Promptly at 09:30 the driver arrived. A smart Mercedes minibus pulled into the carpark at Bellaugello and we clambered aboard for a day out.
Our destination, the ‘Strada di Sagrantino’ just south of Perugia. This panoramic road winds its way up through fields of sunflowers, starting at Torgiano it winds though villages with delightful names such as Bettona, Cannara, Bevagna, Gualdo Cattaneo, and arrives at Montefalco – the hill of the falcon famed for its Sagrantino wines, a grape specific to Umbria. Why drive this road? because passing through hectare after hectare of beautifully tended vines, on rolling hillsides it is the road of the vineyards and we are in wine country. Our specific destination is the Cantina ‘Di Filippo‘ at Cannara. Turning off the main route we head slightly uphill and arrive at the cantina. Outside waiting are two carts, harnessed to each a pair of horses, and we are to be taken on a tour of the vineyard by horse, for this is a vineyard with a difference.
In 1998 Roberto Di Filippo the proprietor of this estate broke from the fold and daringly started going organic. Way back then organic wine production was unheard of and his neighbours thought him to be at least a bit eccentric. What were his motives, the first was for the protection of himself, his family and workers, as he strongly believes the chemicals used in wine production are dangerous to health, with the sprays and treatments his staff would be inhaling toxins and they leech into the soil. Secondly this man has a love of the land, he speaks animatedly with passion about his horses, some from Puglia, Murgese, some from the south of France, both rare breeds and both used for ploughing and cleaning in between the rows of vines. These are not the only animals, for geese are used to clean around the vines, as we rode past a flock of them happily waddling in the half-shade. Of course it was a clever marketing tool and one that is now being picked up by larger cantinas, but Roberto is one of the pioneers and perhaps because he has been doing it longer his wines are exceptional.
The vineyard covers 30 hectares, and we got to see the individual parcels of vines and experienced some vigorous uphill trotting before heading back to the degustazione or tasting room.
Accompanied by a platter of cold cured meats, some being the most fragrant goose Roberto presented eight of his wines. We started with his light crisp ‘Grechetto‘ then to a ‘Trebbiano‘ much liked by everybody, and moved though the whites to the reds ending up with a rich smooth luxurious Sagrantino which as I can attest goes remarkably well with dark handmade chocolate…
Tour over, tasting over, purchases made for shipment abroad, all of us more than a bit tipsy we boarded the bus and headed to the stunning medieval town of Bevagna where I had lunch booked at my favourite restaurant la ‘Bottega di Assù‘. Assunta has created a gem, the space is small, walls filled with ceramics, books, bottles of wine and candid photos of stars from an era when they were stars. We ate spaghetti with truffles, another of Umbria’s wonderful offerings. Assunta cooks herself and her warm smile means we were reluctant to leave, but leave we eventually did.
On our way out I ran into Domenico and Luciano the guys who make our natural Argan soaps, shampoo and gel that we have in the bathrooms here at Bellaugello. They live nearby and offered to show us some of the gems of Bevagna including churches with ancient Roman beginnings, the theatre, great town houses, hidden gardens, and well preserved ancient mosaic floors, in the warm sunshine the town glowed.
You could have such a day next time you stay at Bellaugello, Roberto also offers a picnic amongst the vines, his enthusiasm large, the options are great and with a driver provided there is no need to hold back.
You can buy wine directly from Roberto, he arranges shipping worldwide. Here is a link to his website: Cantina di Filippo. Assunta’s little restaurant in Bevagna does not have a website, but I can book a table for you.