I recently had the honor of touring Chiara Lungarotti and her wines around town. She presides as CEO of Lungarotti. The winery sits southwest of Perugia, not far from Assisi in Torgiana’s hills. They also have property in Montefalco. The wine world had long ignored Umbria, Italy’s green heart, isolated in the Apennine hills.
Her father, Giorgio. modernized the winery and fought to get Umbria’s wine regions appellated into Italy’s DOC and DOCG system. Not to be outdone, his Art Historian wife, Maria Grazia, founded a Wine Museum and Olive and Oil Museum. When he died in 1999, daughters Chiara and Teresa took over.
Teresa (right) has enology degrees from Perugia and Bordeaux, while Chiara (left) studied viticulture. Teresa became one of Italy’s first head female winemakers. While, Chiara now reins as CEO: adding a grape and olive-based spa, hotel, while also pushing the winery to Organic farming in 2010. Imagine yourself getting a grape pip massage or wine bath, while sipping some Umbrian magic.
My afternoon with Chiara was delightful. She had a calm charm with each account we went to. My normal cement-pounding sales pace got to breath for once. Her passion for making the winery self-sufficient: from dry-farming, vine cutting fuel, water reuse, et cetera infected us. She also delighted in hearing about my past life in archaeology (her Latin shamed mine) and my diaper-filled parenting of Alexandria.
Speaking of diapers. By the end of our day my wife and I traded places. She went to town for a beer conference. I armed myself with bottles for the baby (and myself).
First, their white:
Lungarotti, Torre di Giano, Bianco di Torregiano DOC 2015 $15
Named after the ancient tower of Janus synonymous with the town and DOC, Torre de Giano blends Vermentino, Trebbiano, and Grechetto . It looks a clear, straw with grassy highlights. Pleasant AROMAS combine bright citric rind and mellow mellon. The PALATE feels soft and round at first, medium bodied, but firms up with just enough acidity to keep it upright and glinting. FLAVORS taste amply but unassumingly of lemon, white pear, and honey that turn to a light medium length,saline finish.
Lungarotti’s Bianco is very good (4 of 5) because it is balanced, mildly interesting, not shouty, and makes for a warm evening on the veranda.
Next, Lungarotti’s daily red: Rubesco, Rosso di Torgiano DOC 2013 $16
Like its Tuscan neighbors, Rubesco mixes 90% Sangiovese with 10% Colorino. The APPEARANCE looked a limpid, glinting ruby. Delicate AROMAS of fresh red cherry, violet, and a light black pepper and nutmeg matched FLAVORS that finished slightly stoney. The PALATE felt just serious enough -dry, mildly tannic, bright, and medium bodied- to take on light dishes, mild cheeses, veggie pastas, or drink alone.
Rubesco is very good red (4 of 5) when used in the right context. Drink now through 2020. It will disappear against big meats, spice, and heavy sauces but sings as well as any fresh little Chianti. Just imagine higher toned and mineral thanks to Torgiano’s higher elevation.
Let’s head South to their property in now famed Montefalco. Sand and clay form a film over limestone.
Lungarotti, Montefalco Rosso, DOC 2014 $21
Like Rubesco, Sangiovese leads, but at 60%, backed by a modern 25% Merlot, and the grape that defines Montefalco 15% Sagrantino.
The APPEARANCE looks a deeper ruby core with and iron rust rim. AROMAS and FLAVORS are complex and more concentrated here. Spices akin to nutmeg and cinnamon lead into dry, toasted wood balanced by red raspberry, cherry, and dried plum. The PALATE is dry, with singing acidity, silty tannins, a fuller medium body and dusty yet smooth texture.
Their Montefalco Rosso is more fulsome and deeper than Rubesco but not huge in any sense. It is very good (4 of 5). Drink now through 2027. Richer mushroom and meat dishes and hard cheeses play well with it.
Lastly, Sagrantino: a native grape famed for having the most polyphenols of any (aka antioxidants, ciao cancer).
Lungarotti, Montefalco Sagrantino, DOCG 2010 $40
2010 was the first vintage Chiara converted to Organic farming. Since this is for the ladies, let us let Alexandria to judge the APPEARANCE:
Hmmm…a clear, medium plus intese ruby core fringed with a medium intense garnet rim.
AROMAS and FLAVORS punch strongly and open like a book: think pomegranate concentrate, dried black cherries and oodles of spice and earth: nutmeg, dried orange zest, tobacco, and pepper. The PALATE is dry, with still high-toned but mellowing acidity, tannins feel fat and huge, clinging to every recess in the mouth. the body is medium plus and texture like thick velvet.
Lungarotti’s Montefalco Sagrantino 2010 is gorgeous, gripping, complex, and intense. They aged it long enough, so drink it now or through 2025. It is outstanding (5 of 5). But keep food nearby. I lucked out and had fresh pasta swimming in peppery wild boar that lunch. This wine begs for meat, strong aged cheeses, or mushroom dishes.
So, Lungarotti makes it easy to support Italy’s first woman-run winery. Their bianco and rossos taste solid and real: familiar to lovers of Chianti but uniquely Umbrian. But try their Sagrantino: it will recalibrate everything you knew about wine.