Tasting Umbria with the Wines of Torre Bisenzio

Umbria, the small Italian region with rolling green hills, medieval hilltop towns and thick forests, is one of Italy’s known regions for excellent food and wine culture. Often referred to as the “Green Heart of Italy”, it has a wide expanse of panoramic beauty of the countryside that overlooks neatly combed rows of vineyards and olive orchards mixed with the wilder green of nature. It borders Tuscany, Lazio and Marche in Central Italy, similar in terrain but unique in its characteristics.

Torre Bisenzio lies in Umbria, close to the border of Tuscany, the Monte Rufeno National Park and the renowned Chianti wine region. In their land of 265 hectares (175 owned and 90 rented), they cultivate vines and olive orchards, let their Chianina cattle graze in the pastures and receive guests in their two private villas. It’s a place where the authenticity of the charming Umbrian life can be had amidst the tranquility of nature and a working organic farm. Wine production is their foremost activity but the estate also dedicates its efforts in the continuation of the preservation of the Chianina, a historic thousands-year old indigenous cattle breed of central Italy. They now boast a population of 125 cows roaming the pastures of the estate. The 650 olive trees are used for their extra virgin olive oil production while 160 hectares out of 265 hectares are used for viticulture for their production of red and white wines, cultivation of saffron and olive groves.

Mike and Neena Rees purchased Torre Bisenzio in 2003, an estate with a long history commencing from the 4th century. Having acquired the property in a state of ruins, the new owners restored the estate to its original grandeur along with its original 3 hectares of vineyards, 6 hectares of olive groves, twenty Chianina cows and an in-house winery. Eighteen years later, the estate has seen so much expansion and success in their activities. The organically-certified estate has a strong foundation of values, connection with the community and environmental sustainability.

The three vineyards of Torre Bisenzio share the same type of elemental conditions. The soil is comprised of sedimentary clay, gravel sand and alluvial silt with marine fossils of seashells and oysters from the Mid-Pliocene Age, which was around 4 million years ago. In addition, there was also a recent discovery of 1.75 million-year-old fossilized remains of sperm whales and ambergris, a solid waxy flammable substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. The altitude of the vineyards are between 460 to 580 meters asl. The alluvial silt with marine fossils gives an underlined minerality to the wine while the clay influences the boldness of the wines. The climatic condition of the area of Torre Bisenzio is mild sub-Mediterranean. Being located in between Lake Trasimeno and Lake Bolsena, the lakes are able to moderate the cold and warm conditions because the shallow water stores heat from the abundant sunshine it receives which is then released throughout the year resulting in longer summer temperatures and moderate winters, optimal environment for elegant and fuller-bodied wines with freshness.

Going through the Covid pandemic, face-to-face tastings have been temporarily replaced with online tastings. So learning about Torre Bisenzio and tasting their wines had been channeled through an online presentation of Mike Rees and Christian Panarella, their winemaker. The four wines that they sent beforehand were: Bianco di Bisenzio IGT Umbria 2019, Ambris IGT Umbria 2019, Il Pugnalone Rosso Umbria IGT 2016 and Sangiovese IGT Umbria 2015.

Torre Bisenzio Bianco di Bisenzio IGT Umbria 2019
This white wine was produced from a blend of 90% Grechetto and 10% Sauvignon Blanc, vines that have 15 years of age. Both varieties were vinified and matured separately in stainless steel for 5 to 6 months before being assembled then another 2 months in the bottle before its release to the market. The Grechetto in this wine expressed its very well with its varietal profile of citrus fruits, pears, white-fleshed peaches and white flowers and the addition of the Sauvignon Blanc added more to fruity aromas. In the mouth, the varietal characteristics correspond with the nose, with an underlined acidity and noticeable minerality. A dry white wine if you want something easy to drink and pleasant to have on its own or raw and simply-cooked seafood.

Torre Bisenzio Ambris IGT Umbria 2019
The name Ambris was derived from the fossilized ambergris found in the estate. Produced from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this is the first vintage of this newly-released label, which explains the handwritten label sent to me. The grapes were vinified and matured separately in three parts: 1/3 with the skins on in an uncoated 375-liter amphora for 7 months, 1/3 in stainless steel, and 1/3 in barrique. The result is an excellent wine with a very intense and complex nose. The aromas range from citrus, hazelnuts, mature yellow-fleshed peaches, grass, minerals and sweet fresh herbs. In the palate it is even more surprising with its concentration of mature fruit flavor profil, some fresh herbs, very good acidity and persistent finish. It’s full-bodied harmonious wine that can keep for some time in the cellar or can also be enjoyed young. This is a must-try for those who like complexity and depth in their white wines.

Torre Bisenzio Pugnalone Rosso Umbria IGT 2016
A blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Maturation took place two different ways for the Sangiovese. A part went into second to third passage used oak barrels while the other part went into stainless steel for one year before being blended with the other varieties. It was further aged for one year in the bottle before its release to the market. A ruby red color, limpid and moderate intensity in the nose. There is a broad layer of sweet violets in the nose, followed by mature plums, black cherries, blackberries and eucalyptus. The dark stone fruits correspond in the mouth with pronounced minerality, notes of dry spices, smooth tannins, soft and long finish.

Torre Bisenzio Sangiovese IGT Umbria 2015
Made with 100% Sangiovese which were aged in second to third passage used oak barrels for one year followed by another year in the bottle before its release to the market. Deep ruby red with garnet red on the edges. It has a good intensity in the nose with a complexity of aromas. The violet is prominent with mature plums, black cherries, black berries, wet forest floor, eucalyptus and dried tobacco leaves while it expresses the same in the mouth, good structure, ending with minerals, a hint of raisins and incense as it closes with a persistent finish. It’s an excellent wine that has a good expression of the territory and evolution of character from the varietal to tertiary.

Note: Pictures without watermark are from the website of Torre Bisenzio.

Torre Bisenzio
Località Torre Bisenzio
05011 Allerona (TR), Italy
Tel: +39 348 3201287
Email: torrebisenzio@legalmail.it
Website: https://www.torrebisenzio.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/torrebisenzio