A Sustainable Sampler Pack with Umani Ronchi (#ItalianFWT)

Umani Ronchi Vineyards in Conero. Picture courtesy of Vineyard Brands.

Living in California, I’ve been surrounded by smoke on and off for several weeks now. Over the last month or so, Greg and I have been driving to various destinations around the state – first to see his parents in Southern California, back to the Bay, then to see our quaran-team in Lake Tahoe – and the air’s been smoky pretty much everywhere we’ve gone. Fire season seems to start earlier and earlier every year.

Even putting the very real, and now yearly, threat of fires aside, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find climate change deniers among winemakers and vineyard owners. Pretty much all the vignerons I’ve spoken with over the years say they see the changes in their vineyards due to the climate in little and big ways.

I’m not dogmatic about what specific philosophies/practices are used to make the wine I choose, but I do try to pick wines from wineries that are trying to environmentally responsible. Wineries working responsibly come in all shapes and sizes, and I think there are lots of valid farming and winemaking practices to consider (see this previous post for a rundown on some of those practices), but having an eye on sustainability is important to me. Moreover, more often than not, conscientious practices in the vineyards and winery tend to show up in the quality of the wines. This month, the entire Italian Food Wine Travel Blogging Group (#ItalianFWT) is turning their attention to issues of sustainability. (Although this is the highlighted topic of the month, I must say that the group as whole tends to pretty tuned in to these issues year-round.)

For my part, this week we’re going to head back to central Italy to the Marche and Abruzzo (where we have been spending a good amount of blog time recently). These two regions are on Italy’s Adriatic coast, and both are quite hilly thanks to the verdant Apennine Mountains. The mountainous aspect of the regions has also made them somewhat remote, which has positives and negatives. On the one hand, they might’ve been slower to modernize than other wine regions. On the other hand, (from my understanding anyways, as I haven’t yet traveled to either), this remoteness also seems to have been a benefit when it comes to land preservation. For example, 30% of Abruzzo’s land is protected by four parks (three national and one regional) and a dozen nature reserves and protected areas.

Map courtesy of WineFolly.com

Specifically, today we’re getting to know the wines of Umani Ronchi, which has properties in both of these regions. I received a selection of media samples of the winery’s offerings (no other compensation was received and all opinions are my own),  and while I was previously familiar with several of their wines, I was not familiar with the extent of their sustainability practices. 

Umani Ronchi Vineyards in Castelli di Jesi. Picture courtesy of Vineyard Brands.

Umani Ronchi’s story began in 1950’s in Cupramontana, in Marche, with Gino Umani Ronchi. He formed a partnership with the Bianchi-Benetti family, who eventually became the sole owners. The family has made sustainability a focus of their practices, reflected even in their choice of packaging materials, opting to use light glass bottles which has a lower impact of CO2 emissions and recyclable cane sugar stoppers. 

Umani Ronchi vineyards in Abruzzo. Picture courtesy of Vineyard Brands.

The company also puts a strong emphasis on biodiversity and all of their vineyards are farmed organically. Currently approximately about 45% of their holdings are certified organic by Suolo e Salute, and another 15 hectares were set to be certified this year, which will bring the total to around 105 out of the company’s 210 total hectares under vine.

Earlier this year Grape Collective published an interview with Michele Bernetti, the third generation of the family to head the company, in which he discusses the goal to eventually have all of their vineyards be certified and some of the considerations and challenges that go into farming this way

"At the end I think of it in terms of quality. We started organic farming as a responsibility, to have a lower impact of our agriculture in the local territory. And also for the people working in the vineyard because I think it's better for them to work with organic products. So, it's been a choice that has been related mostly to the local territory and people, not for marketing. And in Abruzzo, in Conero, we have lesser percentages of organic vineyards. Why is the percentage lower? We've been a bit more cautious because Conero is an operation that is very close to the sea. And Montepulciano is a late maturing varietal. We harvest in the second part of October. It's a combination that can be a bit dangerous because of the humidity, because the fogs that you get in October, because of the sea. And the fog is very corrosive on the grape, on the skins. So, we've been more cautious. "

I received three bottles of their wines, all from organically farmed, hand-harvested grapes, and  I have been trying them over the last few months. Here’s what we tasted and how we paired each wine

Casal di Serra Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC 2018 with Crabby, Cheesy, Garlic Bread

SRP: $19
Blend: 100% Verdicchio
Alc: 13%

Marche is the home of Verdicchio, and Castelli di Jessi is one Marche’s two DOC’s dedicated to it. The grapes for this wine are farmed on hillsides on opposites sides of the Esino valley at a height of 200 to 350 meters above sea level, on opposite sides of the Esino valley. The deep, calcareous clay loam soils date back to Pleiocene‐Pleistocene formations. The wine undergoes natural fermentation in stainless steel tanks, does not undergo malo, and the wine stays in contact with the lees for 5 months for added texture. (Additional details here.)

Tasting Notes: Blanched almonds, herbs, lemon, white peach, green apple, and a little grapefruit zest, while light floral notes hang out int the background. Stony notes are smoothed out by the lightly creamy texture. It's medium-bodied and quite refreshing.

Pairing: Cheesy garlic bread with crab and a side salad. (You can find the recipe on Nibbling Gypsy.) It worked beautifully as it was textured enough to stand up to the decadent dish, but also remained refreshing. It also helped bring out herbal notes in the food. The winery also recommends it with oven‐cooked or grilled fish dishes, roasted white meats, and fresh cheeses.

Centovie Pecorino Colli Aprutini IGT 2017 with Roasted Shrimp and Veggies on Pesto Pasta

Average Price: $20, across all vintages. (Wine Enthusiast lists the 2017 SRP at $32.)
Blend: 100% Pecorino
Alc: 13.5%

The Roseto degli Abruzzi estate near Centovie village is planted mainly to Montepulciano grapes, but has a small amount of Pecorino. The estate has been farmed organically from the start. The vineyards are at an elevation of 150 to 200 meters above sea level and the soils are mainly clay and sand, with some alluvial pebbles. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, doesn’t undergo malo, is aged in concrete tanks for 12 months, after which it ages in bottle for at least 5 months. (Additional details here.)

Tasting Notes: Lemon and a salty cheese rind note hit on the nose, and are joined by savory herbs on the palate, leading into a minerally finish. It was medium-bodied with lots of freshness.

Pairing: We paired this with shrimp that I roasted simply in the oven with cherry tomatoes and cauliflower then served over pasta with pesto made with basil we’d just picked from my mother-in-law’s plants on the patio outside. I thought this was an ideal pairing as the cheesy and herby flavors in the wine reflected back the same notes in the food perfectly. The winery also recommends it with stuffed pasta, roast white meat, and roasted fish.

Montipagano Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC 2018 with Conchiglie with Eggplant, Tomatoes and ‘Ndjua

SRP: $15
Blend: 100% Montepulciano
Alc: 13%

This comes from the same vineyards in Abruzzo as the Pecorino above. Grapes are gently pressed and are fermented in steel tanks. After alcoholic fermentation is completed, wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, after which part of the wine goes through a short refining period in oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Spiced red berries with plums and smoke hit on the nose. On the palate, the fruit quality is juicy, almost saucy, with warm berry notes of raspberries and cherries, accompanied by hints of fennel spice, herbs, and pepper. This is a simple, easy-going wine, but it’s worth giving it a little time to open up as the oak integrate and the wine becomes fruitier with a little air. It was medium-bodied with medium tannins and acid.
(Additional details here.)

Pairing: We had this wine with a simple pasta dish (recipe below) tossed with eggplant, tomatoes, and spicy ‘ndjua sausage. I was a little worried that the spicy sausage would be a problem, but the wine’s fruitiness stood up to the heat well and made for a very nice pairing. The winery also recommends pairing this wine with roasted lamb. 

eggplant, ndjua
dinner, pasta
Servings: 4
By: Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Pasta with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and ‘Ndjua

Pasta with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and ‘Ndjua

Prep Time: 40 MinCooking Time: 35 MinTotal Time: 1 H & 15 M


  • 2 small to medium eggplant, cubed
  • 12 oz pasta (in this case I used conchiglie)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 oz ‘Ndjua
  • 12 to 15 oz tomato purée (you can also substitute in canned diced tomatoes)
  • 3 to 4 qarlic cloves, minced
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Ricotta salata, for serving (or other salty, fresh white cheese, like feta)


  1. Salt the eggplant. (Optional – see note.) Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt, then toss to combine. Let the eggplant sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Arrange the colander over the sink or a bowl, so that moisture can drain off. Rinse the eggplant cubes well under cool water, then pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to pasta instructions, or until pasta is al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, then drain.
  3. Sauté the onions in a large pan with a generous pour of olive oil (about 2 Tbsps) over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft and translucent – about 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and allow it to cook for a few minutes until it’s beginning to brown, then add in the ‘ndjua, tomato purée, the garlic cloves, and the rosemary sprigs. Stir in a splash of the pasta water, then reserve the rest to use as needed. Add in the eggplant, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and allow everything to cook over medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the eggplant has softened and the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Gently toss in the pasta to coat with the sauce. Serve topped with the ricotta salata.


People pre-salt eggplant to draw out bitterness, but most versions in stores today aren't all that bitter, so I usually only notice a mild difference in flavor once sauces are added on top. Given that, if you're in a rush, skipping the salting step shouldn't make a drastic difference.
Did you make this recipe?
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Created using The Recipes Generator

If you’re interested in learning more about Abruzzo, please see these previous posts:


And for another Verdicchio from the Marche's Castelli di Jesi check out: 



As I mentioned, the rest of the Italian Food Wine Travel (#ItalianFWT) bloggers are exploring issues of sustainability in Italian wines this month, hosted by Katarina of Grapevine Adventures.

Be sure to check out the rest of the group's posts here:


Additional sources used for this post:

Vineyard Brands

 The Oxford Companion via JancisRobinson.com


Vini d' Abruzzo

Umani Ronchi Jorio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2016 


This post contains affiliate links, including these Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.




  1. I'm a fan of Umani Ronchi whites- have yet to try their reds. Your roasted shrimp and pasta dish, oh yeah wih that wine. Starting to question whether farming organically is enough these days. How about you? Wait! Don't answer that, it's a whole different discussion.

    1. It is a whole different discussion with many different facets, but there's still so far to go even on this front.

  2. I agree with you, Nicole - I'm not dogmatic on the subject of sustainability but I care and look for it. Every pairing in your post looks outstanding!


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!