The sheer variety of Italian landscapes make it a fascinating place to visit even before you consider the culture, history, and cuisine. In the north are the huge glacial lakes of Como, Garda, and Maggiore, whereas in the centre are the volcanic lakes of Bolsena, Bracciano, and Vico. Between the two extremes lies Lake Trasimeno which is neither. Firstly, it is big; by surface area it is the fourth largest lake in a country that has some massive expanses of water, but it is shallow – on average, it’s only five metres deep. It is unusual in that it has no natural surface outlet but the water quality is good and there are plenty of freshwater fish including carp, tench, and pike. Nearby is the much smaller Lake Chiusi, nesting place for many migratory birds.
Between the two is a range of low hills that is home to a range of DOC wines called Colli di Trasimeno and in pursuit of these Vinnie and I visited the farm and winery known as Madrevite. On 60 hectares of land Nicola Chiucchiurlotto has olive groves, woods, and arable fields, but the important thing for us is the 11 hectares of vines from which he produces around 35,000 bottles of wine per year. He is the third generation of his family to cultivate this land but he founded Madrevite in 2003 when he decided to develop the business in a new direction, focussing on sustainability. Today, they produce a range of wines that reflect the history and traditions of the territory.
‘Elvè was the first wine we tried. In common with all the wines we tried at Madrevite this is a DOC wine. ‘Elvè is made from 100% Greghetto grapes that have been soft pressed before a cold maceration for 24 hours on the skins. This is a process that extracts all the aromas that the Greghetto has to offer. It then matures in steel on the lees for six to eight months before spending another two months in the bottle. A rich deep straw colour, the perfume is complex and intense with herbs, green apples, and elderflower. On the palate there is a balanced acidity with the refined taste of Amalfi lemons. This would make a great aperitivo or an accompaniment to dishes of fish, pork, or chicken.
Moving to the reds, Glanio is 100% Sangiovese. This is a grape associated with Tuscany but vines have no respect for borders drawn by man and, in any event, we are very close to the Tuscan border. However, we are on very different soil to the terroir that produces Brunello and Chianti and that is reflected in the wine. Fermentation generally lasts around 10 days and then the wine matures for 12 months in cement before resting for a further six in the bottle. The colour is garnet, which is typical of Sangiovese; however, the deliberate choice to avoid maturing in oak allows different aromas and flavours to come through. On the nose there are plums and a hint of liquorice whilst on the palate the silky smooth tannins balance well with the low acidity. I would pair this with lean meats such as rabbit or perhaps pigeon or pheasant.
The second red we sampled is called Opra and is a real Trasimeno speciality made from 100% Gamay di Trasimeno. Scientists have established that this variety is genetically identical to Grenache but, for me, that misses the point. It has been grown here for at least 400 years and it has adapted and developed with its environment. Nicola matures his wine for 10 months in cement before a final 3 months in bottle. The result is a wine with a light garnet hue with ruby hints. It has a light, sophisticated bouquet redolent of roses and raspberries, with velvety tannins balanced with a light acidity. This is a beautiful wine to accompany lunch on the terrace.
Finally, we had the opportunity to try C’osa which is Nicola’s Gamay di Trasimeno Riserva. Riserva wines are traditionally made with the best of the harvest and more time is invested in the maturation and this is no different. This wine spent 12 months in cement before maturing for another 12 to 24 months in barriques of French and American oak. The wine has a bright ruby colour, with a bouquet of vanilla and raspberries and here there are stronger tannins balanced with more acidity that will pair well with lamb or steak. Nicola is always open to innovation and for the future he has now equipped the cellar with 10Hl botte of Austrian oak and the barriques will be retired. On a personal level, this is a decision I am wholly in agreement with.
It is always a pleasure to find a wine maker who is prepared to go his own way and to give us something that normally we do not have the opportunity to try and these are certainly wines of quality. Madrevita is very near Tuscany so if you have the opportunity, take a detour and treat yourself.