Gusto's Umbrian Wine Adventure

Originally in Castiglione Del Lago Newsletter …….

Posted in Italian Wine, Umbrian Life by gustowinetours on October 21, 2011

Phew!  Wot a Scorcher!

(With quiet apologies to the Sun or the Mirror years ago!)

(Wrote this piece near the end of September)

Early harvest for summer 2011

We’re lucky,  we have the best of both worlds.  Where we live looks out over vineyards, our back garden is a small vineyard, but the vines are rented out to a small local cantina up the road – so we have the pleasure of looking at them but not the pain of tending them!

August this year was exceptionally hot and dry leading to the early ripening of the grapes in this area.

The cantina that tends the grapes in our back garden usually harvest early anyway – last year it was the 1st September for both red and white grapes.  This year, mid-August was  their chosen time – REALLY early!

So while we were enjoying the sun, the cantine were worried.  The grapes were ripening far too quickly and sweetening up – even the Sagrantino grapes were ready.

Getting a first taste of the brand new wine! Bottles? Nah! Why bother?!

Grapes are generally harvested at slightly different times – so, for instance, the Chardonnay grapes might be picked at the end of August, whereas the Sagrantino grapes can be harvested as late as October. To show how early the grapes have ripened, the last grapes to be picked of the season are the bunches selected to become the Sagrantino Passito.

One of the methods used,  is the Sagrantino grapes are harvested for the secco (dry wine) then the bunches chosen for the Passito (dessert wine) are left on the vines for a while longer to ripen further.

Then, usually in late October, these bunches are picked and laid in a single layer on wire racks in naturally aired rooms for about 6 weeks to lose some of their juice and concentrate the natural sugars.  They can lose around 70% of their volume and become raisin like. (One of the reasons that Passito is more expensive than the secco wine!)

We have seen at least 2 cantine where this process has already taken place – at least a week ago if not more (mid-September).  That’s unbelievably early to be making the Sagrantino Passito.

Sagrantino grapes drying on the racks - to become Passito one day.

So the question will be, will 2011 be a great vintage or not?  Have the cantine saved the grapes? You’ll have to wait at least 3 years before that question is answered!

What do you think?  Will 2011 be a good year for wine?

Gusto news and views!

Posted in Italian Wine, Umbrian Life by gustowinetours on September 30, 2011

Grapes ready to be taken to the cantina.

Busy, Busy, Busy!!

No apologies for not writing for a while, we have a great excuse!

In only our second year, we are exceeding even our own expectations and we’re wonderfully busy and each day brings us new friends along with a daily reason to show off Umbria and a little of what she has to offer.

After a weather blip in July this summer has proven to be a long, hot and dry one.  Umbria has, for once, not lived up to her nickname of “The green heart of Italy”.  She is distinctly brown this summer!

Mind you, a little rain goes a long way here – a thunderstorm a few days ago almost instantly greened up the lawn again and the rather wizened looking olives plumped right up again!

The weather is still sensational even at the end of September, cooler in the evenings, but even so, the days are beautifully warm and sunny.

We have been honing our Gusto day out over this season and it’s getting better and better according to the feedback we get from our guests!

We’re in the process of adding another string to our bow and we shall be rolling out ‘Wines in Villa’ soon.  One of the things we have noticed this year is that larger groups tend to be a mix of adults and children.  We have found that the children are there because the parents don’t have any other option. They don’t have the best time!  It’s an adult day out and with the best will in the world, there’s only so much we can organise to entertain the kids on a wine tour.

We’ve also had some enquiries where they only want a short day, with or without children!

Others have visited countless cantine and would just like to taste the Umbrian wines.

So, we figured, lets bring the tastings to the guests.

For some of our guests, we think this could be the perfect answer.  We bring the wines and the snacks that complement the wines – our guests provide the setting.

It also means that potentially, we can include a bigger catchment area – at the moment if we have enquiries from the extremes of Umbria, we have to ask our guests to meet us closer to Montefalco.  If we are only going to one place, we can ‘afford’ the time it takes to drive there and back.   You can see the idea on our website.

We’re also going to offer a seasonal treat of a guided olive oil tasting.  This area not only has fabulous wines, but the olive oil is spectacular too!  We are hoping to link this autumn alternative to the new olive oils coming out at the end of October.  There will be a very small additional fee for this option of €5.00. We’ll be offering this up to the end of this year initially and will look into offering it as an alternative to one of the cantine during the day if there is enough positive feedback.

Vendemmia at the back of our house..

It’s been all hands to the wheel much earlier this year because of the hot dry weather resulting in the vendemmia starting at least 2 weeks early for even the earliest grapes to be harvested like the Chardonnay.

2011 is going to be a ‘big question’ mark vintage year, the winemakers just don’t know if they have managed to save their grapes or not.  Time will tell and we’ll see in about 3 years from now for the Montefalco wines!

The vines at the back of our house were all harvested in the 3rd week of August, including the Sangiovese (red) grapes.  They were ready and ripe.  Some of the cantine even have their Sagrantino grapes on the racks for the gorgeous Passito dessert wine.  These grapes traditionally don’t ripen until mid October.  This is exceptionally early for this procedure.

Last September we were honoured to have a young man ask his lovely girlfriend to be his wife and, luckily, she said yes!  Tomorrow, on the 1st October, they will be getting married. We wish Mark and Jessie all the very best and thanks again for their kind invitation to their wedding!

We’re hoping that there will still be grapes to be seen on the vines next week, as our guests have all requested to at least see, if not participate in some way, with the vendemmia!  Fingers crossed, we love to exceed expectations!

LOVE me some grapes!


Posted in Italian Wine, Umbrian Life by gustowinetours on June 1, 2011

Our house surrounded by the special spring green.



 They really don’t call Umbria the Green Heart of Italy for nothing, you know!

Right now it’s really living up to its name with the blossoming of that almost fluorescent-lime spring green.  The vines are suddenly looking like they are badly in need of a haircut with tendrils sticking out every which way!

In need of some taming!

It’s an exciting time to be observing the vines right now with the embryonic grape bunches peeking out from the oversized vine leaves.

Neo-grape bunches!

BIG vine leaves!

More neo bunches of grapes!

Then Mother Nature makes sure there is a splash of colour against this sea of green as far as the eye can see, she dots and swirls and bunches the bright red poppies randomly throughout the countryside -you can be out walking and turn a corner to see a field full of poppies almost obliterating the green – it fair takes your breath away!

Gorgeous Poppies in the Umbrian fields.

This has to be my favourite time of year, not too hot yet, the mosquitoes are scarce and the countryside is burgeoning with fresh promise!  Oh, and there are lots of fabulous local festivals to go to – that might be something to do with loving this time of year too!

One of the many fab Cantine that participated in Cantine Aperte (Open Wineries).

Olio Nuovo

Posted in Umbrian Life by gustowinetours on October 28, 2010

Yes, yes, yes, I know that it’s not WINE, but this region has the most SPECTACULAR olive oil, and this weekend (30,31 Oct, 1 Nov) the frantoii (Olive oil mills) are open to the public to show off their fabulous wares – usually coupled with hot bruschette grilled on a massive BBQ over charcoal with a few juicy sausages and, last year, I tried olive oil icecream – topped with some green olives, and believe me – it was delicious!! Can’t wait!