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Orvieto Doc: the Italian sun in a bottle

On the tables of popes as those of the revolutionaries: tradition and innovation of an Italian Denomination that puts all agree about its pleasantness

Orvieto is one of the best-known Italian white wines in the world and alone accounts for three quarters of Umbria's region DOC wine production.
The winemaking tradition of this area is deeply rooted in the history. The Etruscans dug deep cellars in the tufaceous rocks typical of the area, and fermentation was completed in these cool caves after several months, leaving a sugary residue in the wine which contributed towards its popularity.

In the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was one of the favorites wines of the Pontifical Court (Pope Paul III was especially fond of it and Gregory XVI asked for his body to be washed in Orvieto wine before burial), and was praised by poets, artists and famous men, including Pinturicchio: when he painted in Orvieto, he demanded in his contract that he be supplied with "as much wine as he could drink".

In less distant times, Garibaldi and his thousand toasts with Orvieto before leaving the port of Talamone for their Sicilian adventure and D'Annunzio defined it as "Italian sun in a bottle" while Enrico Fermi and the lads of via Panisperna saluted with glasses of Orvieto the successful nuclear reaction.

The Orvieto Doc
The Orvieto DOC zone is divided into Orvieto Classico, the area surrounding Rupe and its district, and Orvieto that completing the area to the north and south.
Orvieto and Orvieto Classico can be produced in the following types: secco (dry), abboccato (sweetish), amiable (slightly sweet), dolce (sweet), superior and late harvest.

The grapes of Orvieto
Grechetto, a native grape variety typical of this area, is the main reference for the Orvieto Doc wine. According to the new Production Regulations, in force since 2003, Orvieto Doc must be made from the following varieties:

Grechetto: min. 40%.
Trebbiano or Procanico: min. 20% max. 40%.
Other non-aromatic varieties: max. 40%.

The Consortium of Orvieto Wines
Since 1958 this area of production was lead by a consortium with the aim of protecting the image and quality of Orvieto wine. In 1971, when the DOC was recognized, this organization took the name of Consorzio Tutela Vino Orvieto.

Today, the percentage of the product made by members of the Consortium accounts is about 90% of the whole Doc production.

Q&A with Corrado Bottai, President of the Orvieto wines Consortium
- W hat do you see for the future of the Consortium, an increase in exports or domestic consumption?
A denomination like Orvieto Doc, due to its structure and for its large volumes, although present on the Italian market will be always strongly linked to export.

- Regarding the exportation, do you feel more protected since the Doc, Docg, Igt are now in a common Dop/Igp register?
“Doc” is a word related to a concept deeply rooted in the wine world, much more of “Dop”. For that reason, the result will depend on the quality of information that will be given to the consumers.

- Is Orvieto wine confined by tradition or opened to innovation?
Tradition and innovation are two concepts that travel together. Tradition defines a way to set the organization of work, innovation consists in seeking new ways which are appealing to the consumer.

In the last forty years, Orvieto Doc has undergone an extraordinary development, passing from the 2,500,000 bottles sold as typical Orvieto wine in 1960 to 20 million bottles. Average annual production is around 150,000 hl of wine from 3,000 hectares of vineyards registered at the Chambers of Commerce.

Pairing Orvieto Doc
The dry type is perfect for aperitif and match well with vegetable soups and pasta, including seafood. Very suitable for main dishes, it’s good companion for boiled, roasted fish or white meat, boiled or stir-fry vegetables, finding a perfect marriage with asparagus in butter.
The slightly sweet and sweet types pair well with liver dishes, with tasty cheese, and fruit salads.

by Duccio Morozzo della Rocca
07 june 2010, Food & Fun > Knowledge