Lombardy and Umbria make an odd couple. There is very little in common between the two regions. From the wealthy haute couture of Lombardy to the “Green Heart” of Italy, Umbria. The one thing they do have in common is great culinary and wine adventures. Let’s get started.
There are not many similarities between today’s two highlighted regions. Lombardy is among the wealthiest of Italian regions and also its most populous. Lombardy is home to Milan, Italy’s financial and fashion capital. Lombardy’s terrain is mostly flat, with only one third having the hilly country so conducive to growing great wine. Indeed, Lombardy does produce a few excellent wines, but does not get the recognition for them. There are a few possible reasons for this.
The high-ranking wine producers, Veneto, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna surround Lombardy and may cast somewhat of an overshadowing effect. Also, bulk buyers, restaurants and neighboring countries are happy to snap up Lombardy wines (without acknowledging their source) before these wines can reach Italian palates, thus impeding recognition by the locals.
One exception is the Spumante or sparkling wine, which is famous in Lombardy. The highest quality Spumante comes from the Franciacorta area of Lombardy, which is considered Italy’s “Champagne Zone”.
Famous Lombardy dishes are based on lamb or risotto, and soups with beans and hearty vegetables.
Umbria is the Italian region nestled snugly in the center of Italy, lovingly referred to as “the green heart of Italy.” It is famous for the towns Assisi (as in St. Francis of) and Norcia (as in St. Benedict). But it is the medieval hill town of Orvieto, just north of Rome, that gives Umbria the historical distinction of being known for white wine.
Orvieto, Umbria’s best-known white, is named after the city with the same name. It’s a crisp, peachy white made primarily from the Trebbiano grape. The original Orvieto wine was sweeter than the modern version. Today’s crisp Orvieto is one of Italy’s best sellers.
Umbria’s best-known reds are the Torgiano Rosso Reserve and Sagrantino di Montefalco, both of which have DOCG classification. The first is named after a city by the same name and is made up of the same grapes that are in Chianti: Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Trebbiano. It has a similar feel to a Chianti Classico. The second is made from the Sagrantino grape, and it is a big, bad red – very different from the Torgiano.
Umbria has a great capacity for growing a wide variety of wine grapes, be it red, white, native or non-native. In addition to the three native wines highlighted, growers are experimenting and having success with Chardonnays, Sauvignons, Pinots and Gewürtztraminers. Older growths of Barbera, Merlot and more recently Cabernet Sauvignon all co-exist in this region. The wide array of wines points to the region’s geographical and climactic versatility.
A leg of lamb, or chicken cacciatore would be fine dishes to serve in an Umbrian mood, and a variety of wines could accompany such dishes, befitting a region so blessed with such wine variety.
Lombardy and Umbria
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