The Wine: Vermentuzzo Bianco 2019
Giovanni Battista Mesina Vermentuzzo Bianco is a white skin contact natural wine made from 100% Vermentino grown sustainably in Umbria, Central Italy. Vermentuzzo spends 2 days on the skins in stainless steel vats. Only 1000 bottles made. Unfiltered, unfined, no added sulfites. Vermentuzzo is a medium body wine with notes of honey and yellow flowers with a round palate.
The Producer: Giovanni Battista Mesina
The Mesina family is not native to Umbria. Rather, they are generations-old Sardinians who have adopted and have been adopted, by central Umbria. Giovanni was born in Sardegna, close to where Gallura and its famous Vermentino is made, but grew up almost entirely in Umbria. The family business has always primarily been raising sheep.
To this day, on their hilltop homestead, Giovanni and his family raise over 1000 sheep. They produce milk, cheese, and wool as well as pasture-raised meat. If you know anything about shepherds it's that they are sincere, stoic and reserved...when you meet Giovanni you feel his warm soulfulness, which is translated directly into the wines.
The hilltop hamlet of Pianello, just east of Perugia, is where Giovanni's farm is. The vineyard land is tiny, as of 2017 only 3 hectares total. Plans to expand to an eventual 6-8 hectares are in the works for the future. Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, Montepulciano, Vernaccia Rossa are the primary red grapes while Vermentino is the white grape of choice thanks to Giovanni's Sardinian heritage and pride that comes with it. 2017 was Giovanni's first bottled production. Before this, the wines were made strictly for home consumption and direct sales to locals.
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.