Enologica in Montefalco: More Than Wines
Medieval hill town Montefalco, – often called “the balcony of Umbria” – is noted for stunning views surrounding the town seen from every medieval alleyway.,…
…… the splendid frescoes of the Church of San Francesco (now a museum), textiles and wine.
The loom-woven textiles in shop windows along the main street show off grape motifs – and grape hues (and particularly, the color of Sagrantino, Montefalco’s famous red wine) – during the fall; most especially in the last week in September during the Enologica (wine festival).
As Pino and I headed up to Montefalco for the final day of la Settimana Enologica, vineyards of the celebrated Sagrantino grapes spread out long the road:
We stopped just outside Montefalco at the Veneranda vineyards……
…..where visitors who had booked wine-tastings there were in full enjoyment:
Black truffle pâte and other pâtes enhanced the wines….
…as did bruschetta drizzled with Veneranda olive oil:
When we arrived in Montefalco, we entered the crenellated medieval arch, Porta San Agostino,…
…and the poster nearby with the festival events caught Pino’s eye:
Walking up and down the main street inside the medieval walls, visitors to the festival took in Montefalco charms:
Some stopped at the gelateria to taste the “flavor of the day,” cheesecake with Sagrantino:
I yielded to gelato temptation, though not of that flavor:
Wine-tastings – with Sagrantino the star red – were taking place adjacent to the 13th-century Church of St. Augustine…
…in the restored Augustinian monastery cloister…
….and inside the vaulted monastery refectory:
And no doubt, the Augustinian monks had shared local Montefalco wines here centuries ago….
After the purchase of the 10-euro ticket for unlimited tastings, Pino was given his wine goblet in its white cloth bag – with grapes and Strada di Sagrantino (“the Sagrantino Road”) in red – to drape around his neck. (I was allowed along as an observer once the staff knew I wished to write about this event – and talk about it in a ZOOM conference).
Posters with tempting recipes highlighting Sagrantino (and indicating the chef or restaurant creating the dish) lined the walls leading to the cloister: :
As soon as we entered the cloister area, Pino tried his first sip of a Montefalco wine – but a white, a Trebbiano:
Inside the refectory, a masked sommelier poured Pino’s next sip of wine – and again, he chose a Trebbiano (obligatory mask off for the tasting) from a vineyard unfamiliar to us, Tenuta (“Estate”) Alazatura:
We talked for quite a while with the very informative young woman about the Montefalco area wines and the reduction in yield this year – as high as 50% – due to an April freeze, followed by drought.
I guess as we talked, that young woman recognized my accent and voice for she exclaimed, “Anna, non mi riconosci? (“Don’t you recognize me?”) I didn’t and I asked her to slip off her mask as I moved back the obligatory 1 -meter distance (even for those – like us three – all vaccinated).
Ombretta! She had been co-owner for years of a favorite Bevagna restaurant were I headed with groups.
How she laughed with glee at our reunion!
After our “vino reunion” and a purchase of the trebbiano wine of the Tenuta Alzatura, we wandered the stands a bit and were curious to see a rose’.
That rosato was produced by Veneranda, the winery we had passed just outside Montefalco on arrival.
As Pino tasted this rosato, young sommelier Valeria told us about this wine produced by picking their Sangrantino grapes prior to full ripening “so as to give us the freshness of a white wine and the body of a top red.”
The grapes are pressed after the skins are eliminated, she told us. Result?
A fine wine with 14% alcohol.
We purchased that one too…and headed towards the exit.
A very young sommelier was near the door talking so enthusiastically about his family wines to the woman he was serving that we stopped to listen.
Chatting with him, we learned that young Fabio Conti (age 32), agronomist, was carrying on the cultivation of the small two-acred vineyard Azienda Agricola De Conti of his grandfather, Nonno Battista.
Fabio told us that some of the vines are over 100 years old and their family produces only white wine – Trebbiano Spoletino – with an annual yield of about 3000 bottles. Fabio and his father, Dino, now cultivate the grapes……..and produce the wine.
Twenty-seven of the vines are viti maritate, “married vines,” that is, vines wrapped around aceri (a European maple) trees that guide the vines up to the sunlight and are sometimes called “la madre dell’uva” (“mother of the grapevine”) by elderly Umbrian elderly rural people.
Here’s one of the precious vite maritata of the De Conti vineyard, loaded with Trebbiano Spoletino grapes:
…and here are a few of our own (probably about the same age, i.e, nearly a century):
Fabio told us that he works as an agronomist and “I cultivate our small vineyard for pure passione.”
As Pino sipped their Trebbiano Spoletino – “complimenti,” he told Fabio – they chatted for quite some time about vineyards and grape cultivation:
Pino asked Fabio about the way to identify the grape varieties of our vines planted years ago as he’s eager to know. Fabio told us that he could probably do that identification of our grapes by viewing them on site when young and later when mature, though he could not guarantee success. “Molto complicato,” he told us.
We left Fabio’s stand with a bottle of his wine – and an agreement to have him up to our land next spring, as we’ve already picked this year.
We stopped to see the view outside the refectory..
…and then strolled through Montefalco, noting the wine and grape accoutrements before many a store. Kegs stood before some stores, topped with wine bottles, often open ones for tastings:
Here and there, you might see a wine keg carved to create a bench. ….
Strings of wine corks dangled before the entrance to a local ristorante:
….and wine pairs of Sagrantino and Montefalco Rosso wines in boxes hung off the railing bordering another ristorante entrance:
Wines were displayed in holders made of wooden wine cases on a battered wooden door:
A maiolica table-top adorned with grape bunches and grape leaves hung on the wall of one shop…
…and near the table-top, a variety of artisanal objects – including wine-cork and olive wood objects – were displayed, notes attached to them telling of their origin.
Some of the cutting boards were made from the staves of old wine barrels.
The objects on the wall peaked our interest and we headed inside. Cutting boards of various shapes hung on the wall, their wood well-polished. We soon learned from shop-owner and carpenter, Fabio (his shop is called “Mastro Fabio” – and he IS a master) that the cutting boards had been made by him with the wooden staves from wine barrels, some of the kegs very old and most of them, once holding red wines: hence the warm tones of the wood.
Two cutting boards had been made from sections of a wine-press disc and Fabio united them to show us the original shape:
Mastro Fabio used even the metal hoops of the kegs: twisting them to use as holders of wine bottles:
A pleasure to meet yet another artisan celebrating Montefalco wines: the perfect conclusion to our day at the Enologica festival….
…..in Montefalco, la ringhiera dell’Umbria (“the balcony of Umbria”):
Read about other Montefalco adventures
Read here about the rosato of the Veneranda winery
Read about Tenuta Alzatura
Click here to read about Azienda Agricola De Conti