There’s a Trebbiano grape, which I wrote about way back on Sept 15th 2021, but this is slightly different and much less common. Trebbiano Spoletino is a native grape to the Umbria region (specifically from the Spoleto neighborhood of Trevi) in central Italy, just northeast of Rome and south of Florence. Standard Trebbiano Toscano or Abruzzo are known for being mass produced and lacking in character, although there are some exceptions. Trebbiano Spoletino is a departure from this broad generalization. Presently, there are just under 50 hectares of land under vine with this variety, and the vines are known to produce low yields. The limited yields lead to concentrated flavors in the grapes. Spoletino is growing in popularity amongst winemakers in the region because of this depth of character and potential for aging.
The bottle I selected this week was one that snuck its way into my haul at the local wine shop. The owner, knowing my fondness for the unusual, added it to the other bottles I had selected. Once I got home and saw it, I was immediately intrigued. Partly because of the higher than normal price tag for a white wine and also because the wine shop doesn’t typically sell many pricey bottles of white wine. It was a bottle of 2017 Paolo Bea Lapideus, Umbria Bianco IGT. The label indicated which number of the total 1323 bottles produced I was holding (mine was marked #909). When I looked into the wine a bit more, I found this bottle was made from vines that are 80 years old. As vines age, their roots drive deeper into the soil. This allows the roots to find more water and also, pick up more minerals from deeper soil deposits. This is said to create more complex wines. As vines get older though, the size of the grapes decreases and the yield is markedly smaller as well. The health of the vines can also suffer. There is a point at which it becomes no longer economically feasible to produce wines from many older vines. However, the labeling term ‘old vine’ has no legal meaning. If you see this, definitely ask what the winery’s definition is (30 or older is a good range).
Upon pouring my glass, the copper orange color was quite unique. There has been a trend in recent years making orange wines popular. The color is achieved by leaving the grapes to ferment on their skins for a prolonged period of time. With this bottle, the juice is aged on the skins and seeds for 29 days. There were also some small crystals noted at the bottom of my glass. These crystals are tartaric acid that has fallen out of solution and nothing to be concerned about. This commonly happens when a wine is chilled (To the left is a picture of a glass I left in the fridge overnight. The grit is tartaric acid crystals and other solids that have settled. This wine is also unfined and unfiltered meaning the visible and microscopic particles usually removed to improve the clarity of the wine, were left behind in the bottle.) Many white wines undergo a process called cold stabilization prior to bottling that chills the wine and allows these crystals to form. They are then filtered out to create a more commercially appealing product to sell. There are pros and cons to this process but we can discuss those another day! On the nose, the bouquet consisted of dried apricots and peaches, lemon pith, marzipan, wet rocks and as the wine warmed, the aromas of butterscotch and butter entered into the mix. I tasted this with a friend and we were shocked at how quickly this wine evolved as it came to a warmer temperature. The amount of tannin imparted on the wine from the extended aging process was unexpected. It had a substantial body from the tannins that were initially a bit overpowering but softened as the wine warmed. The low to moderate level of acid helped balance the body. More sips of the wine unlocked more characteristics of the flavor profile. It started with orange marmalade, apricot fruit roll ups, lemon pith, bitter red cherries, then gave way to greenery cut fresh from a tree, tomato stalk, chalk, and ended with green grape skin. This wine was quite a trip as it continued to unveil itself. It is a perfect bottle to open on a Tuesday and enjoy a glass each night to see how it transitions each day. I’m certain if I taste this tomorrow, I will find a new set of flavors and aromas presenting themselves.