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Orvieto Classico

The “Orvieto” controlled appellation, which includes the “Oriveto Classico” sub-zone, consists of a territory in the region of Umbria, hilly for the most part, around the city of Orvieto and several adjoining townships, some of which stretch into the province of Viterbo in the adjoining Latium (Lazio) region as well.
Various types of wine are produced in the appellation:  dry, lightly sweet, medium sweet, dessert, superior, late harvest, and with noble rot (botrytis cinerea).

Wine has been produced around Orvieto since time immemorial: its links with the territory are easily recognizable in the artistic, cultural, and literary patrimony which has been created over time in this area. Among the first to produce wine here were the Etruscans who, taking advantage of the singular character o the tufaceous bluff on which the city of Orvieto sits, developed a unique, but efficient, way of fermenting. They dug interconnecting chambers at downward sloping levels into the bluff; this allowed the wine to fall by gravity flow into deeper and cooler levels, where the must stopped fermenting and remained with a certain amount of residual sugar, thereby creating wines with a sweet and lively personality. This characteristic gave Orvieto wine a certain notoriety which, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, thanks to its consumption at the papal court, gave it the name of the “wine of popes and kings”.

As the production and commercial success of the wines expanded, a producers’ consortium aimed at protecting the quality of the wine was founded in 1958, but it was towards the end of the 1970’s that the far-sightedness and the innovative spirit of several producers, among them the Antinori family, profoundly transformed the local viticulture, encouraging the cultivation of grapes such as Procanico and Grechetto, now considered authentically native varieties, and accompanying them with such international grape varieties as Chardonnay.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE  TERRITORY

The knowledge of the ties between viticulture and the environment in which it is practiced is of primary importance inasmuch as it allows producers, in each individual situation, to discover and confirm which grape varieties will best be able to express their own intrinsic personality. This study and research must be done with even greater precision and meticulousness in the Orvieto area, given that viticulture is practiced at altitudes between 100 and 500 meters (330-1650 feet) above sea level and on soils of very varying character. We can, in general, divide the soils into two distinct zones: one with clayey sands and alluvial material to the north of Orvieto and a volcanic territory with basalts and tufaceous soils to the south of the city. Finally, the typically inland climate which generally prevails also varies from sub-zone to sub-zone on the basis of the altitude and exposure of the vineyards and, importantly, with the climate-mitigating and warming influence of two lakes: the artificial body of Corbara along with the volcanic lake of Bolsena. These significantly modify the local micro-climate, moving it away from a classically continental one.

All of this influences, in a macroscopic fashion, the ripening cycle of the vine and, consequently, the personality of the wines which are produced, giving them a distinctly recognizable character, one different from that of other wines.

 

ANTINORI

The Antinori family first invested in this region, noted for its white wines and situated  near their home base in Tuscany, a territory famous for its great red wines, around 1938, thereby beginning a process of development aimed at profoundly renewing this habitat and the white wines it expressed at the time.

Creativity and an astute ability to foresee the future have always been the basis for their work. Using local traditions as their starting point, but not as a goal in and of themselves, rather as the sum of previous experience. They have followed a philosophy intent on interpreting the concrete reality of a territory and applying the finest and most appropriate technology in order to obtain stylistically new wines with a complexity of aroma and flavor quite different from those which dominated the area at the time of their arrival.

Now, just as then, this house philosophy continues to animate the firm’s work, as the new Castello della Sala cellars clearly demonstrate: they are state-of-the-art in their technology but are constructed on the same principles as those  utilized by the ancient Etruscans: fermentation by means of gravity flow, a practice which unites timeless traditions and such modern concepts as energy saving and respect for the raw material to be transformed.
In the vineyards, just as in the cellars, perfectionism and attention to details, coupled with thorough reflection and careful pondering inspire, on a daily basis, the proud work of those who participate in this ambitious program.


Massimiliano Pasquini,
Agronomist, responsible for the Castello della Sala estate.

San Giovanni della Sala

The Castello della Sala towers over a tufaceous promontory of the Umbrian Apennines (at 534 meters, or some 1750 feet, above sea level) just a short distance away from the boundary with Tuscany and approximately 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the historic city of Orvieto.