Drinking Now: Terre Margaritelli from Umbria

Italy is a place commonly known for its Tuscan wines, generally from the Chianti region of Northern Italy. Chianti’s main grape is Sangiovese followed by Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Sangiovese is, however, grown in a number of regions of Italy, including that of a small region just south and literally bordering Montepulciano, one of the most famous Chianti regions, Umbria.1-vigna-e-cantina-da-sud

Umbria, somewhat of a lesser known cousin of Tuscany, mainly grows Sangiovese as well. Umbria also produces a well-known crisp peachy white wine called Orvieto made from Trebbiano, Grechetto, Verdello and other varieties. Umbria has two DOCGs (notable wine regions): Torgiano Rosso Riserva and Sagrantino di Montefalco.

I had the pleasure to try a few wines from a winery called Terre Margaritelli, which is located in the heart of Umbria, between Assisi and Perugia on a 128-acre estate planted with organic vineyards in Miralduolo, Torgiano DOCG area. This particular winery had its start in 1870 and the Margaritelli family has passed on its love of wine generation by generation.


Grechetto grapes ready for harvest.

One of the first wines I had the chance to try was a Greco Di Renabianca, a white wine made from the grape varietal Grechetto. It ages for about two to three months in French oak and later aged in a bottle for a year. It was a very interesting wine for me as it was reminiscent of a lightly oaked Chardonnay.  It had the same kind of apple and white floral notes with a grassiness that I tend to like about unoaked Chardonnay wines but a light buttery finish that didn’t linger too long.  The grapes pictured above are the Grechetto grapes, which are more commonly used to blend but have the potential, as demonstrated in this wine, to stand alone. It retails for around $25 a bottle.

img_0790The wine that I enjoyed the most was the 100% Sangiovese, Freccia Degli Scacchi, with the Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG classification. It has been aged 24 months in French oak and 24 months in bottle. This wine reminded me somewhat of a Priorat (NE Spain) wine with some flintiness (licorella) and licorice on the palate. The color of the wine was a deep garnet red. On the nose, baked dark berries, leather and some candied fruit and finally in the mouth: blackberries, dark cherries, licorice, licorella, and a long persistent finish.  It retails around $30 a bottle.

Both of these wines were not only tasty but eye-opening for the region. I look forward to trying more wines from Umbria and hopefully visiting the region one day!



A visit to the beautiful Priorat wine region of Spain

For those of you who are not familar with Priorat, as I wasn’t previous to my move to Spain, Priorat is one of only two designated origins that qualify to use the term DOCa/ DOQ, Spanish Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) (Denominació d’Origen Qualificada (DOQ) in Catalan).  Priorat’s DOCa/DOQ is considered to be the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations, alongside Rioja DOCa. What this means is that wine producers are technically held to a higher standard of quality than those in the rest of Spain.  However, this is not to say that there aren’t other regions of Spain that make amazing wine. This is simply a qualification method within the European Union.

Priorat is a terraced, hilly wine region near the city of Tarragona, Spain, south of Barcelona.  It is characterized by its unique terroir of black slate and quartz soil known as Llicorella. To get a better idea of the Priorat region, please see the map below.

Map of Priorat Region

Map of Priorat Region

The Priorat region is famous for its Cariñena and Garnacha (Grenache) grape varieties.  However, wine producers are also allowed to use Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz (Syrah), among other varieties.  Four white varieties are also authorized: Garnacha BlancaMacabeo, Pedro Ximénez, and Chenin.

Interestingly enough, compared to the over 600 wineries in the La Rioja DOCa, the Priorat DOCa/DOQ has approximately 96 wineries and produces only 1% of what La Rioja does each year. This is due primarily to the challenging conditions of the land, the soil, and the weather, which together work to cause extremely low yields.  In order to properly grow and cultivate grapes on this difficult land, true, honest dedication is required. Most wine producers give up and leave to seek more fertile land; those that stay behind, like the owners of the three vineyards we visited, live the life of vignerons and eat, live, drink, and breathe life into this region.

We visited three vineyards during our two-day visit to the Priorat region: Agnés de Cervera, Cellers Capafons -Osso, and finally Celler Burgos Porta. Each of the three wineries was distinct in its own way.

Agnes de Cervera- La Solana Vineyards

Agnés de Cervera- La Solana Vineyards

Agnés de Cervera, which is located in El Molar, is a medium- large winery; once the project of Osborne, it is now run by a family.  Its well-known winemaker Fran Vernet makes top quality red wines such as Lytos and Kalos.  Agnés de Cervera is located in the southwestern part of Priorat.  I fell in love with the Kalos 2009 wine and had to take home some of this beauty-in-a-bottle!

Celler Capafons -Osso Oasis

Celler Capafons -Osso Oasis

The second winery on our tour was Cellers Capafons-Osso, located near the town of Falset.  Cellars Capafons-Osso’s owner and winermaker, Francesc Xavier Capafons, provided us with a five-hour-long tour through the two wine regions of Montsant and Priorat.  The tour included a stop at a natural water source hidden in the mountain to save us from the extreme heat.  It also included a great explanation from a viticultural standpoint concerning the land, the plants, and the vines. This ended with a tasting of eight wines, including some amazing ones with ratings of over 90 points,  at a tasting room in the owner’s own traditional style home.

Cellers Capafons-Osso’s red wine Mas de Masos was an incredible one, and one that I would recommend trying. The winery also produces a Garnacha Blanca, a white Garnacha (Grenache) called Auseta, that I found easy to drink and fresh.  I decided to take the Auseta 2010 home with me.

The third winery that we visited was Celler Burgos Porta, in Poboleda.  Salvador Burgos, part-owner, vigneron, and winemaker, gave us a great tour and tasting of the wines which he and his wife and partner, Conxita Porta, produce.  They market their delicious wines under the name Massinen, and all are rated over 90 points. Check out our visit below.

(While the tour is in Spanish, I have summarized it below.)

In this video, Salvador talks about how, while Spain is second in production of wine worldwide behind France, it is one of least wine-consuming of the wine-producing countries in the world.  He then moves on to discuss the type of terroir, the slate and quartz soil known as Llicorella, which we all were able to feel in our wine tasting. We also talked about “Poda en Verde,” green pruning, which refers to removing canes before they have hardened, and which is done to better control production.  At the end, Salvador speaks of his favorite tool as a winemaker, a tool which allows him to push down the cap in the fermentation tanks to help extract color and aromas from the grapes.

This video was created to focus on the wonderfully authentic visit to Celler Burgos Portia of Poboleda, Priorat, Spain near Tarragona. Salvador, the owner and Conxita, his partner and wife have created an authentic experience full of passion and knowledge for their beautiful poppy covered vineyards and winery. They have great wines,under the name Massinen, all over 90+ pts. I ,personally, took home a bottle of the 2006 Mas Sinén Negre, which for me had the freshness of the Llicorella soil and well-rounded beautiful fresh fruit of the Garnacha, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Mas Sinén, Celler Burgos Porta Winery in Poboleda, Priorat

Finca Mas Sinén, Celler Burgos Porta Winery in Poboleda, DOQ Priorat

Priorat, while not as well-known a region in the world as La Rioja for producing wines, it is a region with enormous potential. Most of the wineries are small family owned wineries that are run by either one or two people who wear many hats, such as the owner/vigneron/winemakers of Celler Burgos-Porta and Cellers Capafons-Osso.  The wines they are producing are just now reaching the UK and US markets and are worth an enormous amount of attention. If you haven’t tried a Priorat or Monserrat region wine, please, go out and try these incredible wines.

If you are in the Barcelona area and are able to spare a day or two, it is well worth the trip south about an hour and half to visit these amazing vineyards and landscapes. I can’t wait to go back! Cheers! Prost! Salud! To your health!

For more information all these wines visit them at:

Agnés de Cervera:http://www.agnesdecervera.com or call for a reservation: +34 977 054 851

Celler Capafons-Osso: http://www.capafons-osso.com/ or call for a private reservation in English at +34 654 519 385

Celler Burgos-Porta: http://www.massinen.com/celler_burgos_porta.html or call for a reservation in English at +34 696 094 509


Interested in learning more about the vintages or years to consider when purchasing Priorat wine? Click here for the Priorat Vintage Chart.