Umbria Food & Wine
Umbria's oak woods, clear streams, and rich soil yield many delicacies. Chief among these are trout and truffles, olive oils to rival those of Tuscany, prized lentils from Castelluccio, cured meats from Norcia, and tangy mountain cheeses.
The delicacies of Umbria, such as extra virgin olive oil, black and white truffles, spaghetti, porchetta alla perugina (suckling pig), carne ai capperi e acciughe (veal with caper and herb sauce) and good-quality local sausages, salami, and prosciutto, are famous throughout Italy. Local ingredients used in Umbrian cooking include pork and beef, cheeses, lentils from the Valerina, fish from Lake Trasimeno and the River Nera, mushrooms, and potatoes from Colfiorito, and the Umbrian favorite colombaccio (wood pigeon).
Norcia, a town on the edge of the Apennine, is Italy's prime source of black truffles. The locals closely guard the secrets of their hunting grounds, passing the locations down from one generation to the next. But this mystery is reasonable given the value of truffles.
Add truffles and the humblest dish becomes divine. Truffles are served fresh with pasta, meat, and egg dishes, or even pounded into paste with anchovies and garlic. The "black diamonds" are preserved in various ways, including in cheese known as pecorino tartufato. And for the adventurous, you can find liqueur made from truffles "Tartufo". Even more prized are Umbria's white truffles, always eaten fresh.
When you dine in Umbria, you can taste the history. This is the land of the Etruscans, and studies of frescoes in the ancient tombs show that the locals eat in a manner very similar to that of their ancestors.
Umbria has been a wine region ever since the Etruscans planted the first cuttings from the Greeks. Those cuttings provided the king of Umbrian vines, the celebrated Orvieto and Orvieto Classico, which provide a delicate wine, dry with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Orvieto Classico comes from the old zone around the Paglia River.
Umbria has always been known as a white wine region; however, there has been a big jump in red wine production over the past decade.
Orvieto is Umbria's, and one of Italy's, most famous wines. In the Middle Ages, Orvieto was a sweet, golden-colored wine. Only in the last 50 years or so has most of Orvieto been made secco (dry).
The other DOC wines of Umbria are grown on the western hills of the region: the Colli del Trasimeno comes from the hills around Umbria's largest lake (Rosso, a garnet, slightly tannic wine; Bianco, dry and mellow with a deep straw color); Colli Perugini from the hills of Perugia (a dry ruby red, a fruity light white, and a dry intense rose'); Colli Amerini, from the Amelia region; and Colli Altotiberini (a pleasant dry white and red, and a pale, fresh rose'). Those of Torgiano, from a small zone near the village of that name, include magnificent dry, full-bodied reds that can take years of aging. The area around Montefalco also produces three fine reds: a dry velvety rosso, the dry, garnet Sagrantino, with the aroma of blackberries, and the sweetish Sagrantino Passito, made from raisins.
One of the more unusual wines is the dessert wine Vernaccia di Cannara, only made in Cannara; it differs from other vernaccia in Italy because it is red. The most famous dessert wine is Vin Santo, a rich golden wine made from semi-dried grapes.