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Umbria & Lazio: Italy’s Underdogs

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BY ERIC GUIDO | AUGUST 19, 2021

From a geographical and varietal point of view, Umbria and Lazio make strange bedfellows, yet they share one thing that keeps them grouped together in my mind: they are the two Italian regions that receive significantly less credit than they deserve. When we think of Umbria, there are only two or three producers that most consumers can recall. In addition, Sagrantino, the red grape Umbria is known for, tends to intimidate people because of its imposing structure.

As for Lazio, I doubt the average wine lover can name even a single local variety. However, the work that producers are doing with Cesanese is absolutely worth paying attention to. When it comes to value, both regions offer that in spades. There’s a newfound energy here, higher-quality winemaking, and a focus on terroir that I’ve never witnessed before in either Umbria or Lazio. It’s only so long until word gets out. Frankly, these are two of the most exciting winemaking regions in Italy today.

 

Paolo Bea

2017 Santa Chiara: The 2017 Santa Chiara is a deep golden color in the glass, wafting up with a layered and musky display of dried apricots and nectarines that give way to honeyed white flowers, wet stone and hints of sour melon. It’s soft and juicy in feel, with a noticeable inner sweetness contrasted by zesty citrus, tongue-curling mineral tones and notes of green apple. Tension remains high through the cheek-puckering finale as the 2017 becomes incredibly floral and tapers off to hints of ginger. If opening the Santa Chiara today, I recommend a short decanting or opening an hour or more before serving.

— Eric Guido || Score 90 || Drinking Window: 2022 – 2028

2015 Rosso de Veo: The 2015 Rosso de Veo is monstrously intense yet wonderfully balanced, showing masses of crushed black cherry, balsamic spice, stone dust and wild, exotic florals on the nose. Velvety textures give way to ripe red and blue berries with a spicy-citrus twang, backed by stimulating acids, as saline-minerality saturates under a coating of liquid violets. This finishes long, staining the palate with fruit concentrate and grippy tannins, yet considering how structured this is, there’s a balance here that provides plenty of pleasure already. This is simply gorgeous and has a very bright future ahead of it.

— Eric Guido || Score 93 || Drinking Window: 2022 – 2032

2015 San Valentino: The 2015 is the current release of the zesty and potent Montefalco Rosso San Valentino. It’s composed of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Montepulciano, all from 50-year-old vines within the San Valentino vineyard. Also worth mentioning is that this doesn’t spend any time in wood; instead, maturation takes place over three years in stainless steel tank. That said, the intense mix of wild berry, cherry, clove, sweet mineral, violet and dusty rose that forms the bouquet is all terroir, varietal and vintage. It makes its presence known with tart red fruits, sour citrus and spice, as nervous acids force the mouth to water, adding further sweetness and thrust. The expression suddenly turns feminine and perfumed, with a mix of gorgeous inner florals resonating above a tug of subtle tannin. The 2015 is a seductive, eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-your-head expression of San Valentino.

— Eric Guido || Score 92 || Drinking Window: 2022 – 2034

2015 Montefalco Rosso Riserva Pipparello: Leave it to Bea to create a perfectly poised, structured and classic wine in such a warm vintage. The 2015 Pipparello Montefalco Rosso Riserva takes time to blossom in the glass, showing little more than dusty roses, hints of white smoke and cranberry at first. However, with coaxing, it grows in richness and volume, displaying crushed black cherry giving way to clove, lavender, sage, mint leaf and air-dried meats. All the while, there’s a fresh and feminine character, following through to the silky, almost creamy textures, which never feel weighty or cloying. Ripe red fruits and inner florals cascade across a core of spice and minerals as a layer of fine tannin begins to penetrate deeply, drying the senses and creating a sour twang. The palate aches under the Pipparello’s massive structure, and notes of tart citrus and concentrated wild berry fruit linger long. It’s going to take some time for the 2015 to mature into a more pleasurable expression, but it will be worth the wait. This is composed of 60% Sangiovese, 25% Montepulciano and 15% Sagrantino, all matured in large neutral barrels and released significantly later than most other producers’ wines.

— Eric Guido || Score 94 || Drinking Window: 2024 – 2034

2012 Montefalco Sagrantino Secco Cerrete: A dark and autumnal bouquet of woodland berries, plums, cloves, sweet herbs, smoke and flowery undergrowth smolders up from 2012 Montefalco Sagrantino Secco Cerrete. Towering and currently a bit monolithic, it enters the palate silky, yet unveils a mineral-intense core of tart red fruits and savory spices that give way to a saturation of well-chiseled tannin. Persistent yet massively structured, the Cerrete lingers incredibly long, but it remains achingly dry and poised in its youthful state. The 2012 is in need of a good cellaring to truly blossom, but it has all of the primary concentration, acidity and balance to one day become an epic Sagrantino from this high-elevation site at 450-500 meters in altitude.

— Eric Guido || Score 95 || Drinking Window: 2026 – 2040