Beside the artistic beauties, Bevagna is appreciated for its truffle dishes and typical Umbrian specialties, for its high-quality extra-vergin olive oil, and for its D.O.C. (controlled designation of origin) white and red wines. The Sagrantino, dry and straw wine, has obtained the denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin as a recognition of the millennial cultivation of the vine in this ancient territory, as some Latin authors attest and today, it allows us to taste a traditional dish of Bevagna, Gnocchi with Sagrantino.
Characteristic cakes are prepared in occasion of festivities such as “frappe” for Carnival, sweet and savory pies at Easter, “maccheroni” and “rocciate” for All Saints ’ Day, “panicocoli” and “pastarelle”. December 6th is the day on which children of Bevagna, unlike regional customs, receive gifts accompanied by San Nicolò’s “pastarelle” (little cakes) and mandarins. The traditional Easter breakfast, blessed on Holy Thursday, includes cheese pie, cured meat and sausages, boiled eggs and Vernaccia wine.
From Mevania to Bevagna: hints on the history of our good wine
The Latin writers agree in exalting the flourishing agriculture practiced in the territory of ancient Mevania. Virgilio, Servio, Lucano, Stazio, Columella and Silio Italico celebrate the countryside full of fields and pastures, made fertile by the waters of the different waterways among which Clitunno, to whose fateful waters they attribute the faculty to grow the white bulls destined to the altars of Rome.
Pliny the Elder in Naturalis Historia (XIV, 3, 37) names the “Itriola” grape as a characteristic and typical product of this area and of Piceno territory, a grape whose leaves turn red in autumn, before falling. Over time this grape has been identified with the “passerine” grape, whose name derives from the Greek word (itrion) which indicates the extreme sweetness of its flavor, then called “passolina dal Dalmasso” in 1937 or identified with the “pizzutello” (Bunbury), is instead classified as wine grapes by Billiard in 1913.
The presence of a factory of “Megarese” cups datable to the 1st century B.C. of the master C. Popilius in the ancient Mevania, whose territory extended to the present Montefalco, indicates the presence of a qualified production of wine.
Vineyards owned by the Sassovivo Abbey are witnessed in the Middle Ages also in the territory of Bevagna.
A Statute of 1500 also testifies the importance of the cultivation of the vine, where the cultivation and the commerce are minutely regulated. It is strictly forbidden to export grapes and musts in time of harvest and it is allowed to bring out only a maximum of three stems, worth the payment of substantial fines. Equally, retail wine sellers must use measures specially sealed by the Municipality (the so-called “pititto” and “foglietta” measures), which the mayor in charge is required to check regularly once a month.
Even the land registers of the 17th and 18th centuries reaffirm the image of an agrarian territory rich in soils destined to crops and pergolas cultivations, while the list of the factories, art and crafts traders drawn up in 1850 testifies the presence within the walls of Bevagna of six taverns or retail wine shops. The importance of wine production is reaffirmed during the 19th century: in 1895, Bevagna is indicated as one of the Umbrian centers in which “the wine industry is exercised with rational criteria and systems” together with Montefalco, Gualdo Cattaneo, Piegaro and Orvieto. Still in 1901, Vittorio Colla describes the countryside as richly cultivated, among other things, with “vine trees and vine-shaped vines” in the plain as well as recent vineyards with the Guillot system on the hill. In these years at the turn of the two centuries, the wine of Bevagna has also the opportunity to win national awards: so, in the exhibition held in Perugia in 1896 Argante Pagliochini obtained the honorable mention “for red wines and in particular for the good imitation of the Tuscan type and for the importance of production”. At the same exhibition, the Maurizi brothers won the bronze medal in the category of red table wines. The great nineteenth-century exhibitions end with the Paris exhibition of 1900, in which four Umbrian winemakers take part: among them the brothers Argante and Gabriele Pagliochini from Bevagna, who bring red and white table wine and dessert wine, production 1897, 1898, 1899.
From 13th to 20th September 1925 a regional exhibition of olive oil and wine is held in Montefalco, organized by the Spoleto Cattle Chair and the Municipality of Montefalco, under the auspices of the Ministry of National Economy, the Province of Perugia and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Umbria. Those who visit the exhibition have been able to admire the best of Umbria’s wines, including our wines, described as “sparkling liquor that oozes from the fat grapes of the gentle hills of Bevagna”.
Although this rapid excursus seems to have nothing to do with the events of Sagrantino, it nevertheless testifies the presence of an ancient wine tradition in Bevagna, by some approached to the events of Brunello of Montalcino. The producers are included in this excursus and have been able to have a profound impact on the history of the wines of Bevagna area. We refer to Adanti, Benincasa, Antano and Dionigi wineries, whose entrepreneurial activities have led to a great development of their companies, paving the way for a variety of other wineries, which today are in the territory of Bevagna, attracting the attention of even important national brands, which cultivate precious vines on our hills.
Regarding the relationship between Bevagna and its wines, a last suggestion comes from the story of the blessed Giacomo Bianconi’s life: a saint not inclined to do miracles in life; he decides to give a gift to his fellow citizens who murmured a lot for so much lack. This is how the water from the well of the convent of San Domenico is carried on its deathbed and, under the eyes of the terrified citizens, he transforms water into wine “and the most generous ever drunk in Bevagna. To quench the thirst of those present it took two and three and four pitchers that, blessed, they made of the humble cell another cenacle at Cana”.
A wine that we like to imagine red and full-bodied as the best wine in Bevagna and as the most celebrated and well-known Sagrantino.