2019 Romanelli, Trebbiano Spoletino “Le Tese” Spoleto DOC, Umbria, Italy.
While known mainly for his famous Sagrantino di Montefalco, Umbrian natural winemaker, Devis Romanelli also does one of Italy’s most intriguing orange wines, which is made from the local Trebbiano grape, this Le Tese skin contact white is amazing for its wild range of flavors and complexity, rivaling powerful red wines for structure and mouth feel, with his 2019 version being a fascinating and intense wine. It’s hard to imagine, but the 2019 Le Tese unfolds on the gripping medium bodied palate with a savory array of layers including preserved lemons, dried apricots, bacon, salted licorice, wet stones and verbena, I honestly think if tasted without seeing the color, you’d almost think you were drinking a syrah! But once fully open you get some racy acidity and orange blossom, along with a rich expansion, though don’t expect creamy rounded fruit, this is brisk, almost tannic and bone dry stuff that is best enjoyed with cheeses, certainly fish dishes and or Middle Eastern cuisine. The Romanelli wines estate is part of the family’s Romanelli Nature project, part sustainable farming and part eco-tourism, which the winery says, rejects chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides, striving to maintain a balance of the ecosystem, including the installation of bird boxes to promote natural pest control. The family wishes to share their passion and everyday experiences with the land, the vines, the local people and the microclimates of their property, which they hope will bring a greater understanding of their range of wines, that includes the mentioned Sagrantino bottlings, this orange wine, a Montefalco Rosso, a Grechetto Bianco, plus a Passito dessert wine and of this historic, though lesser known region itself.

The Romanelli family estate is located in the hills of Montefalco, in the heart of Umbria, situated in an area that is surrounded by both vineyards and olive groves, which family has cared for and preserved what nature has generously provided for them for three generations now, with Devis leading the wines to new heights through innovation, natural and ancient traditional methods. There is a holistic and all organic focus at Romanelli, where they believe that true quality is only obtained in nature from a set of healthy and balanced vines, that will provide perfectly ripened grapes. They use organic fertilizer, grass cover between the rows, careful management of the soils and foliage (canopy), as well as having good exposures of the grapes to the sun and exceptionally low yields for concentration and purity. The Le Tese, made from 100% Trebbiano Spoletino, an ancient Umbrian variety, which is late ripening and has loads of acid, that maybe related to or be Ugni Blanc, is vinified with a long maceration on the skins and then left to mature for about 9 months in steel tanks before bottling, after which it is rested a further 9 months in the bottle. The Le Tese comes from a single vineyard site set on clay based soils where interestingly some of the vines actually grow in concert with trees, where they climb higher up and receive good air flow in this flatter section of the estate, which is between 200 and 300 meters about sea level. The maceration on the skins for the deeply golden and slightly smoky Le Tese lasts close to 50 days, which provides the firm extract and savory expression in this unique wine, which the winery suggests, serving with vegetarian starters, black truffle dishes and even eggs. While not an easy find, this is a must for orange wine fans, and I recommend also trying the reds here, especially the award winning Medeo Montefalco Sagrantino.
($40 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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