One of the highlights of our recent Bike the Wine Roads of Umbria tour was our wine tasting at Bibenda Assisi. I discovered this wine bar, and it’s friendly and welcoming owner, Nila, on my explorations prior to our arrival. As a sommelier, Nila is passionate about sharing the very best wines of Umbria with everyone that walks through her door.
Nila begins by introducing herself, and her background. She is originally from the Ukraine, and after several positions in the hotel industry she moved to Assisi to open her wine bar. She is a trained sommelier, and her Bibenda Assisi was named one of the two best wine bars in Italy in 2012 by the Associazione Italiana Sommelier. This association publishes the Bibenda guide to the best wines and restaurants in Italy; Bibenda coming from the Latin Bibendus, meaning “what to drink”. To translate the guide, “Enoteca-Wine Bar Bibenda Assisi – the only wine shop in Italy authorized to use our brand Bibenda. Ideal for wine tasting, a drink or a snack taste in the sign of culinary refinement and comfort of a warm and attention to detail”. After our visit, we were all in total agreement.
We arrive to find a beautiful table set up with three glasses for each of us, and silverware. Any empty space on the table was quickly covered by Nila, bringing us multiple platter of the very best in local antipasti – an amazing selection of cured meats, including DOP prosciutto from Norcia, sopressata, cinghale, venison, and goose; 6 or 7 wonderful cheeses accompanied by honey and mostarda; the classic Umbrian bread torta al testa, and some beautiful rolls filled with sautéed spinach.
We began with a white wine, an Umbria Bianco produced by Azienda Agraria Moretti Omero from Giano dell’Umbria, right near our last stop of Bevagna. Moretti Omero started around the end of WWII, when the grandfather, who had fled to Switzerland, purchased the property upon his return. They cultivate both olives and wine, and since 1992 produces exclusively using organic method.
Called “Nessuno”, meaning ‘none’, this is a fragrant young white, a blend of 75% Grechetto and 25% Malvasia Aromatica. An organic wine, with just a very small amount of sulfites (hence the name). Nila showed us how to begin by evaluating the appearance of the wine – the color, and the ‘legs’, or as she called them ‘tears’ that indicated the viscosity and alcohol content of the wine. This is a fairly young wine, so a lighter yellow with some hints of green.
Then we moved on to the aroma. This wine has an intense bouquet, simple and clean, with notes of citrus and almond. Finally we sip, and experience a fresh, crisp wine, with a good acid content. A great pairing with the fresh goat cheese that Nila has supplied. She also encourages us to try the Tuscan bread between wines, explaining that wines usually have a bit of salt in their profile, and the saltless Tuscan bread counteracts this and cleans the palate.
Next, we try a red wine, the Villa Fidelia Rosso 2009 Riserva. This wine is produced by the Sportoletti family in Spello, a lovely little town we passed by today on our bike ride to Assisi. On their 26 hectares of vineyards on the edge of Parco di Monte Subasio, they produce 5 wines: Rosso DOC Assisi, Assisi Grechetto DOC, Villa Fidelia Bianco IGT, Villa Fidelia Rosso IGT and IGT Villa Fidelia Passito. Today, their wines are winning accolades world-wide, from Gambero Rosso to Duemilavini to Robert Parker, who gave it a 93 point rating.
We looked at the legs, and admire the ruby red color. We smell it’s aromas of cherries and dark berries, with floral notes and herbs. It tastes of cherries and fruit, with a wonderful spiciness and notes of chocolate and leather, an elegant wine with a persistent, savory finish and refined tannins.
Our last wine was the most intense of the three, another wine produced by Moretti Omero, their Sagrantino di Montefalco 2008 DOCG. We observe a slight brick color around the edges of the wine, an indication that this wine is a bit older than the previous one. This wine is 100% Sagrantino, completely organic. The bouquet is complex, with spices, ripe fruit and chocolate, and as Nila describes, “the smell of a wet leather coat.” The palate is well-rounded and intense, with cherries, dried fruit, spices and cocoa, dry and full bodied, with firm tannins. A very special wine to enjoy with roasted meat like game and lamb, and braised dishes.
As we finish off the wines, we move to discuss the subject on everyone’s mind in Assisi today – the upcoming visit of the Pope to the city of his namesake, Saint Francis. Nila confesses that she has written to the Pope to invite him to visit Bibenda Assisi. We all wonder which of us is sitting in the chair the Pope will use.
The next day, after our cycling, all of our guests return to visit again with Nila, and taste some more of her wines. We stop by again as a group before dinner, and Nila shares with us her project for the day – selecting the wines she will serve, should Pope Francis stop by. Here’s a photo of her recommendations for the pontiff, several of which we have tried on our tour.