Adventures in Umbria: Dinner/Wine Tasting at Castello delle Regine

The menu started with Chianino Carpaccio with olive oil & thyme. Castello delle Regine is home to 200 Chianino cattle, a special breed of all-white cows that is common in Umbria and Tuscany. We were served three delicious breads – my favourite was a little bun that was studded with grapes, yum!

This was served with Bianco delle Regione, a blend of Chardonnary, Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling and Pinot Grigio. Golden yellow and a nice awakening for the palate.

The next course was their Chianino beef that had been cured 2 weeks in equal proportions of salt and sugar. Then white wine is added and the aging continues for another week and the beef ‘prosciutto’ is stored in a bag under pressure.

The next wine in the tasting was Rosse di Podernovo, a well-balanced red consisting of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Montepulciano and 10% Syrah. The intensity of the Sangiovese, the gorgeous ruby colour of the Montepulciano and the spiciness of the Syrah made for a well structured, pleasant blend.

One of the stars of this vineyard is undoubtedly the San Giovese Grosso Selezione del Fondatore (Owner’s selection), a wine reminiscent of a Brunello – highly structured, elegant and distinguished – a hint of wood and beautifully soft tannins. The grapes are fermented 14-18 days in stainless steel vats, then aged 14 months in French oak and another 36 months in the bottle. These vines are about 45 years old and mainly grown in a clay terrain.

Next course was stracchino in a beef sauce then tortellone in a tomato sauce – beautiful pastas!

The Merlot was also magnificent served with more delicious Chianino beef, potatoes tossed in olive oil and a sauté of vegetables. The Merlot has won wide praise in various wine publications, and it’s grown at 280m above sea level in an optimum clay/sand southwest exposure. 18 day fermentation in stainless steel is followed by 12 months in oak and 2 years aging in the bottle.

Incredibly, we had room for dessert, which was a tasting plate of 3 different pastries, crispelle being my favourite.

Grappa is made using the stems and leftovers which are separated from the grapes at harvest time. It goes through a double-distillation process. Giuseppe led us in a tasting by instructing us to place a few drops on our palms and inhale the scent deeply. It smelled of fresh ripe grapes – as opposed to oil, which he explained was the case with lower quality distillations.

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