After last month’s stop in Abruzzo, October’s enological adventure keeps us in central Italy. This month we are in Umbria, or as I call it, “Tuscany’s little sister”: less pretentious than its more storied neighbor, but with the same pedigree in terms of history, art, culture, and landscape beauty. And, of course, the wine plays an important role in the lifestyle and economy of this small region.
Encased between Tuscany on the northwest side, Marche to the northeast and Lazio at the southwestern border, Umbria has only two provinces: Perugia, which is also the capital, and Terni. The territory is marked mostly by hills, which make up about 70% of its area, and temperatures that vary from mild to cold in the winter months, warm to hot during the summer, with a good amount of precipitation in the spring. This climate is suitable for typical Mediterranean agriculture like olives, wheat and the cultivation of the vines. The soil is good for grapes that have complex structural characteristics such as Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Merlot, Trebbiano, Grechetto, and Chardonnay (to name only the most important.)
The wines we are presenting to you this month come from only one winery, Fongoli. They are located in Montefalco and are part of the natural wine movement that has become increasingly prominent in Italy (and elsewhere) in the last 10-15 years. Their approach to biodynamic practice is dictated by the desire to cultivate healthy soil that will, in turn, help grow healthy vines to produce fruit that expresses all its pleasant complexity.
Angelo and his wife Letizia’s wines show a dedication to their territory with the respect that old farmers used to have when they were not pressured by the market and marketing urgencies. This is another reason why I love this region.
Just talking about Umbria makes me feel the urge to visit again. Towns like Montefalco, Orvieto, Assisi, Spoleto, Spello, Todi each tell a story on their own. This part of Italy is like a jewel box, every corner is full of magical surprises. Like you all, I have had to put a hold on any trip planning for the moment and instead let the desires swirl in the glass, savoring the wine to connect to the place. We are relying on our imagination to support these needs. May our desires become real soon.
To this we raise our glass.
Un brindisi al futuro!
Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley
About Fongoli, the winery:
The Cantina Fongoli represents a unique example of the history of winemaking in Montefalco, Umbria. Founded in 1925, during the last 10 years they have chosen to pursue a fully integrated natural method. The winery has been certified organic since 2011 and makes unfiltered wines without added sulfites. Their main goal is to produce traditional style wines. In the vineyards, the native grape vines are protected by copper and sulfur treatments, while in the cellar spontaneous fermentation by indigenous yeasts takes place only into open or terracotta vats.
Angelo Fongoli is the fourth generation of his family to be making wine at the
Fongoli family estate. Since the early 2010's, Angelo has taken the estate (which was, until the eighties, a poly-cultural farm using conventional systemic
viticulture, before becoming an almost monoculture farm) back to a more diverse farming culture concentrating on biodynamic techniques. The estate is now composed of almost 40 hectares of vines, vineyards, olive trees, forest, and natural truffle production. About 20 of these hectares are now planted to
traditional grape varieties of the region – Trebbiano Spoletino, Grechetto, Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Sagrantino – the oldest of which are more than 40 years old.
About the Winemaking for Biancofongoli, Umbria Trebbiano IGT 2019:
The fruit comes from the steeper side of a hill, facing southeast with a medium-
textured clayey soil. The harvest period is between the end of August and the first half of September, followed by 48 hours of pre fermentative maceration with the skins. Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel vats. Pressing is done with horizontal press membrane. The wine is aged on its fine lees in stainless steel for several months. It is bottled in the spring after harvest without fining or filtering. Biancofongoli is a zero-sulfur-added wine.
85% Trebbiano Spoletino, 15% Grechetto.
The color is a rich gold with a light orange vein. The nose offer perfumes of ripe yellow fruit like peach, apricot and quince compote with a fragrant mineral accent. To the palate it shows a linear freshness that is not always present in many “orange wines”. Dry with a pleasant herbaceous note that suggests ageing potential.
About the Winemaking for Montefalco Rosso Riserva DOC 2015:
The soil composition is the same of Biancofongoli, on a steep hillside facing
south, southwest. Harvest is done between mid-September and mid-October.
Selection of the grapes is made directly in the vineyards (40-year old vines).
Fermentation is done with a minimum of sulfur and indigenous yeasts in
uncontrolled temperature open vats. During the fermentation, the cap formed by grape skins breaks three times a day, following the traditional method. The wine is aged for a minimum of 3 years in large Slavonian oak barrels between 5 and 70 years of age. Natural clarification solely by racking. 60% Sangiovese, 20% Montepulciano, 20% Sagrantino.
Deep ruby red with garnet hues in the glass. Dark cherry, blackberry and a spicy toasted note upon olfactory analysis. Wine of assertive personality, full body,
with a mark of marasca cherry to coat a warm earthiness.