Spring is upon us, fellow wine humans! You know what that means: it’s time to pretend that the invisible curtain that’s been draped over every wine, coloured white and rosé – existing only to shame anyone who decided to drink anything but a red mouth flannel during the cold season – has been lifted. Prepare your eyeholes for barrages of “12 wines to pair with Sheila’s garden party” and “You Won’t Believe This Pinot Grigio I Just Tried”. (Please still invite me, Sheila.)
Orvieto, hailing from Italy’s Umbria, seems like that forgettable friend you kind of knew but lost all contact with once you entered high school, eclipsed by the region’s demandingly gruff red superstar, Sagrantino. Considering that my only memorable experience of a white Orvieto back home in Canada (and “memorable” is a generous word, here) was a vaguely melon-scented bottle that did nothing but provide a lukewarm impression on my tongue, I was drawn to the offerings at San Francisco’s 2017 Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting. I already know the bottles of Barolo and Barbaresco in the room are going to be fabulous mouth-pleasers, but what exactly does an outstanding thing in an essentially dull and forgettable category taste like?
For once, I’m not saying that while unbuttoning a pair of pants.
Decugnano dei Barbi 2015 “Villa Barbi” Orvieto Classico (Orvieto, Umbria, Italy) Feb 2017. Due bicchieri.
50% Grechetto, 20% Vermentino, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and 10% Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano). Leads with starfruit and lychee, both which become more vivid on the palate. Pleasantly juicy and round.
Decugnano dei Barbi 2015 “Il Bianco” Orvito Classico Superiore (Orvieto, Umbria, Italy) Feb 2017. Tre bicchieri.
Grechetto and Procanico. A slightly more supercharged version of the Villa Barbi, with slightly more focussed herb notes, savoury character, and flavour expression. Unlike its purely stainless steel younger sibling, a tiny portion of this is vinified in French oak.
Palazzone 2015 “Vignarco” Orvieto Classico (Orvieto, Umbria, Italy) Feb 2017.
80% of Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano) and Grechetto, along with Drupeggio, Verdello, and Malvasia. Crushed nuts and earth with just a hint of pear and banana in the mix. Round and expressive, with some nutty starfruit. Pleasurable zing to this.
Palazzone 2015 “Terre Vineate” Orvieto Classico Superiore (Orvieto, Umbria, Italy) Feb 2017. Due bicchieri.
50% Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano), 30% Grechetto, and 20% of Verdello, Drupeggio, and Malvasia. Oddly, and pleasantly enough, there’s something reminiscent of Alsatian Riesling, like this vibrant layer of jellied peach, but without its imposing structure. Potent but elegant.
Palazzone 2014 “Campo del Guardiano” Orvieto Classico Superiore (Orvieto, Umbria, Italy) Feb 2017. Tre bicchieri.
Same blend as the previous: 50% Procanico (Trebbiano Toscano), 30% Grechetto, and 20% of Verdello, Drupeggio, and Malvasia. Shyly integrated nose. White flowers and peaches, and if chalk could be vanilla-flavoured. Hints to some tropical fruit: perhaps mango or melon? Yum.