“But why Orvieto?” a wine friend asked when I shared I was heading to taste Orvieto wines. Partly because our Italian Food, Wine, Travel group visits Orvieto this month and also because wineries in Orvieto make much more than the easy quaffing style of the past. I wanted to taste these wines of greater character!
Anyone who likes exploring less known grape varieties might enjoy the four wines I share below. After all, when was the last time you sipped a high quality Orvieto?!?
Disclaimer: I received the wines below as media samples. No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.
From Past to Present
The Umbri and the Etruscans made wine here in the 8th century BC. Orvieto wines were praised by nobility and prized in wealthy export markets in the Middle Ages.
Because of the praise, they made more!
Italy’s agricultural practice of sharecropping (mezzandria), which was practiced until outlawed in the 1960’s, pushed growers to value quantity over quality.
And in the 1950s, large Tuscan wineries looked for white wines to label under their brands and found that in Orvieto. Since Orvieto producers were making a lot of an ‘easy for the people’ wine style, they bought wine in bulk from the growers and bottled it at their Tuscany estates. This continued through the 1990s. As many Italians immigrated to the United States (US) and Italian restaurants proliferated during this time, Orvieto achieved white wine, center stage status. Unfortunately, many Americans only know Orvieto as a fresh, easy drinking, non-complicated and sometimes sweet wine.
While historically they were made as easy food wines in off-dry and sweet styles, present day Orvieto DOC wines also include a dry style, ranging from energetic and fresh to ripe and rich, with textural and unctuous styles mixed in. One thing they have in common is verve.
Insight into Orvieto
In this less known region of hills and mountains below Tuscany in Central Italy, you find several appellations and indigenous grapes. Historically, the most famous appellation is Orvieto DOC. White wines labeled as Orvieto are made from Grechetto (there are two Grechetto grapes, di Orvieto and di Todi, two distinct varieties yet often not distinguished), Trebbiano Toscana (aka Procanico), and then 40% other traditional and international varieties such as Verdello, Drupeggio, Malvasia Bianca Lunga, Vermentino, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Red and sparkling wines are also made in the region.
Orvieto is a town, a wine region and appellation. The town itself sits on a volcanic hill top above the Paglia river.
Wines labeled Orvieto Classico come from the oldest production area covering almost the entire region.
Superiore on the label means the wine aged five months. Oak is rarely used to preserve the expression of the grape on its terroir.
Four From Orvieto
~Argillae Orvieto Superiore 2021
A blend of Grechetto, Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano), Malvasia, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Stainless steel fermented, aged in the same and on lees four months.
In my glass: pale oat straw color; fairly aromatic floral (Lily of the Valley), lemon and tropical fruit (mango). Dry zesty acidity greets you on a medium-body with orange peel and yellow apple, then lemon, orange, crushed stones and floral. Refreshing sipper.
The Argillae estate occupies 220 hectares with about 38 (94 acres) under vine. They make around 50,000 bottles annually from the best grapes and sell off the rest as bulk. They are working towards more sustainable operations.
Soil: clay, limestone and sand with marine fossils.
Price: $14 / 9€. ABV: 13%. Website
~Custodi – Belloro, Orvieto Classico DOC Secco 2021
A blend of Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano), Grechetto, Drupeggio, Verdello, and Chardonnay on volcanic ‘tufo’ soils. 100% stainless steel fermented (15 days) and aged (4 months).
In my glass: pale lemon color; the nose is clean oozing with of peach, lemon and Acacia floral; a dry medium-body with brisk acidity that softens revealing more peach, lemon, crushed stone and a lingering creamy almond and lively peach finish. Delicate yet textural, one to enjoy on the terrace all year.
Custodi sits on 70 hectares of land on volcanic (tufo) with marine sedimentary soil, of which 37 hectares (91 acres) are vineyards. Half of their wine is Orvieto Classico with the remaining concentrated on other red and white grapes including Sangiovese and Chardonnay.
You can find this wine in the EU for about 10€. ABV: 12.5%. Website
My pairing with this wine: olive oil roasted white asparagus over lemony English pea purée topped with a poached egg and Parmigiano Reggiano. The richness of the asparagus and Parmigiano toned down the wine acidity, and the lemon in both highlighted the other. A delicious pairing!
~Decugnano dei Barbi – Mare Antico, Orvieto Classico Superiore 2019
A blend of Grechetto, Vermentino, Chardonnay, and Procanico. Stainless steel and 5% new French oak barrel fermentation. Bottle aging 12-months.
In my glass: oat straw color; the nose is bright expressing Meyer lemon (a sweeter variety without being sweet), yellow apple, peach and white floral; dry, medium-bodied palate with crisp acidity having a touch of flinty minerality. Flavors include peach, lemon, melon, yoghurt on a lengthy finish.
Established by Claudio Barbi in 1993, today his son Enzo works by his side managing 33 hectares (79 acres) of vineyards on the north side of Lake Corbara on sand and clay soils with marine fossils. They do not utilize insecticides, chemical fertilizers or weed killers, adopting an integrated management approach, thus reducing vineyard treatments to a minimum. Bravo!
Price: ABV: 13.5%. Website
~Cantine Bigi – Vigneto Torricella, Orvieto Classico 2021
A blend of Verdello, Grechetto, Drupeggio and Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano). Their most famous wine, this is considered an Orvieto ‘Cru’.
In my glass: pale lemon; pronounced aromatics showcasing citrus blossoms, lemon zest, green pear; A few sips revealed a crisp and clean wine with flavors mimicking the aromas. Medium plus-acidity and body with a bitter almond, crushed stone lingering finish.
Located on 136 hectares (336 acres) in the Classico area in Ponte Giulio on clay soils. Bibi is part of the Gruppo Italiano vini portfolio.
Price: $14 / 9€. ABV: 13%. Website
Concluding, I am shocked by the prices of these wines, and their freshness and verve. They couldn’t be more food friendly! Try seafood, salads, roasted vegetables, pasta, tapas, fish tacos and more. What a joy to taste these different expressions of Orvieto!
~ ~ ~ Italian Food, Wine, Travel Group Talks Orvieto ~ ~ ~
Please enjoy articles from others in the group exploring Orvieto.
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Umbrian Red Wine Spaghetti and a Book Review “
- Liz at What‘s In That Bottle is wondering “Why Aren’t we all Drinking more Orvieto?”
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “The multifaceted white wine of Umbria”
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest shares “Appreciating an Ancient Italian Wine Made For Today’s Palate”
- Camilla at The Culinary Adventures of Camilla is “Celebrating Spring with Vignole + 2020 Barberani Castagnolo Orvieto Superiore”
- Lisa at The Wine Chef is pairing “Umbria’s Famous White Wine, Paired With Spiced Pork Tenderloin”
- Nicole at The Somms Table features “Easy Springtime Dinners with Orvieto”
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings is uncovering “Orvieto White Wines – Hidden Treasures From Umbria”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass writes about “White wines from the heart of Central Italy”
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Getting reacquainted with an old friend: Orvieto Wines”
- Terri at A Good Life shares “Slow Cooker Short Ribs and Elicius Orvietano Rosso: A D Match Made In The Heavenly Stars”
- Our host Jennifer at Vino Travels highlights “Orvieto, Italy’s Classic White Wine”
Huge thank you to Jennifer at Vino Travels for coordinating and to the Orvieto Consorzio for the samples!
Honestly, I can’t remember the last time we had Orvieto. Good to know it’s white asparagus season as we adore it when we can get it here for its limited appearance. And of course, now we don’t have to wonder what to pair it with ;)!!
It had been quite a while for us as well. Unlike white asparagus, hopefully you’ll be able to find Orvieto there all year ;-D
The city of Orvieto is one of my Fav’s in Italy. This essay perked my interest to search for more of their higher quality wines. Thanks for this reminder – we miss Orvieto!
Happy I could perk your interest. The unfortunate thing is they are not that easy to find. Hopefully that changes.
“Verve” is such a great word to describe these wines. I found them delightful and had some of the same tasting notes, including almond, tree fruit and flinty minerality. That asparagus dish looks yummy!
Glad you agree Linda! I’ve opened two since Coravining. Although I like using it in a hurry, nothing like opening a bottle and enjoying how it evolves. Looking forward to reading about your wines!
sounds like great fun
Thinking of you.
It is great fun, miss you both too! (Come visit!)
Your pairings look amazing! The asparagus and pea combo is really speaking to me. Totally Spring! I can’t wait to try it.
Thank you Camilla! Hoping to see your version of a recipe for these two spring veggies soon ;-D
Thanks for sharing this region’s wine history. It seems to have encountered such highs and lows. I love that the winemakers are finding such nuance in their soils. I also love the fact that this wine is so affordable, I just wish it was more widely available!