Monday, May 3, 2021

Stunning Umbrian Wines Showcased at Online Tasting by Greenes Restaurant

Stunning Umbrian Wines Showcased at Online Tasting by Greenes Restaurant 

With his family vineyard overlooking Assisi, the city associated with St Francis, the patron saint of animals and ecology, perhaps it is no wonder that Roberto Di Filippo uses animals in the vineyard and that it is biodynamic. Perhaps Francis enjoyed the odd glass of wine!


“We were one of the pioneers of organic wine in Umbria,” said  Roberto during the weekend’s superb tasting helmed by Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct and Frank Schiltkamp (Somm and Restaurant Manager) of Greenes Restaurant who were hosting the event.

Di Filippo are based in Umbria. Roberto told us that Umbria is in central Italy and is the only Italian region without a coastline. It is in the very centre of the country and while it may not be the best known for wine, it had no doubt learned much from neighbours such as Tuscany and Marche. Perugia is the capital but Assisi is probably its best known city, a city that Di Filippo overlooks.

“Organic since 1994,” continued Roberto. “By 2009, we moved into biodynamic farming. Horses and geese arrived, tractors and chemicals were the past. Year by year we are seeing a big impact on soil and crops. Horses are my passion. Tractors can compact the soil so much, up to one metre deep. The system now is efficient and, for the majority of time, the horse is cheaper than the tractor.”

Another part of the horses' work

All the while, Fionnuala was showing a series of slides that matched what Roberto was talking about. Then he moved onto the first of wines, the white. “This is 100% Grechetto, the most typical white grape in Umbria. It is harvested in two turns and then blended. The earlier harvest gives freshness and mineralogy while the second gives full body and complexity.”

“Thanks to that double harvest, the aromas are fruity and fresh and with its acidity it will go well with tuna meat, fish, seafood, cheese and vegetables.” It was agreed generally that the wine was matching well with the salami, cutting through the fat.

“Why are those hands on the label?” asked Fionnuala. “They represent what we are - farmers. Without these hands you cannot drink the wines!”

The second wine, La Conversino (named after a local area, nothing to do with conversation!), is red and Sangiovese (80%) dominates. The balance is made up of other local and some international grapes and that part of the blend varies from vintage to vintage.

I saw this pair of horses at work in North Cork a few years back.
I was amazed at the precision of the large animals at work.
Here, they are cutting corn but another horse drew a scuffler through drills without putting a
foot wrong (and those hooves are large).

“It is a ruby colour,” said Roberto, “Not really deep. Aromas are fruity, it has a good balance, soft tannins, a good combination for many types of food, excellent with meat.” “Ideal for the lighter style of game,” said Frank. “Stunning with pheasant.”

And finally a tip from Roberto: “When you come to Umbria, book into a nice Agriturismo in the countryside. Take your time. Have nice food. Not just countryside, we have cities and mountains too. And don’t forget the truffles. - they are cheap!”

Di Filippo Grechetto Umbria IGT 2019, 13%, organic. €15.75

Lovely light gold colour (the brightness can vary from year to year). Delightful fresh and  fruity nose and you get more of the same, including a wash of citrus, on the palate before this rounded wine, with its tangy acidity, finishes pleasantly, medium-long and well. Very impressed with this one. Not just second glass appeal, more like second bottle! The producers recommend matching it with fish, white meat, fresh cheeses.

Fermentation is in stainless steel with wild yeast, and resting on lees in stainless steel until bottling. Very Highly Recommended.

Di Filippo “La Conversino” Rosso Umbria (IGT) 2019, 13.5%, organic, €14.75

A bright mid ruby is the colour of this Sangiovese dominated red. Aromas are quite intense, red berries prominent. Quite full-bodied and elegant as we move along on a fruity palate with enough acidity to maintain harmony all through. This is soft with beautiful embedded tannins and a medium long finish. The other grapes in the blend could include Barbera and Sagrantino but will vary from year to year.

Di Filippo suggest pairing with typical Italian pasta dishes, boiled meats, fresh cheese. Other suggestions are Pasta and Pizza, Hard Cheese, Game, Beef and Lamb. Quite a wine, full of resilience; as the night wears on and course follows course, this and its fruit core just gets better and better. Very Highly Recommended.

The cheese and charcuterie from Greenes was, as ever, top class, the portions generous.

Gubbeen cheese, Smoked Scaramoza cheese, Durrus, Young Buck blue cheese.

Gubbeen salami, Gubbeen chorizo, Gubbeen venison, Serrana Ham.

Olive tapenade, Tomato pesto, Basil Pesto, Humus, Olives, Capers, Gherkins, Onion

Compote and bread.

I may have been busy taking notes but it was a relaxing evening. Frank welcomed us on Zoom and struck the right note at the start: “Treat it casually and enjoy. Don’t be waiting for us. Sit back and enjoy as we go along.” We did! We could have been with friends in Umbria.

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