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Cantine Aperte

Anne Robichaud

This past May, fifty-one Umbrian wine cellars threw open their cantina doors, invited visitors into their vineyards and uncorked bottles of crisp whites and robust reds for the thousands joining in on Cantine Aperte (“Open Cellars”). The festival - launched twenty years ago by Movimento Turismo Vino - is targeted at the diffusion of the culture of wine and developing familiarity with Italy's great wine regions. Bringing to life the slogan "Vedi che bevi" ("See what you drink"), over nine hundred Italian wine cellars welcomed more than a million visitors on the last Sunday in May, 2011.

During the 2012 wine festival, Umbria's cantine offer guided vineyard walks with an agronomist, jazz concerts, literary events associated with wine, art shows, tastings of territory foods best associated with their wines, helicopter rides over the vineyards at one Umbrian cellar and a bocce tournament in the vineyards of another.

Young people in couples or in groups headed from cellar to cellar, large wide-bowled tulipano wine glasses, tucked in the traditional cloth bag (here in Umbria, the color of "Sagrantino red") hanging round their necks. "But just sips", a smiling group of four told me while in line for wines at the Cardeto Winery near Orvieto. "We have to drive and the carabinieri are on the watch today!"

Cantine Aperte

Families gathered at picnic tables surrounding the Cardeto cantina to enjoy the wines along with fried seafood – or with sandwiches of savory Norcia prosciutto or local pecorino cheeses. Cantine Aperte events for children draw in families: treasure hunts, plays, puppets, clowns and music. As one young mother told me, "We want our children to recognize wine as culture, as an accompaniment to flavorful food, to be savored in moderation with family and friends."

Over seafood and our favorite Umbrian white, Pino and I chatted about the correct pruning of our olive trees with an agronomist enjoying Cantine Aperte with his young nephews and niece.

At one stand, we talked to a producer/vendor of caprino (goat cheese), tasting her delicious caprino varieties and nearby, a local olive-oil producer offered us slices of bruschetta drenched with olive oil.

We had dessert at that stand: gelato all’olio di oliva, drizzled with olive oil. Who would have thought?

As we were leaving, we passed the owner of a nursery at his stand of prized rose and hydrangeas, sipping an Orvieto white as he awaited customers. Bordeaux-colored wine bags holding tulipani glasses were piled high on the table at the entrance for the wine appassionati in line for tickets for wine-tastings and food-tastings.

Cantine Aperte

We had arrived early enough to beat any lines. Cardeto, a wine co-operative founded in 1949 and specializing in Orvieto classico, has three hundred members today, cultivating about 1700 acres of vineyards.

Next stop would be a smaller family-run winery near Assisi, SAIO, where the Mencarelli family lovingly cultivates thirty acres of merlot, Sangiovese, cabernet, chardonnay and Grechetto.

SAIO Vineyards

Saio vineyard near Assisi

From il grande to il piccolo, Cantine Aperte wineries proudly offered excellence in wines and hospitality as refined as the wines.

"Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing," wrote Ernest Hemingway.

And yet he had never been to Cantine Aperte...

Anne Robichaud lives near Assisi and gives lectures and tours. www.annesitaly.com

© Anne Robichaud, 2012

This essay was first published on Anne's website www.annesitaly.com. Edited by Slow Travel.

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