The Chiesa del Carmine winery estate with its beautiful 13th
century church, is a beautiful setting for weddings and holiday rentals, but it
is also a thriving working farm with olive groves, a truffle wood, pastures
producing a variety of organic produce and a 6.2-hectare vineyard. The latter
produces, according to Roger Jupe, some exceptional Umbrian wines – both white
and red - to compare favourably with any of those from neighbouring Tuscany.
worth a wine-tasting visit!
Umbria may be one of
Italy’s smallest wine producers in terms of quantity so it’s perhaps not
surprising that Umbrian wines live in the shadow of Tuscan wines.
Their Orvieto whites
and powerful Montefalco reds are relatively well known. Nevertheless, with so many fine wines to
discover in the Cortona area and throughout Tuscany, the hidden treasures to be
found in our adjoining region are often ignored.
The most rewarding
visit to a wine estate is as much about its setting in a landscape that is new
to you and the hospitality it offers as it is about discovering and tasting its
Chiesa del Carmine is
the ancient church at the centre of hidden gem of a wine producing estate 20
minutes north of Perugia and very close to the Tuscan border. The property sits
in a stunning landscape at the foot of Monte Tezio in a once abandoned valley where
wildlife is abundant, and nature thrives. The views in all directions are breath
taking … to the south is Monte Subasio and Assisi, to the west the imposing Antognolla
castle and to the north centuries’ old woodlands and the Apennine mountains.
The Valle della Chiesa
del Carmine has a long tradition of producing fine wine. In 1974, the
authoritative American wine journalist, Burton Anderson, wrote in Wine
Spectator magazine about a white wine of impressive quality from land that
now falls within the Carmine Estate.
Over the past 15 years
Jeremy and Jacqueline Sinclair have slowly and lovingly set about restoring
every aspect of the estate and its properties. Today they are making exceptional
wines from this acclaimed territory assisted by one of Italy’s finest
oenologists, Giovanni Dubini.
My wife and I were
last there to see developments before the pandemic. This was when their vineria,
winery, was just nearing completion.
Earlier this month we
were there again to experience how their extraordinary vision of a very special
place to visit was nearing completion with the opening of its impressive barrel
room. For the first time we saw the vineria fully operational and enjoyed
a tutored tasting of the estate’s wines, accompanied by superb food worthy of a
Michelin star. We were greatly impressed by what the Sinclair’s have achieved in
a relative short period with an expert team led by David Lang, the ever-welcoming
Australian-born estate manager, who has worked alongside the owners since their
arrival in Umbria. Together they have brought the valley of Chiesa del Carmine
back to its former agricultural glory creating a wine lovers’ destination equal
to the finest that Tuscany has to offer.
The certified organic
vineyards are divided into 1.2 hectares of Sangiovese, 1.1 hectare of
Sagrantino and Merlot, just under one hectare of Cabernet Sauvignon and 2.6
hectares of Trebbiano.
Recent vintages of
Chiesa del Carmine wines are some of the most successful the estate has ever
produced. This is attributed to its older vines, favourable growing conditions,
and sustainable practices in both the vineyards and the winery. Recent tastings
of the 2022 vintage of its white wine have prompted comments about amazing
aromas, lingering intensity and remarkable minerality. It is certain that the
hard work that has been invested in the health of the soil and the vineyards is
playing a significant factor in producing wines that are beginning to receive
favourites reflect part of a project to recover native Trebbiano vines. The examples
we tasted of the Carmine’s ‘Indigenous Trebbiano’ white, 2020 and 2019 vintages,
were exceptional. They both had more richness than wines made with Tuscan Trebbiano
grapes as well as heightened aromatics that resembled those of Sauvignon Blanc.
The other wines that
impressed us were the estates ‘Rosso del Carmine’, made solely from Merlot
grapes, and its ‘Bell’Angelo’ blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a
touch of Umbria’s unique grape, Sagrantino.
Tastings are conducted
in English or Italian by Mattia
Giambattista, Carmine’s knowledgeable sommelier. Accompanying food choices are superb
and the chef’s menus change seasonally.
Visitors to the estate
learn about the owner’s winemaking processes and how this once abandoned
property has been transformed with the help of organic agriculture and hard
work into one of Italy’s most beautiful valleys. If the church and farmhouse
are not being rented at the time of a tasting, these can be included in a tour.
The address of
Chiesa del Carmine is Strada Castiglione Ugolino 70, 06134 La Bruna, Perugia. Telephone: 0039 347 864 2310 or 0039 075 9977698.
From Cortona it takes
about an hour by car. Travel along the north shore of Lake Trasimeno on the A1,
direction of Perugia, and take the Corciano turn. Then proceed along the SS728,
direction of Umbertide, to the estate signed off this road on your right with a
‘Chiesa del Carmine Cellar Door’ sign.