The Wine: Santa Chiara Umbria Bianco 2015
Paolo Bea Santa Chiara Umbria Bianco is made from a Trebbiano clone known as Trebbiano Spoletino which is trained so that the fruit hangs high above the ground.
The vineyards are planted in the low hills between Trevi and Montefalco at an elevation of 650 to 700 feet with a range of parcels facing both to the east and to the southwest. The soil il is essentially clay and gravel. Harvest generally occurs during the first two weeks of October.
The wine is left in contact with the skins for up to three weeks or more and is then aged in stainless steel tanks for at least two years prior to bottling. Sulfur is never added.
The Producer: Paolo Bea
References in the archives of Montefalco, the beautiful hill town in Umbria, document the presence of the Bea family in this locality as early as 1500. This tiny estate is the classic Italian fattoria, producing wine, raising farm animals for trade and home consumption and working the land to produce olives, fruits and vegetables.
To this day, the Bea family raises and produces much of what they consume on a daily basis. Paolo Bea, the senior member of the family, is the guiding force behind the production of this series of intense and idiosyncratic wines. He is assisted by his two sons, Giuseppe, who farms the vineyards, and Giampiero, who assists in the vinification and is responsible for all commercial aspects of the winery.
The entire property encompasses 15 hectares: 5 of which are dedicated to the vineyards, 2 to olives, and the remainder to the fruits, vegetables and grains that are grown. Sagrantino is the predominant grape, covering 60% of the vineyard surface. The remaining 40% is planted to Sangiovese and Montepulciano, with a small parcel planted to several white varieties.
The vineyards are cultivated organically, all grapes are harvested manually and all wines are bottled without fining or filtration.
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, Drupeggio, Trebbiano, also known as Procanico, and its clones, such as Trebbiano Spoletino.
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.