The Wine: Malpasso Rosso NV
Montemelino Malpasso Rosso is a red natural wine made from a blend of organic Sangiovese grapes grown in Umbria, in the Lake Trasimeno area. Spontaneous fermentation with native yeast, unfiltered, no added sulfites. The medium body red wine comes in a one-liter bottle; it tastes like cherries and raspberries, low-tannins and balanced acidity on the palate.
The Producer: Montemelino
Overlooking Lake Trasimeno, on the northern most cusp of Umbria, this tiny farm is run by Margret and Guido Cantarelli. The hills around this interior lake form one of the most unknown wine zones in Italy; Colli del Trasimeno (DOC). There are only a dozen or fewer producers in the appellation, most of which are growing international varieties. Montemelino’s farm is roughly 10 ha, with less than 4 being under vine.
They grow grechetto for the white wine and sangiovese and gamay for the red. Yes, gamay! Gamay has been growing around the lake for more than 85 years, opinions vary as to where and why it’s actually here, but it certainly has remained a relative unknown to the outside wine world.
Farming is organic, the wines are naturally fermented and aged in large slavonian oak barrels that rest both under the farm house and in a tiny chapel on the property (for lack of space and the proper temperature conditions). These are humble, simple wines made in a very genuine and characterful way. (source: Zev Rovine)
The Region: Umbria
Umbria is no doubt one of Italy’s many hidden gems. A tiny hilly region right in the center of Italy with no access to the coast, Umbria borders with Tuscany (West), Marche (East), and Lazio (Southwest). Its capital is the medieval city of Perugia.
Umbria is the fourth-smallest wine producing region in Italy, and only the 20% of all wine produced falls under a DOC or DOCG appellation. This, however, by no means mirrors Umbria's wine production quality, which in the last ten years has increased considerably.
Umbria, despite its size, is an immensely rich agricultural region, with a plethora of typical products, such as olive oil, cheese, charcuterie, cured meats, wheat, and truffles.
The Terroir of Umbria
Due to its position, right in the heart of the Italian peninsula, and lack of access to the sea, Umbria has a fairly homogenous continental climate with cold winters and hot summers.
Along the coast of Lake Trasimeno, on the Northwestern border with Tuscany, the climate is slightly milder. Here we find the higher density of vineyards, planted on Umbria's characteristic rolling hills.
The Red Wines of Umbria
Even though Umbria is more famous for its white wines - a common thread in Central Italy if we think about Marche and Lazio - the only two DOCGs appellations are red wines.
Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG: made with 100% Sagrantino grapes, native to Umbria and specifically to the town of Montefalco. Sagrantino is one of the most tannic grape varietals in Italy and gives wines that are intensely dark.
Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG: made with 70%-100% Sangiovese, and 30% maximum of other grape varietals such as Canaiolo, Cigliegiolo, Montepulciano, and even white grape varietal Trebbiano.
In addition to the two DOCGs, there are in Umbria several producers making wine with international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and also Gamay.
The White Wines of Umbria
Umbria has been historically a land of white wines with Orvieto being perhaps its best-known white wine and for a specific reason. Orvieto is, in fact, a blend of several grape varietals native to Umbria such as Grechetto, Verdello, Trebbiano, also known as Procanico, and Drupeggio.
Chardonnay also finds its place in Umbria, though it's a fairly recent trend, where it's often blended with Grechetto for a distinct Umbrian style Chardonnay.