Orvieto in Umbria is not only about Orvieto DOC, it is probably also one of the most stunningly beautiful towns with its cathedral that dates to the late Middle Ages and with frescoes by Luca Signorelli in the Capella San Brizio. The town sits on a hill made of tuff, a result of the eruptions of the Mount Vulsini volcanoes in the Pleistocene era. Another fascinating part of Orvieto is its underground caves that were discovered in the 1970s and that are both natural caves and paths and spaces carved out for example by the Etruscans. Orvieto and the surrounding area in Umbria, and also on the Lazio side, have indeed a lot to offer when it comes to nature, history, food, and, of course, wine with its very own appellation Orvieto DOC.
June with the #ItalianFWT
On Saturday, 3 June the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group are focusing on the regions of Umbria and Lazio. I will look closer at the initiative of five smaller Orvieto DOC producers.
Read more about this month’s theme in #italianfwt in the article Let’s Discover Central Italy: Umbria & Lazio.
Orvieto DOC, a Cross-Regional Appellation
The first association of Orvieto DOC producers that came together was founded in 1958 while the consortium was set up in 1971 when the DOC was instituted. The area of the Orvieto DOC appellation includes the communes of Orvieto, Allerona, Alviano, Baschi, Castel Giorgio, Castel Viscardo, Fabro, Ficulle, Guardea, Montecchio, Montegabbione, Monteleone d’Orvieto, and Porano in the province of Terni and the communes of Bagnoregio, Castiglione in Teverina, Civitella d’Agliano, Graffignano, and Lubriano in the province of Viterbo in Lazio.
The area under vines is about 2,100 hectares (5890 acres) and with a total production of 12 million bottles. It constitutes about ⅔ of the total production of DOC wines in Umbria. In 1998 the red wine DOC Rosso Orvietano was also instituted and its production area overlaps the Orvieto and Terni areas.
Orvieto DOC is an appellation only for white wine (even though they are starting to add sparkling wines lately), namely with a minimum of 60% of the local grapes Trebbiano Toscano (Procanico) and Grecchetto and the other 40% can be a mix of other white grape varieties cultivated in the area. Many of the producers here use international grape varieties such as Pinot Bianco, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay while in reality, the traditional grapes used for Orvieto DOC are Procanico, Grecchetto, Verdello, Malvasia, and Drupeggio.
Orvieto DOC is a historical appellation that valorizes local grapes, but at the same time, it has a bit of a reputation for often favoring the addition of international grapes and being dominated by the will of larger wineries and bottling companies. The general ideas have been in favor of planting more vines, producing more, and pressing the prices, making it difficult for the smaller wineries to make their voice heard. It does not help that it to a certain extent is allowed to bottle Orvieto DOC wines also outside of the production area. However, the owner of one of the five wineries I will talk more about below, Corrado Bottai, is on the current steering committee of the consortium, so perhaps there is hope.
5 Orvieto DOC Producers in Search of Origin and Identity
Five Orvieto DOC producers decided to form a business network built on common values and thoughts where the main idea is to restore the identity and the quality of the Orvieto DOC wines.
The five producers are:
They are a network built on common values. They do not want to, in any way, contradict the work of the Orvieto DOC consortium which has not taken kindly to the initiative of these five smaller producers.
They have, furthermore, written a manifesto where they outline the principles they believe are important such as origin, identity, history, “rebirth”, and the fact of being vintners and not big companies. They call their manifesto Oltre le Radici della Vite (ORV), that is Beyond the Roots of the Grapevine. Their initiative is clearly to together focus on restoring the history and quality of Orvieto DOC and favoring the use of the local grapes Procanico, Grecchetto, Verdello, Malvasia, and Drupeggio. They want to eliminate the use of international white grapes.
The Orvieto DOC is an area with great potential thanks to the climate with diurnal range and winds blowing in from the sea and volcanic soil that originates from Mount Vulsini that dates to the Pleistocene era. About 300,000 years ago, the Mount Vulsini volcanoes did also create Lake Bolsena which is located in the province of Viterbo in northern Lazio.
There are four different types of soil in the area:
- Tuff, of volcanic origin
- Clay (center and northern parts of the appellation)
- Sand, with marine fossils (north-eastern parts of the appellation)
- Sand and silt (along the river Paglia between Orvieto and Baschi)
This gives rise to wines with great differentiation and complexity. The wines from volcanic soil are characterized by minerality, and saltiness, as well as hints of flint and fumé as they age. Sand and clay soil give wines good acidity and structure with a marine touch, while the silt soil makes the wines slimmer and more elegant.
As you may have noticed, Orvieto DOC wines have great potential both as regards leaning on their history that dates to Etruscan time and the variegated climate and rich terroir. The five Orvieto DOC producers of the ORV manifest want to leverage this to enhance the territory and its tradition rather than distort the wines with international grapes and price-pressing measures that decrease the quality.
In this context, they are strongly in favor of sustainability in both viticulture and winemaking. The five wineries all agree on the importance of the vineyard and being aware of the composition of the micro-terroir in the area where you are located for the production of high-quality wines.
Most of the wineries are organic – Madonna del Latte, Le Velette, Sergio Mottura – or at least have low-impact viticulture, some such as Le Velette are organic and since 2018 working towards regenerative farming. Sergio Mottura, the only winery located in Lazio, is known for its work in favor of sustainability being organic, and promoting biodiversity. In fact, its brand image is the porcupine that only lives in areas with an ecological balance.
I attended a press lunch organized by the five wineries some time ago, where we learned a lot about these wineries and their wines. We tasted vintages from 2021, 2019, and 2018 back to 2014 and 2010 of their Orvieto DOC wines that showed the extraordinary evolution and aging potential the wines have.
- Cantine Neri: Ca’ Viti, Orvieto DOC Classico Superiore, Grechetto 50% – Procanico 40% – Drupeggio, Verdello, Malvasia 10%
- Le Velette: Lunato, Orvieto DOC Classico Superiore, Procanico 20%, Grechetto 40%, Malvasia 20%, Verdello 15%, Drupeggio 5%
- Il Palazzone: Terre Vineate, Orvieto DOC Classico Superiore, Procanico 50%, Grechetto 30%, Verdello, Malvasia 20%
- Madonna del Latte: Orvieto DOC Classico Superiore, Grechetto, Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano)
- Sergio Mottura: Tragugnano, Orvieto DOC secco, Procanico 45%, Verdello 25%, Grechetto 20%, Rupeccio 10%
What are your thoughts on Orvieto DOC wines?
See the articles from the other wine writers:
Andrea from The Quirky Cork shares “Arnaldo Caprai Grecante with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Salad”
Camilla from Culinary Cam focuses on “From Lazio with Love – Bellone and Bruschette – an Ancient Grape & a Simple Appetizer”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Enjoying the Food and Wine of Umbria”
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares “When In Rome, Do As The Romans: Enjoy Lazio’s Thin Crust Pizza, Cacio de Pepe plus Wine”
Susannah from Avvinare features “Cesanese del Piglio- A Bright Future”
Jennifer from Vino Travels shares “Trebbiano Spoletino: Not all Trebbiano are the same”
Katarina from Grapevine Adventures features “Rekindling Tradition: Five Producers Unite to Revive Orvieto DOC’s Native Grapes”