Grapevine Archive for Umbria
One of the real gems of Umbria is Barbarani’s delicious sweet white wine, Calcaia. It is a hard wine to sell, as it falls into its own category in a way, however whenever it is shown at a tasting, it gets a very warm welcome indeed.
Calcaia Orvieto is made with thanks to botrytis cineria aka noble rot, which is brought on by the vineyards’ proximity to Lake Corbara. The fog which develops through the night envelops the vines until the cool morning winds clears it away so the vines can enjoy the sun. This process brings on noble rot, which dries out the grapes, causing them to shrivel on the vine, concentrating the sugars and the flavour.
As sweet wine goes and in comparison to Sauternes, the Calcaia is a beautifully light and elegant style. Alcohol tends to come in around 10-10.5% and the wine is beautifully crisp, fresh, pure and bright – no wonder it is so often a hit with our members when it is tasted.
In order to really get the best idea of how this wine will age, we recently opened a few back-vintages, which Italy buyer Sebastian Payne MW had very handily tucked away over the past few years.
Sebastian explained how this wine is painstakingly produced, with individual berries being picked, over sometimes five or six harvests in order to account for the different grapes achieving the same level of noble rot at different times. The varieties used are grechetto and trebbiano procanico, two grapes widely planted in Umbria, although grechetto actually has Greek origins and it tends to be these two grapes which feature in most vintages of this wine, albeit with a few tweaks from one year’s blend to the next.
The first vintage of this wine was made in 1986 and although we didn’t have the opportunity to taste that far back on this occasion, we did have a bottle of 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages, along with the 2013 and the soon-to-be-released 2014.
2014: Bright, pure beeswax on the nose with a mouthwatering touch of honey and apricot. Light on the palate, very fresh and clean with perfectly poised acidity. Youthful and fine.
2013: Slightly deeper fruit aromas on the nose with a little more botrytis evident. Fresh acidity remains and a nice weight on the palate. Complex, layered and delicious.
2007: Golden in colour. Unctuous palate with more of the beeswax notes and barley sugar. Some of the acidity has now rounded out but is still very well balanced with stunningly vivid caramelised orange-peel notes and a slight hint of burning incense.
2006: A more herbal nose, again with quite a pronounced botrytised character. The acidity is still there but this wine is much more full and viscous. Showing signs of age but wearing it well.
2005: Orange peel and candied fruit but with an intriguing savoury note which adds to the complexity. Lost a touch of the freshness but the charm is still there.
I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how it tastes in a few years… if I can manage to keep my hands off it before then…
I have a confession to make. I for one have never ordered a bottle of Orvieto Classico Amabile from the Barberani family.
It has been on The Society’s wine List for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t a wine that I could ever imagine drinking.
Not until recently, that is.
I was lucky enough to accompany Sebastian Payne MW, our buyer of Italian wine, to Orvieto earlier this year and prior to our visit to the Barberanis, we talked about who bought this off-dry version of an Italian classic.
Sebastian informed me that the wine enjoys a modest, loyal following among members. We assumed, perhaps wrongly, that it is a wine that members buy to offer to friends that just can’t take dryer styles of whites.
I was curious about the wine and how it is enjoyed in Italy, so put this question to brothers Niccolò and Bernardo and their father, Luigi (I didn’t admit that I had never tasted this wine before!).
They informed me that the amabile style is actually what people used to drink locally and that it has a long tradition in the area. The grapes – grechetto and trebbiano procanico – are left a little longer on the vine and fermentation is stopped before all the sugar has been converted to alcohol.
The resulting wine, produced from meticulously tended vineyards and pristine cellars, is whistle clean, delicately fruity, fresh and with moderate alcohol (12%).
We give it a 4 (out of 9) sweetness code, which I always imagine is definitively medium-sweet, but I was pleasantly surprised by the wine; round and gentle, but with a lovely interplay of acidity and sugar, I could really see its appeal.
But how do they serve it? I wanted to know.
The Barberanis seemed a bit bemused by my incessant questioning. ‘Well, we serve it as an aperitif,’ they said, ‘it works well with cheese or even shellfish… sometimes we have it at the end of a meal, perhaps with fruit or even mid-afternoon on its own!’
Sadly, our gastronomic traditions rarely match up to those of our Italian friends, so as I tasted the wine, I thought about how I might enjoy it back home in Blighty.
It wasn’t that I was looking for excuses, I was genuinely so pleasantly surprised and delighted to find that I really liked a style of wine that I had blindly written off (without tasting), that I wanted to try it out at home.
There’s just a little hint of spice to the gently fruity flavour that made me think that this Orvieto Amabile would work well with subtly spiced dishes – indeed, I have now bought some of the wine and tried it out with a mild Asian-style salmon curry dish and a traditional creamy fish pie.
I am pleased to say that my hunch paid off and that (in my view at least) – the matches worked well.
I should also learn to be less prejudiced about things I haven’t tried before!
The Barberanis’ Orvieto Classico Amabile 2015, was recently on offer in our Great Savings for Summer offer at the special price of £75 a dozen instead of £83, which we have extended (for this wine only) until Tuesday 12th July, 2016.
So, if you haven’t tried it yet, now might be a good time to give it a go and join that other group of members who are already in the know!
Oh, and do let us know how you serve it too!
I have a confession, and I beg forgiveness from all francophile & hispanophile members. If I were to be restricted to drinking wine from just one country for the rest of my life I would choose Italy – no discussion.
While I admit that I would be hard pushed to find a direct replacement for my beloved Rhône reds, my aromatic Alsacien fix could come from the Alto Adige, and I would then be forever happy. The sheer diversity of Italy’s indigenous grapes has to be tasted to be believed, and our annual double-header tasting (this year in London and Bristol earlier in the week) has cemented this yet further into my taste buds.
14 estates present, 33 wines between them, 22 purely Italian indigenous varieties (with the exception of a dollop of cabernet sauvignon & merlot in one Umbrian sangiovese-based blend). The freshness of Etna’s frappato, the minerality and linear beauty of Soave’s garganega, the elegance and staying power of Piemonte’s nebbiolo and the grippy ripe food-worthiness of Puglia’s negroamaro were just four of the delights experienced by the palates of 300 members & guests in London and 200 in Bristol.
A full list of the wines tasted can be found on our website; many are either currently available on the List, or will appear in our Italian offer which runs from 6th August to 9th September.
The list of growers was impressive, reading like a veritable who’s who of who and what is hot in Italy at the moment: GD Vajra & Proprietà Sperino (Piemonte); Pieropan, Allegrini & La Riva dei Frati (Veneto); Isole e Olena & Gianni Brunelli (Tuscany); Monte Schiavo (Marche); Barberani (Umbria); Contesa (Abruzzo); La Guardiense (Campania); Masseria Monaci & Vallone (Puglia); and Nicosia (Sicily).
What is most reassuring is to see the next generation of families taking their business yet further, something that struck me as I looked at those sitting opposite me at our ‘thank you’ dinner on the Glass Boat in Bristol (see right), as well as others further around the table. The future is fixed on firm foundations, and with it my drinking habits should that aforementioned singularly restrictive day ever come!
Head of PR & Events