Covering some 8,500sqkm and with a total population of just under 900,000, Umbria is one of the smallest and least populous regions of Italy. This landlocked region, one of the very few in a quintessentially Mediterranean country with approximately 7,600km of coastline, has for centuries been the granary of the Apennine Peninsula, producing much cereal, grapes and olives. In Italian terms, Umbria is perhaps more continental than Mediterranean, but not without Apennine elevation and influence.
As a wine region, however, Umbria accounts for less than one-third of its glamorous northwestern neighbour Toscana’s production volume, making it one of the smallest wine regions in a country that prides itself above all others – even France and Spain – for producing wine in every single region. Orvieto DOC – Grechetto- and Trebbiano-based white blends – and Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG – single-varietal Sagrantino – have for long been the poster boys for Umbrian whites and reds, but the region remains otherwise overshadowed by Toscana.
This is not to suggest that Umbria lacks potential, quality or character – quite the contrary. Marchesi Antinori has no qualms about extending production in Umbria, which has been the home of the Tenuta Lamborghini since its inception. This is a story of a self-made man… Born into a vintner family in Emilia-Romagna, Ferruccio Lamborghini has always shown unrivalled talents and passion for mechanics. Subsequent to serving in Regia Aeronautica Italiana (Italian Royal Air Force) during WWII, he first established tractor manufacturer Lamborghini Trattori in Pieve di Cento in 1948, followed by the world-renowned luxury car manufacturer Automobili Lamborghini in Sant’Agata Bolognese in 1963.
In the 1970s, Ferruccio Lamborghini sold most of his business interests in the industrial world and retired to his 300ha estate on the shores of Lake Trasimene, where the great Hannibal Barca beat the Romans black and blue in 217 BC, following Battle of the Trebia in 218 BC and preceding Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. He returned to his roots and pursued winemaking, and even designed his own golf course, hence the inception of Tenuta Lamborghini, established in 1968. This is a man who clearly enjoyed experimenting and making things. The labels of the wines are much less about basking in past glory than a statement of intent, showing a certain uncompromising quality that one associates with the name Lamborghini.
A blend of Sangiovese and Merlot from the same lake. Reddish black with carmine-maroon rim, the brooding nose reveals mulberry, black cherry, clove and dark chocolate. Buttressed by profound acidity and meaty tannins, the impenetrable palate unveils bilberry, prune, coffea arabica and tobacco. Full-bodied at an unobtrusive 14%, the stately entry evolves into an articulate mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish. Impressive as it is, this age-worthy wine has yet to enter its optimal drinking window – a few years of patience will be rewarded.
A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Lake Trasimene. Dark garnet with crimson-ruby rim, the nose is instantaneously captivating, presenting blackberry, black olive, nutmeg and macchia. Braced by buoyant acidity and silky tannins, the palate is extremely vivacious, furnishing cassis, damson, caffè espresso and balsam. Medium-full bodied at 13.5%, the high-spirited entry persists through an expressive mid-palate, leading to a savoury finish. Reminiscent of a Frappato when chilled and undecanted, the wine becomes darker and richer after decanting under room temperature.
An unmistakably Italian variety, Grechetto (literally: little Greek) is in fact of Greek heritage. Although widely grown in central Italy, notably Orvieto DOC, Grechetto is more often than not blended with the likes of Malvasia, Trebbiano and Verdello, whether in dry wines or vin santo. Given time, this low-yielding, late-ripening and disease-resistant variety can develop nutty flavours in bottle. A single-varietal Grechetto, a homage to the Ferruccio Lamborghini, who was born in 1916, hence the name “Centanni” (literally: hundred years). Translucent citrine with flickering yellow diamond reflex, the nose is pristinely herbaceous, effusing grapefruit peel, Asian pear, parsley and cut grass. Anchored by stimulating acidity and clean minerality, the palate is refreshingly herbal, emanating lemon pith, green apple, celery salt and crushed leaves. Medium-bodied at a healthy 12.5%, the citrusy entry continues through a tangy mid-palate, leading to a cleansing finish.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages