Monday, June 14, 2010

Umbria and 2008 Argillae Grechetto Umbria IGT Italy


Umbria is a region of central Italy. Its capital is Perugia. It is bordered by Tuscany to the west, the Marche to the east and Lazio to the south. This region is mostly hilly and mountainous. It is the only Italian region having neither coastline nor common border with other countries.

Its topography varies a great deal from the Apennines Mountains to the east, with the highest point in the region at Monte Vettore on the border of the Marche culminating at 2,476 m (8,123.36 ft), gradually descending westward towards Lazio and the bottom of the Tiber valley basin, with the lowest point at Attigliano 96 m (314.96 ft).

Umbria is blessed with a similar climate to Tuscany’s: warm and dry, but cool enough, thanks to the Tiber River and its tributaries flowing through the region. The soil is mainly calcareous clay and sand, with plenty of limestone, which is ideal for growing vines.

Although Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco and its olive oil, its vineyards produce excellent wines, especially the whites. Another typical Umbrian product, which is also one the most sought-after mushrooms on the planet and a gloriously flavorful culinary ingredient, is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area in the southeastern part of Umbria that produces about 45% of the entire Italian Truffle production.

Umbria’s main acclaim to wine fame is that it is the home of the historic hilltop village, Orvieto, and its eponymous white wine. Recently rediscovered by the customers in the export markets over the last decade and consequently enjoying very good press coverage, this friendly white wine nowadays draws agri-tourists to the vineyards surrounding the medieval town. Other noted wines produced in Umbria are Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco.

Orvieto is the village, which gave its name to the white wine produced in the region of the same name. The region of Orvieto is located in the southwestern part of Umbria, in the immediate surroundings of the eponymous village and overlapping Lazio.

It is predominantly known for its white wines made from a blend of mostly Grecchetto and Trebbiano, which are sold under two Denominazione di origine Controllata (DOC): Orvieto and Orvieto Classico. In the Middle Ages, Orvieto was reputed for its sweet, golden yellow color wine. Nowadays, white Orvieto is mainly dry, but semi-sweet styles, known as Orvieto Abboccato, and dolce (sweet), are also produced in small quantities. Blended red wines, with some time up to eight red varietals including Sangiovese, are sold under the Rosso Orvietano DOC.

Also, it is not rare to see single white varietal, like Trebbiano or Grecchetto, be bottled on their own and sold under the Umbria IGT label, like the wine for this post which is a Grechetto produced by a winery called “Argillae”.

Azienda Agricola ARGILLAE

“ARGILLAE” takes its name from “Argilla” the Italian word for “clay”, which is particularly abundant in the soil of this part of Umbria.

Azienda Agricola Argillae is set on the hills between Allerona and Ficulle, northwest of Orvieto, and boasts some 640 hectares of land, of which 170 are planted with vine (the rest is mainly devoted to olive groves, corn and woods).

The vineyards are located on the slopes of the surrounding hills, at approx 300 to 400 meters above sea level (bet. 1000 to 1380 feet) and enjoy great exposure to the east and west with ideal microclimate. The Terroir is characterized by rock formations called “calanchi”, a type of badland formed by erosion in clayey bedrock, particularly along the river valleys, some 2 millions years ago. As a proof that this area was once under water, the land is rich in fossilized seashells and turtle shells.

With the expertise of renowned oenologist Lorenzo Landi, Argillae winery offers 3 interpretations of Umbria wines that reflect its land and its history, with a Grechetto, an Orvieto and a Sinuoso. The one that particularly attracted my attention and especially startled my taste buds was the Grecchetto.

2008 Argillae Grechetto Umbria IGT Italy
Suggested retail price $12-$15
Imported/ Distributed by VIAS in NYC

Crafted by recognized oenologist Lorenzo Landi, Argillae Grechetto Umbria IGT is produced from 100% Grechetto planted on hill-slope vineyards facing south-southwest, at an altitude of about 365 meters of altitude. Growing on calcareous-clay soil, the vines are cordon trained and spur-pruned.

The grapes are carefully selected and hand harvested in the vineyard, then submitted to a brief cold maceration process in a closed press and finally pressed delicately. The resulting juice is racked and vinified in stainless steel at controlled temperature (59-62F). Its subsequent refining on fine lees enhances its sensory properties. Malolactic fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks and barriques, where the wine spends another 5-6 months before bottling. 6-7,000 bottles of this particular wine are produced each year.

The 2008 Argillae Grechetto has a super pale yellow color, almost transparent with steely reflects. The nose is bright and mineral, with discreet aromas of white and yellow fruit intermingled with a fresh touch of sea breeze. The palate, resembling somewhat a Muscadet, is clean, bright, light on its feet yet quite complex and structured. The malo and time on its lees conferred a certain ampleness, yet it remains very summery with the same fruit and Terroir characteristic as the nose and that same iodine touch (remember my post on Salty wines? No? Read it at The crisp and lingering finish is ultra refreshing and inviting. This is an excellent summer white wine, and a steal at this price! On its own or with food, this wine is a versatile crowd pleaser. Love it.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the importer website at

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