The fundamental role of wine in daily life and in religious ceremonies in ancient Orvieto is demonstrated in the important paintings inside the Etruscan tombs of the area (second half of IV century B.C.).
In the necropolis of Orvieto were found Etruscan bucchero and pottery imported from Greece used to store wine, objects which demonstrate clearly the importance the Etruscans gave to this drink.
The Etruscans would store their wine in the caves under the city, as is still done today, moving it gradually higher as it reached maturation.
In ancient Etruria wine was never drunk in its pure form, but mixed with other liquids and aromatised with spices. In the magnificent halls of the Faina museum, for example, one can admire "ollae and anfore" of a refined creation, recipients which were destined to contain wine during aristocratic and ritual ceremonies; painted "Stammoi and krateres " which were used just before the tasting, to oxygenate, cut and mix the wine; "oinokoai" with which it was carefully poured into "kylikes and kantharoi", painted or decorated cups in a cylinder form depending on the fancy of the potter or who commissioned the piece.
In the Medieval age the first documents on vinification appear. In 1192, just after the conclusion of the siege on the city by Henry IV, the borough of Orvieto allows a concession on taxes for those who planted vines. In around 1200, during oaths taken by the consoles before taking possession of the city, they are said to have sworn to protect the roads, the most important sites of the area and of course the vines. In 1371 the disposition pro feriis of the borough of Orvieto conceded a month's holiday, from the 14th September to 18th October, to allow vine holders to reclute seasonal workers for the grape harvest.
In 1496 the contract stipulated between the Opera del Duomo and Pinturicchio gave the painter six forty loads of grain for every year and all the wine necessary. In 1500 in the pact signed between the Opera del Duomo and Luca Signorelli for his work on the frescoes in the Chapel of San Brizio. It is written that the Opera would give him every year 12 "some" of wine (about 1000 litres)
The fame of wine from Orvieto lasted throughout the centuries. In 1690 Pasquino, the mythical Roman character who undermined the power of the popes with his irreverent satire, and who glorified in this way the re-structuring of the Fountain of Gianicolo commissioned by Pope Alexander VII.
"The miracle is done, oh holy father
with the water that you like so much
but the occasion would be so much happier
if that water you could turn into Orvieto wine"
Today the area of Orvieto White DOC covers a mostly hilly territory in Orvieto and its surrounding area. It is one of the most representative of the Umbrian wines and covers 70% of the DOC market in the province of Terni, it is made from a blend of Procanico (a variety of Tuscan Trebbiano), Verdello, Drupeggio,Grechetto and Malvasia. It is distinguished into Orvieto and Orvieto Classico, depending on its area of provenance, and it can be of a "superior" type depending on its parameters of production. Orvieto can be dry, soft and sweet.
There is also a red variety, full-bodied and which accompanies game excellently. The care given to the production of Orvieto red brought recognition, in 1998, of two DOCs. For the Orvietano Red DOC base vines of Corbara, Cabernet franc, Canaiolo, Montepulciano, Ciliegiolo, whereas among the complementary vines there are Colorino and Dolcetto.
The are numerous wineries in the area, many producing excellent I.G.T, of the most prized are the Muffati. For information on wine in Orvieto and Umbria.
We would strongly suggest a visit to the Palazzo del Gusto, housed in the 14th century ex-convent of San Giovanni, destination for those who love wine and its culture as it is the headquarters for the regional wine shop of Umbria. Here you can visit the Enoteca and taste typical products and a small price (5,00E approx per person) and book a visit to the wineries in the area.