Easy Springtime Dinners with Orvieto (#ItalianFWT)

Come explore the bright white wines of Orvieto paired with simple springtime dinners.

Crisp, bright white wines become a necessity in the spring, and the need only increases in the hot, humid days of summer. They match all the beautiful veggies bursting forth from the ground, and they cool you down as the temperatures go up. As far as I’m concerned, they’re 100% required. 

I know a lot of you feel the same because when I was working in a wine shop, people would ask for ‘crisp white wines’ left and right in the spring and summer. I absolutely feel you. My one lament is that sometimes people get stuck on just one or two styles or grapes, and yet, there are SOOO many wonderful options out there to try. Better yet, there are lots of incredibly affordable options. Italy in particular offers seemingly endless options of delicious ‘crisp white wines.’ To help you avoid getting stuck in a rut, today we’re going to look for a new candidate for your rotation of crisp whites – Orvieto. 

Once get to know this Italian region a little bit, we’ll explore two bottles paired with easy, quick dinners, because let’s face it, as temperatures go up, we all want to spend less and less time in front of the stove.

A Snapshot of Orvieto

Map borrowed from WineFolly.com

Orvieto is a region in central Italy located predominantly in Umbria, but also spills over into neighboring Lazio. It’s named for a hilltop town of the same name. Orvieto has a rich cultural history. It was an important artistic center in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. In addition, it’s the home of a Papal Palace, one of only three outside of Rome and its surrounding areas. 

Panorama di Orvieto.jpg
Image borrowed from Wikipedia

The region’s cultural and winemaking history goes back even further to the time of the Etruscans who dug caves into tuffaceous soils and created an elaborate infrastructure for winemaking on three levels, as described by the Consorzio's website:

“In the 1st level the grapes were pressed and transformed into must and it flowed, through earthenware pipes, into the second level, where the fermentation and subsequent racking took place; the wine was thus ready for maturation and storage in the III level. The result was an aromatic, very fragrant drink with a slightly sweet taste and a golden yellow color, testifying to the territory's vocation for white wines.”

The wines continued to be incredibly popular through the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They were a favorite of the Popes that resided in the Palace, and apparently, the wines were used to help pay for the works of art that adorn the Orvieto Cathedral.


Orvieto’s wines are always white. (There is a separate appellation for reds –– Orvietano Rosso DOC.) As mentioned above, the region was known for wines with sweetness at varying levels, but as tastes have changed in more modern times, so have the styles of the wine produced, and now the grand majority in dry (secco) and made in a clean, crisp style. However, sweeter styles do still exist: medium dry (abboccato), medium sweet (amabile), late harvest (vendemmia tardiva), and botrytized (muffa nobile) sweet versions.

The dry versions can have quite a mix of fruit notes including peaches, green apple, citrus, melon, and pears. There are also often hints of white flowers, nuts, as well as minerality, and, at times, a pleasant bitter note as well.


The wines of Orvieto are traditional blends, with Grechetto and Procanico (the local name for Trebbiano) playing the leading roles – they must make up 60% of the blend minimum. Grechetto is considered to be the more interesting of the two grapes by far, with notes of citrus, white flowers, chamomile, and even nuttiness at times. It tends to produce small bunches with grapes of concentrated flavor. It also adds structure and body to the blend. High-quality Orvieto blends will tend to have a high proportion of Grechetto, and you will now even find varietal bottlings.

Procanico/Trebbiano is far more neutral in flavor, but it has a couple of things going for it. First, it typically has more acidity than Grechetto, so brings a lift and brightness to the blend. It’s also far more productive, but blends with too much of it risk becoming bland. Its neutral character combined with its high acidity makes it ideal for the production of brandy.

In addition to these two, you might also find Verdello (Verdelho), Drupeggio (Canaiolo Bianco) and/or Malvasia Bianca. International varieties are also grown in the region, which you will find in the Orvieto DOC wines but tend to be used in higher levels in the IGT-level wines. 


The area is known for its tufa soils, a type of limestone that’s desirable for growing grapes and for carving out caves to make cellars in which to store the wines. The tufa soils are volcanic in origin, and you will find other volcanic soils as well, including areas of alluvial soils, clay, and sand with marine fossils mixed in – so eventhough this is a landlocked region, you can bet these wines work beautifully with seafood.

Umbria in general enjoys a Mediterranean climate with dry, hot summers and cold winters. However, this is one of the few areas in Italy that can regularly expect to see botrytis, aka noble rot, which is ideal for the sweeter wines. 

Tiers and Labeling Terms

There are a few quality tiers and labeling terms that you might see on a label to be aware of. 

  • Orvieto DOC –  This is the basic/general Orvieto tier. Although the history of the region goes back further, it was originally delineated in 1931 and established as a DOC in 1971.
  • Superiore – Wines in the Superiore category (established in 1997) must adhere to higher quality standards with lower production yields and must have a minimum alcohol content of 12%.
  • Classico – As is the case with other regions like Chianti or Soave, the term classico indicates the wine comes from the most historic sub-area in the region. Orvieto Classico” sub-area. In this case, it’s the area closest to the city of Orvieto, by the Paglia river valley. 

I received several bottles of Orvieto as samples to try, and we’ll be taking a look at two of those bottles paired with simple dinners – both of which came together in about half an hour. As always,  all opinions are my own, and no other compensation was received. 

Decugnano dei Barbi Mare Antico Orvieto Classico Superiore 2019 with Salmon and a Tomato, Avocado, and Goat Cheese Salad

Blend: 55% Grechetto, 20% Vermentino, 20% Chardonnay, 5% Procanico | Average Price: $16 | Find additional information here

Wine has been made at Decugnano since at least 1212, when the lands belonged to the church of Santa Maria of Decugnano and the vineyard produced wines for the Mass as well as for local consumption. The present owner, Claudio Barbi purchased the property in 1973, after falling in love with the property. His son Enzo has since joined him in the project. 

The 30-hectare property sits at an altitude of over 300 meters (1,000 feet), has sand and clay soils that were part of an ocean floor from the Pliocene period, and contains fossilized shells of sea shells and oysters. In terms of farming, they do not utilize insecticides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, or weed killers. They try to keep treatments to a minimum through careful attention to the vines. 

The grapes for the Mare Antico are a blend from their estate vineyards, from 25-year-old vines. 

Tasting Notes: Salted lemons and white flowers hit on the nose. On the palate, the wine was refreshing and bright, but with a little fleshy fruit on the mid-palate. Lots of citrus flavors continue on the palate, along with hints of white peach, lots of salinity, a hint of cheese rind, almond flesh, and light touches of fresh green herbs.

Pairing: We enjoyed this wine with salmon that was seared in olive oil along with a salad with tomatoes, avocado, greens, goat cheese, sunflower seeds, and a few croutons. Very simple, no recipe needed. Just toss the salad greens lightly in your favorite dressing or oil and vinegar. The wine was an easy match with the salmon and really matched the fresh flavors in the salad. The bit of texture on the mid-palate resonated with the creamier textures from the avocado and cheese. 

Argillae Orvieto Superiore 2021 with Cheesy Lemon Pasta with Shrimp and Broccolini 

Blend: Grechetto, Procanico, Malvasia, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. | Average Price: $15 | Find additional information here. 

Argillae was started by the Bonollo family, who were already well known in Italy for having started one of the country’s major spirits companies. Then in the 80s, Giuseppe Bonollo began purchasing land in Orvieto with the intent to make quality wines as well. They now have 260 hectares, 70 of which are under vine. Argillae sells quite a bit of the wine it produces in bulk to bottling companies, but they keep the best of the best to be bottled under their own label. 

They put a large emphasis on sustainability, which has informed many aspects of their operations from the architecture of the winery, the production systems, agricultural methods, and packaging. As two examples, they use a biomass boiler to produce thermal energy to heat the cellar and surrounding buildings and recycle wastewater for their uses as well. For a more detailed look at their sustainability practices, see here.

Tasting Notes: Lots of lemon and lime on the nose, along with green apples, and flowers. Notes of white peach, pear, lemon zest, and hints of herbs join in on the palate. The zippy fruit notes became more fleshy on the mid-palate, leading into an almost spritzy minerality on the finish.

Pairing: This was the second bottle from the set that I opened and a simple pasta dish formed in my brain to match the flavors we’d been experiencing from the Orvieto wines in general. I flavored the pasta with garlic,  lemon juice and zest and tossed it with a blend of cheeses, shrimp, and sautéed broccolini. The broccolini stems were cut up and started cooking in advance of the florets, and Greg wanted me to mention that he found this extra move to be particularly key to his enjoyment of the texture since otherwise, the stems can be too tough. I loved this pairing! Both the flavors and textures in the wine and food matched beautifully making it as delightful a match as I’d hoped!



For more posts on Umbria, see these posts:


The rest of the Italian Food, Wine, Travel blogging group (#ItalianFWT) is also exploring Orvieto this month. Be sure to check out their posts:

Additional sources used for this post and extra reading: 



  1. I so enjoyed these two wines! I think you pasta dish sounds like something I will be recreating often as we move into summer!


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