealthy places, full of mould and completely inadequate for the processing of grapes.

Utilità ed eleganza

This negative situation slowly began to change towards the end of the XIX century with the birth of the first industrial factories that set up wine production in a rational way with the systematic recourse to machinery and equipment. Modern wine cellars, in addition to elegance, had to demonstrate they were practical and suitable for the production of good wines. The ideal solution was that which foresaw the existence of three-storey buildings, one of which is below ground level, intended for use in the ageing process and as a storage. The access between the floors is made through openings in the vaults, where tubes carried the must after crushing. This was the start of the rise of installations suited for the needs of science and the best oenological practice in Italy, bringing together a wise fusion of usefulness and elegance.

A Model of Winemaking Technology

The best example of this modern technology is the cellar built by the Roman Prince Ugo Boncompagni Ludovisi in Scacciadiavoli (Montefalco), at the end of the XIX century. It was the beginning of spacious facilities being constructed specifically for modern wine production. The winery of the Prince had a production capacity of 2,000-3,500 hectoliters and the management was entrusted to Carlo Toni. The establishment struck a chord as it was a clear example of modern scientific oenology. Toni was joined by his son Giuseppe, who was educated at the Alba and Avellino School of Viticulture, which was also an innovation for the industry. At the end of the century, the father and son ran a shop in Foligno specialized in the sale of «fine red Montefalco table wine» and pure pomace grappa. Carlo Toni was competent: it was demonstrated by the fact that in 1894 he was called to take part of the commission for the study of the phylloxera in the province of Umbria.
Boncompagni vineyards covered an area of over a hundred hectares, with over a million strains; the average yield per hectare was equal to 80 hectolitres. The machines were designed by Carlo Toni. Boncompagni’s wine was sold not only in the main Italian cities but also abroad: in Germany, in the United States and even in Japan.

The Architecture

Deviating from the traditional underground cellar or located in the foundations of some religious building, the cellars of Boncompagni winery had (and have) a slender main façade divided into two areas. The internal set up was to be admired: divided over four floors, one of which was in the basement, with the floor supported by an effective system of columns and beams in cast iron brought from the town of Prato. These columns still bear the initials of the Prince.
In the rear part of the building, nestled against a slightly inclined hill, there is the access to the vat cellar, placed at a higher level than the storage areas. The grapes were brought to the vat cellar using an efficient mechanism of carriages, that flowed on rails up to a bascule used for weighing; the grapes were then sent to crushers placed above the mouths of the vats. After fermentation, which lasted from six to eight days, the must from the vats was lowered to the third floor, reserved for the barrels. An element that imprinted an image of great and efficient modernity on Scacciadiavoli winery was the installation of reinforced concrete tanks covered with glazed tiles. The storage solution -which is still in use today- allowed a considerable save in space, but also had the advantage of ensuring the conservation of the wine, avoiding the need to sell off the product in the case of abundant crops.

In today’s society, struggling with socio-cultural breakdown imposed by the paradigm in the crisis of industrialisation, viticulture has been asked to contribute to the creation and the preservation of the “beautiful landscape”, that has to be associated also with the harmonic layout of the rows of vines along the hilly slopes. This is about the acknowledgement of the role played by viticulture in defining territorial identity –concerning Unesco instrucitions – and a long term operation that must include the ability to pass on a heritage made both by buildings and places of work, in order to attain a status like the one of the winery made by Prince Ugo Boncompagni in Montefalco.

 


Further readings on the topic:
Vaquero Piñeiro, Storia regionale della vite e del vino in Italia, Umbria, Volumnia, Perugia, 2012