Piero and Ramona are the owners of Cantina Lapone (www.cantinalapone.com); both born in Umbria, they are very proud of their heritage and rightly so. They have 35 hectares of land in a beautiful valley near Orvieto but only 20 of these are cultivated for vines – the remaining 15 hectares are left as woods. The couple began growing grapes in 2002 but it was only in 2011 that they began to make their own wines with a modest initial production of 3,000 bottles. They now produce 30,000 bottles a year and Piero is happy with that – he does not foresee any further expansion. His winery is small but perfectly organised and I was privileged to see it in full operation as I visited just after the harvest had finished and the grapes were being fermented.
They grow 14 different varieties of grape, including some red, but this area is best known for its white wines produced on the volcanic soil and so I concentrated on these. The first and more famous one is the Orvieto DOC. Sadly, in the wrong hands, this can be a very ordinary wine. This is due, in no small part, to the very lax rules governing its production that specify a minimum of 60% Grechetto and Procanico grapes and very little else which allows lesser winemakers to use less than wonderful ingredients to make up the balance. However, Piero is not one of these as I witnessed in the winery when I saw the Procanico grapes fermenting, unusually with the skins and stems. The final blend uses two other local grape varieties, Malvasia and Verdicchio. The result is a wine with a deep straw colour with hints of green, probably from the 5% Verdicchio used in the blending. The bouquet is of green apples with a hint of rosemary and in the mouth there is good acidity with red apples and a hint of salinity that is to be expected from volcanic soil. This is a great wine and would be a beautiful accompaniment to fish.
The 2019 Rameto that I sampled is 100% Pinot Grigio but with a twist and the clue is in the name. Rame translates as copper and Piero has left the skins in with the must for three to four hours to allow a beautiful golden colour, with a hint of copper to develop. On the nose there is ripe melon and on the palate pears balanced with acidity and a hint of salinity.
Piero also produces a Chardonnay that spends six months in steel before being bottled. The 2019 that I tasted has a pale straw colour with bouquet of green apples and elderflower and in the mouth peaches. Very rounded and balanced, again, this would be a good accompaniment to fish.
Finally, I tried Piero’s Verdicchio from 2018. This is a grape variety more commonly associated with Le Marche, on the other side of the country, but it flourishes here as well. It is matured 50% in barriques of French oak and 50% in steel. The colour is straw and green. The bouquet is delicate with almonds and elderflower and on the palate, again, there is a pleasant hint of almond bitterness balanced with acidity and also some salinity. A complex wine, this will go well with semi-mature cheese but try it also with lamb. Better still, put the two together and try it with Moussaka.
As a leaving present Piero gave me a bottle of Caiano. This is again a wine made from Chardonnay grapes but this time the fermentation takes place in French barriques before being matured also in barriques and then bottled. The important thing here is the age of the barrels. Leaving the wine too long in a new barrel of French oak will drown the taste of the grapes but Piero is careful to avoid this. The resulting wine has a delicate pale straw colour. On the nose there are green apples and passion fruit with the hint of vanilla that comes from skilful use of the barriques. On the palate there is the subtle, almost sweet, flavour of Amalfi lemons and the slight tingle produced by the salinity that is in the soils here. This is a wine to be enjoyed with chicken or pork.
The setting of Catina Lapone really is a bucolic idyll and if you would like to sample it, and the wines, Piero and Ramona offer accommodation as well. Here you are also close to beautiful Orvieto and Rome is less than two hours away by train if you so desire. What are you waiting for?