Orvieto Secco Bigi
Grapes: Trebbiano, Verdello, Grechetto, Malvasia
Orvieto is unquestionably the best-known wine of Umbria, central Italy, and accounts for 80% of the region’s vineyard area. The wine industry has played as vital role in the region’s culture and economy for hundreds of years.
The vineyards which produce Orvieto wine are planted on both sides of the Paglia, the river which flows through Orvieto town en route to its confluence with the Tiber. The tufaceous soils and bedrock which are so characteristic of the area not only contribute to the quality of the local terroir, but are also well suited to the excavation of cellars for long-term storage. This tufo rock (as in Greco di Tufo) has similar uses around Chinon and Saumur-Champigny, in France’s Loire Valley, where it is known as tuffeau.
The Orvieto DOC is reserved exclusively for white wine. It covers sweet and dry styles, which come in standard and higher-quality superiore variants. The wines are made from a combination of Procanico (known as Trebbiano Toscano) and Grechetto, which together must account for at least 60% of the finished blend. The remaining 40% can be made up of any combination of other white varieties, provided they are sanctioned for use within the Viterbo province. Canaiolo Bianco and Malvasia Toscana are likely candidates.
Orvieto wines have transformed as consumer tastes have changed and it is now more commonly found as a dry, peach-scented wine, with a clean, crisp profile and moderate acidity. The golden, semi-sweet Orvieto Abboccato style, once admired by popes and princes travelling through the area, is still produced and is cherished locally. To keep up with the increasing quality expectations of the global wine market, Orvieto’s producers have invested considerably in technology and techniques to refine their methods and produce wines with greater character. Considerations for this include lower grape yields, careful selection and increased skin contact prior to fermentation.
As is the case in many of Italy’s most famous wine regions, the Orvieto viticultural area has a classico zone: a traditional, ‘classic’ vineyard area which theoretically produces the best-quality wines. This is sited around Orvieto town itself, and extends slightly eastwards to take in the land around Lake Corbara. Its western boundary mirrors the regional border with Lazio just a few miles away. Wines made here, provided they meet the DOC’s production conditions, may be labelled as Orvieto Classico.
Orvieto has been a celebrated wine since antiquity, especially in Rome where it abounded in the dining rooms of the prelates and at the banquets of the Vatican nobility. A long history, rich in enjoyable anecdotes, such as that of Pinturicchio who, when signing the agreement for the fresco in the chapel of Santa Maria Maggiore in Orvieto, demanded a supply of “vin d’Orvieto quantum libuerit”, that is to say “ an unlimited supply of Orvieto wine”, while carrying out the work! The modern story of Orvieto is closely linked to the birth of the Wine House of Luigi Bigi in 1880. Thanks to the commercial instincts of Luigi Bigi, its founder, this classic wine travelled the world acquiring approval and fame.