Paul Howard Articles, Blog, Italy, Organic

Madrevite and the Colli di Trasimeno

Madrevite – Umbrian organic excellence

A “Madrevite” is a wooden threaded spigot that Umbrian winemakers once used to close up their barrels after filling them full of wine. Nicola Chiucchiurlotto, who founded the Madrevite estate, chose this name for his wine estate as a linkage between traditional and modern wine growing, which embodies organic and artisanal wine production. Located on the Umbrian-Tuscan border, the Madrevite estate is in the pretty Umbrian hills close to Lake Trasimeno. Indeed, here you’ll find the small DOC Colli di Trasimeno appellation.

In 2003, when Nicola began to restore his old family farm, he decided to replant part of his grandfather Zino’s ancient vineyards. Like most, this had been a subsistence farm. So there are not only vineyards; olive groves, grains, and legumes are all traditional crops. You’ll find chickpeas as a primary source of protein. At the same time, Nicola grows a rare variety of Fagiolina beans along with just eight other producers, and this has a Slow Food Praesidium.

Today Madrevite covers 60 hectares of land spanning three wooded hills. There are eleven hectares of vines, which now average some twenty years of age, producing 35,000 bottles of wine per year. While the farm has always been organic, Nicola is now officially “in conversion” to obtain official certification.

Colli di Trasimeno

Colli di Trasimeno is a delightfully natural area, relatively little known and unspoiled, a rural snapshot of past times in the “green heart of Italy”. The famous Umbrian cities of Perugia and Assisi are less than an hour away, while the Tuscan towns of Cortona and Montepulciano are closer still at under thirty minutes. The low hills of the Colli di Trasimeno occupy the western side of the lake, with the Madrevite vineyards at an elevation of 280-350 metres. That might sound relatively high, but the water level of Lake Trasimeno is at around 250 metres altitude, though it visibly rises and falls with the seasons.

Umbria is Italy’s only landlocked region, but Lake Trasimeno is Italy’s fourth-largest lake, almost the size of Como, so it occupies a large area and has a long shoreline. It’s shallow but full of fish, and its water quality also means that summer bathing is a popular pastime! The lake wields a significant influence on the microclimate here, aided by the smaller Tuscan Lake Chiusi nearby.

Lake Trasimeno moderates the cold inland winters, and it rarely freezes. Similarly, on and offshore breezes inhibit the summer heat and humidity. These also create the diurnal temperature variation that vines love and bring freshness and longevity to the wines. Soils are sands and clays, not surprisingly, given they are primarily lake sediments. In short, Trasimeno helps creates conditions that are highly suitable for viticulture. Hence it can trace its winemaking roots back to the ancient Umbri people, rivals of the Etruscans.

Madrevite Vines and Varieties

Madrevite grows a mix of white and red vine varieties, and except for the red Syrah, all are Italian natives. Grechetto di Todi is an Umbrian classic white, while the delightful Spoletino is a future one. Spoletino is spreading after its rediscovery and success in Montefalco, the story of which is here.

Meanwhile, you would be right to expect Sangiovese and Montepulciano to be grown as reds. However, the emblematic grape in these parts is undoubtedly Gamay del Trasimeno, which deserves both an explanation and a much wider audience!

Firstly, some clarity about the name Gamay, which is potentially confusing. It has no connection with France’s Gamay, the light fruity red most famous for Beaujolais. Instead, Gamay del Trasimeno makes a far bolder red wine because it is a form of Spanish Garnacha (French Grenache). Furthermore, it’s most closely linked to the distinctive Sardinian form of Grenache known as Cannonau, and it also turns out to be the same as Veneto’s Tai Rosso, which you can read about here.

Still with me? Hope so. How and why Cannonau found its way to this part of Umbria remains mysterious. Umbria was a Papal State, so it may have arrived with Spanish visitors. However, it may be that it was bought here by the Sardinian shepherds that came to Trasimeno in the nineteenth century. What’s crystal clear is that Gamay del Trasimeno is, as we shall see, capable of producing excellent wine worth discovering.

Two Madrevite wines

Madrevite is a small producer, and so while there is an intention of bringing more of their wine range into the UK, this article features those two wines that wine lovers can presently buy in the UK. These are the Spoletino white, Il Reminore, and the Gamay del Trasimeno red, Opra.

 

Madrevite Il Reminore

Madrevite Il Reminore

Spoletino, Il Reminore, Umbria Bianco IGP, 2020. 13%

Madrevite planted Spoletino in 2006 at 320 metres, and those grapes then made the first white wine at Madrevite. Now there are about 10,000 bottles produced each year. The Spoletino grapes are harvested in October and then cryomacerated for 3-4 days before fermentation to extract colour and aroma. Fermentation then uses natural yeast and takes place in stainless steel tanks. Afterwards, it rests on the lees for six months, with regular lees stirring (battonage), before clarifying naturally. Bottling is under a high-quality DIAM 5 cork, with a further six months’ rest before release. It suggests that, like many a Spoletino, this is a white wine capable of ageing and improving. This one shows bags of personality, as any good Spoletino must.

A bright yellow-green, the aromatics are subtle yet develop as the wine warms in the glass, primarily citrus, with a bit of honey. Then intensity in the mouth follows, the incisive acidity balancing lemon and lime fruit with a hint of pineapple, before a long finish featuring almonds and aniseed.

Given the proximity to Lake Trasimeno, it’s perhaps obvious that freshwater fish are a good match. Us Brits will love it with a Roast Chicken dinner, where the wines’ fresh acidity makes a perfect foil. It’s softer cheese heaven, too, especially with those having mushroomy flavours.

UK availability: Tannico, £17.38

 

 

 

Madrevite Opra

Madrevite Opra

Gamay del Trasimeno, Opra, DOC Colli di Trasimeno, 2020. 14%

At Madrevite, this Gamay comes from a small hilltop vineyard at 320 metres. The vines originated from cuttings made by Nicola’s grandfather from ancient vines.

Opra uses a modern version of a technique reminiscent of the old Tuscan Governo once employed by Chianti. A portion of lightly dried grapes is added to the fermenting liquid, strengthening the wine and adding more complexity. (Governo added only juice, this modern way includes the benefits from the skins). Opra was bottled in June 2021 with a DIAM 5  cork after maturing for ten months in cement tanks, then rested for another three months before release.

Bright ruby red, big aromas leap out from the glass; black cherry, sour red cherry (Marasca?), violets and cinnamon. The palate reprises these scents as ripe fruit flavours, adding some plum and a balsamic note on the way. Though the fruit brings an impression of sweetness, the length and long finish are nicely dry. There are plenty of mouthwatering acids, and those soft tannins smooth and speed its passage. It’s vibrant, more-ish, and has a lightness and poise that belies its 14% – a lovely, elegant and distinctive wine that’ll put a smile on your face. You could keep it another 3-4 years, but why wait?

Just perfect with all kinds of Salumi/Charcuterie. There are only 3,600 bottles to go around; more’s the pity.

UK Availability: Tannico, £17.38

 

And finally

Madrevite also employs Spoletino for about 3,500 numbered bottles of Futura, a Metodo Ancestrale Brut Nature sparkling wine (known by hipsters as Pet’ Nat). Again, it’s an excellent example. As usual with this style, it’s cloudy from the bottle fermentation. And while Opra is my pick of the Madrevite range, there are two more 100% Gamay del Trasimeno wines, both in contrasting styles. The first is C’osa DOC Riserva, perhaps more akin to a traditional Cannonau in style, using a selection of the ripest grapes given oak barrel ageing and is a hefty yet highly drinkable winter warmer. The other is Bisbetica, an onion-skin coloured IGP Rosé for fresh summer drinking. Both are excellent. These wines are not available in the UK at present.

Consequently, I hope that Nicola will bring these wines into the UK, and if so, you’ll hear about it here. Meanwhile, seek out Il Reminole and Opra, which come highly recommended.

Location

Azienda Agricola Madrevite di Nicola Chiucchiurlotto
Via Cimbano 36
Vaiano 06061
Castiglione del Lago
Province of Perugia
Umbria
Italy

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