November 3, 2019

Winery Spotlight: Getting to know Chiesa del Carmine Estate

Is there anything more evocative than enjoying the best of local Italian produce while taking in the view of vineyards and olives?

I certainly find it hard to resist the allure at the best of times. It is even harder at Chiesa del Carmine. I can see why the Sinclair family found the challenge of restoring this 11th century church and surrounding buildings at the foot of Monte Tezio irresistible. The estate is in a protected valley in Umbria, just to the north of Perugia and just on the border with Tuscany. And it looks just as romantic as it sounds!

Now don’t get me wrong, the accommodations do look very glam. They come complete with private fishing lake, a glistening pool and the opportunity to go truffle hunting.  There is good reason why their tastings and truffle hunting expeditions feature in Trip Advisor’s top Umbrian food and drink attractions!

However….. for me it is all about the wine!

Chiesa del Carmine

Incidentally, there is something rather special about the wines of Chiesa del Carmine.  There is an uncommon variety of Trebbiano to be found in these vineyards. A variety planted by the family as a project to reinvigorate interest in local native varieties. Trebbiano Spoletino is an Umbrian white variety that is experiencing a revival. As a consequence, it is now produced by more than thirty producers. It is a versatile grape and can be made in many styles. Ranging from dry to sweet, sparkling, and pale through to deeper hued skin contact wines.

The Chiesa del Carmine version is 100% Trebbiano Spoletino and is their only white wine. It is styled to be fresh, fruity and very refreshing.

As you might expect that Italian work horse of a grape, Sangiovese is planted here. None the less, there amongst the other varieties grown on the slopes around the Chiesa is another Umbrian variety. A red grape – Sagrantino. This Sagrantino features in the red blend ‘Il Campanile’ as a companion to the dominant Sangiovese and a little Merlot. Plus, there are two rosato wines.

vineyards at Chiesa del Carmine

….. So what more could you want? Olives, truffles and wine, all with a view. It is a very Italian combination!

Of course, you do not have be staying on the estate to taste the wines and produce. Nor to enjoy that view, or to go truffle hunting. The Vineria del Carmine is open for daily tastings, just check timings on the website.

To read my reviews of the wines, please click here!

Intrigued by the Trebbiano Spoletino story, I recently got to ask a few questions of Chiesa del Carmine’s, David Lang:

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What varieties are planted in the Chiesa Del Carmine Estate’s vineyards? 

Presently, we have 5.7 hectares of south westerly exposed vines. 

Sangiovese and Sagrantino are our main local reds. We also grow Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The indigenous Trebbiano Spoletino is the only white grape we have planted in the valley.

What are some of the unique characters of Trebbiano Spoletino?

It is a rare, ancient Umbrian variety which was on the brink of extinction several decades ago.

It has been rediscovered and restored over the last ten years. Its distinctive, vibrating freshness as well as the complexity of the bouquet makes Trebbiano Spoletino very different to other Italian and Umbrian whites.

What is the history of these vineyards and the grapes of Chiesa Del Carmine? 

The Chiesa del Carmine valley has a long tradition of producing fine wine. In 1974, the authoritative American wine journalist, Burton Anderson wrote in the US Wine Spectator about a white wine of impressive quality from land that now falls within the Carmine Estate.

We are excited to be making wine from such acclaimed territory, assisted by one of Italy’s finest oenologists, Giovanni Dubini. He has been awarded (among other numerous prizes) the coveted ‘Premio Cangrande’ at Vinitaly for producers who are leaders in their fields.

The art was divine, the people were friendly, the food and wine were authentic and the countryside spectacular.

The Chiesa del Carmine Estate is now owned by the Sinclair family. Jacqueline is a book illustrator and Jeremy is chairman of M & C Saatchi, a multi-national advertising agency. When Jacqueline and Jeremy first travelled to Italy, they found everything people said was true. The art was divine, the people were friendly, the food and wine were authentic and the countryside spectacular.

They fell in love with the valley of the Chiesa del Carmine, with the gentle beauty of the Umbrian hills and the woodlands that stretch as far as the eye can see. Looking beyond the years of neglect, through the tangled acres of wire and concrete posts, they saw a valley created by nature, perfect for olives and grapes and truffles.  

What lies ahead for Chiesa de Carmine Estate?

The first stage of restoration and extension works of the cellar door, Vineria del Carmine, were completed at the beginning of May 2019, and we are planning on building a winemaking facility on-site next to the wine tasting room, starting in October 2019 and to be finished by 2020/2021.

chiesa del carmine

The upstairs kitchen at Vineria del Carmine is due to be opened from October 2019. We plan to offer cooking classes for our visitors as well as increasing our capacity to cater for events at the Vineria and for a guests at Chiesa Del Carmine.  

A new wine, Bell’angelo della Chiesa is set for release in the Autumn. It will be exclusively offered to cellar door visitors and wine club members. 

What are some of the things that makes ‘Chiesa del Carmine’ special?

Our fruit is certified organic and once our onsite winemaking facility is operational, we will be able to obtain the official organic certification for our wines.   Our farm is certified organic and our extra-virgin olive oil is already certified.   

Giovanni Dubini

At present we follow organic farming guidelines on the farm and this coupled with our uncompromising work in the vineyard has provided exciting results. Environmental sustainability is essential to our philosophy and how we operate. 

The hand of our winemaker Giovanni Dubini together with a rich, mineral, unspoilt soil make the perfect terroir for our wines and give our wines their special character. Freshness and minerality are distinctive features of all our products and they make our wines unmistakable and keep people coming back for more.

The Valley of Chiesa del Carmine is a unique place, a haven of Italian tranquillity where guests can stay in the restored church and farmhouse in the middle of the estate, or enjoy a wine, olive oil and truffle tasting at our newly refurbished cellar door, Vineria del Carmine.

How is the current vintage (2019) looking for Chiesa Del Carmine

It is looking good; the summer has been very hot and with abundant sunshine and the fruit looks beautiful and in very good health. Rainstorms in the final part of August have made it a bit difficult to choose the picking time for the beginning of the harvest but we are confident that 2019 will be a great year.  

We are planning to increase production of our two rosato wines, Rosa della Chiesa (100% Sangiovese) and Rosabella della Chiesa (100% Merlot) to keep up with the demand.  

Which vintage so far has been the most memorable for ‘Chiesa del Carmine’? 

2016 and 2018 vintages were our best to date. These vintages had perfect growing conditions and the quality of the fruit was remarkable in those years.

chiesa del carmine

Proudly, we are to be able to say that year by year our wines grow in complexity and fineness. We strongly believe that sustainable practices in our vineyards have played a significant role in the development of our wines and vineyards.  

The future is very exciting.  The hard part is for our sommeliers to convince visitors to not drink our wines immediately but lay them down and watch them develop further over time. 

If someone was visiting your region, what are the five things they really must do?

1. Umbria is full of stunning hill towns so why not do a walking tour of Perugia, the capital of the region? Admire the Duomo, Palazzo Priori, Rocca Paolini, the National Gallery, the list is long.  When your energy levels flag, stop and try the local speciality of Torta al Testo at Angela’s – Non Solo Testo, Via Danzetta 9. It is simply delicious.   

2. Assisi – the Basilica di San Francesco – the sacred heart of Umbria and a place of beautiful art, great beauty and deep religious significance for Christians.  

3. Gubbio – enjoy the adventure of taking the funivia to the top of Mount Ingino above Gubbio and visit the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo, the views are breathtaking. Inside tip – take a picnic.  

4. Montone – a stunning hill town where one of Caesar’s generals made his home, the site of a unique festival every year paying homage to a thorn from Christ’s crown. Rub shoulders with film stars at Umbria’s premier film festival in July – www.umbriafilmfestival.com 

5. Food is a quintessential part of life in our region and there is an enormous variety of delights to taste. One of the finest delicacies in Umbria is truffle and of course, we host truffle hunts at the estate . Click here for more details.  

If you had the opportunity to drink a wine with any person in history: 

who would it be?  The Roman Philosopher and Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

what would you talk about?  He combined action and insight. A man who defeated his many challenges with philosophy and never ceased learning and teaching. His Meditations are a model of how to live life and not be consumed by it. Hopefully, he might appreciate the tranquillity of our valley. As well as its unique location at the heart of the green heart of Italy.  

which wine would it be? We would offer him our Trebbiano Spoletino.   We hope he’d approve.

Click here to read about the wines!

Visit Chiesa del Carmine website for more information.

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