The Beauty of Montefalco’s Sagrantino

I love Italy and as a wine writer I love taking you (and me) on virtual journeys all over Italy to explore the wines, foods and culture. Today we are going to visit the Italian region of Umbria to take a deeper dive into the wines of Montefalco. Though I have not yet had the blessing of visiting Umbria and Montefalco I have been blessed to receive two media samples from the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco the help guide our journey.

Umbria Sagrantino wines

Umbria is located in central Italy and is the only region in Italy to not have a coast line or boarder another country. It is bordered by Tuscany to the west, Le Marche to the east, and Lazio to the south. Umbria is known as Italy’s “green heart,” known for its medieval hill towns, such as Assisi, dense forests, truffles and local cuisine. Furthermore, Umbria is a fertile region noted for its long history of wine production; renowned for its eleven DOC and two DOCG zones. Umbria is characterized by a continental climate, with warm and dry summers and cold winter with occasional snow fall. The clay terroir yields wines rich in extracts, bright in color and potential for improvement with long and proper cellaring, while the calcium content enhances high alcohol and intensifies the wines aromas.

Umbria via
Umbria via

Umbria’s annual wine production is less than one-third of its Tuscan neighbor, making it Italy’s fourth smallest wine producing region by volume. However, good things often come in small packages. Although 60% of Umbria’s wine production is white wine, its two DOCGs are for red wine, one of which includes the fabulous Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG.

Montefalco via
Montefalco via
Sagrantino grapes via
Sagrantino grapes via

Sagrantino: This varietal has found its home in Montefalco for centuries, with recordings of vineyard in Montefalco dating back to the 11th century. It creates a wine that is dark and dense, often with colors of deep inky purple and flavor profiles of black cherry and ripe blackberry marmalade with spice notes and deep earthy characteristics. It is the most tannic wine of central Italy and has an affinity for oak, resulting in a wine that ages beautifully. The Montefalco DOCG guidelines stipulate Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG must be crafted of 100% Sagrantino sourced from the zone around Montefalco, and aged for 37 months with a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels. In addition to Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG, the region has another classification for Sagrantino blends called Montefalco Rosso DOC. These guidelines are more lenient and include a blending guideline of 60-70% Sangiovese (the most prominent red grape in Montefalco), 10-15% Sagrantino and 15-30% of an additional red grape varietal, with 18 months aging and no oak stipulation. What do all the guidelines of the DOCG and DOC mean to you the consumer? They mean you have purchased excellent wines that have met very high quality standards to insure your pleasure and enjoyment. Enough talk, now on to the wines!

Umbria Perticaia Montefalco Rosso DOCPerticaia 2011 Montefalco Rosso DOC: This wine was crafted of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Colorino. This wine poured an inviting ruby red into the glass and opened with aromas of red fruit, spice, and a very soft hint of mushroom. On the palate this wine delivered flavors of cherries, raspberries, cranberries and red plums with a rich spiciness, white pepper, notes of violets and a deep minerality. It was very smooth with beautifully balanced mouth-watering acidity and well integrated yet present tannins. In meeting with the DOC requirements this wine was aged for a total of 18 months: 12 months in steel vats and 6 months in the bottle. 14% alcohol. This beautifully crafted wine was not complex; however, it was quite pleasing, had a medium texture and a lingering dry finish. This was a lovely, easy drinking and enjoyable wine that I encourage you to seek out and add to your wine enjoyment.

Umbria Arnaldo - CapraiArnaldo – Caprai Collepino 2009 Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG: This wine was crafted of 100% Sagrantino. After a two hour decant it poured a deep garnet into the glass and opened with rustic aromas of red fruit, spice espresso beans and a touch of smoked meats. On the palate this wine delivered flavors of  black cherries, black plums and black berries, along with dark chocolate covered espresso beans, olive tapanade, and smoky leather. The acidity was round and well-balanced; the tannins were still quite pronounced after a 2 hour decant leading me to believe this wine will age beautifully and still dazzle in 10 more years. It is full in body, weight and complexity and full on palate pleasing flavors. A wonderful food wine with a long, dry finish.  This is an bold Italian wine lovers wine in the spirit of Barolo and Amarone; outstanding!

The Perticaia was a perfect wine to enjoy throughout the meal. Lighter in weight and flavors it is ideal to enjoy it with an antipasta plate consisting of salami, prosciutto, a variety of cheeses topped with honey, fig preserves and balsamic vinegar spread, Turkish dried apricots and marcona almonds. This wine would also pair beautifully with medium Mediterranean cuisine such as caprese salad and meatballs with roasted squash and zucchini. Finally, the Perticaia 2011 Montefalco Rosso DOC would make a delicious edition to a Margharita Pizza!

black slate apps

Campania Caprese salad

Campania Meatballs and roasted squash

Campania Margharita pizza

The Collepino was, as promised, a full-flavor, tannic wine that needs a hearty meal to tame the delicious beast. This wine is ideal with three of my favorite recipes: 1) Mario Batali’s Beer Braised Short Ribs with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots, 2) Pasta with Bolognese Sauce, 3) Herb Crusted Lamb Chops with mashed sweet potatoes.

Black slate dinner

Wintre Solstice dinner4

Snooth virtual tasting lamb chops

These two wineries are as outstanding as the wines they produce. Let me share a little bit more with you about the wineries behind the wines in their own words:

From the Perticaia web site:

Umbria Perticaia logo“PERTICAIA is the word with which, in Umbria’s archaic language, is called the plow – the instrument that, more than any other, marks the transition from sheep-farming to agriculture.”

And it is precisely why this indissoluble connection with the land and his deep roots in the territory that Guido Guardigli decided to call his venture “Perticaia”. Respectful of the teaching of the past, attentive to the dynamics of the present and projected towards the ever more ambitious goals of the future.

In short, the same philosophy that marked and accompanied the professional history of Mr. Guardigli, rich with extraordinary experiences, while at the same time dynamic, enthusiastic, continuously striving for the best possible result.

Umbria Perticaia winery

“Penso Positivo (Positive Thinking)”: this could be the synthesis of “Progetto Perticaia”, identified by the double P that symbolizes it.

It was a trip in the early 90s that excited and convinced Mr. Guardigli, before anyone else was thinking about it, of the extraordinary potential of that territory and of its princely vine: Sagrantino. “A territory, a grape, a wine”.

It’s natural that right here, it was decided to give life to Perticaia – at the center of natural Umbria, among the hills cultivated with olive groves and vineyards, surrounded by medieval towers, villages and castles. After having bout the lands, he began a substantial work of planting new vineyards and the construction of a modern cantina, in perfect balance with the surrounding environment, and being sure to maintain the appearance of the old farms in the area.

Umbria Perticaia vineyards

Perticaia has an entire page of awards they have been awarded for excellence in winemaking as well as ecoconsciousness from Italian organizations, global organizations and American wine publications such as Decanter, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator! I encourage you to visit Perticaia’s web site to learn more about this extraordinary winery and view their entire portfolio of wines.

From the Arnaldo – Caprai web site:

Umbria Arnaldo Caprai logo“Arnaldo Caprai is the acknowledged leader in the production of top quality Sagrantino di Montefalco.”

The Caprai Project:

Marco Caprai, owner of Arnaldo – Caprai, strongly believed in the great opportunities that could come from such a long tradition and he translated this heritage with a modern and innovative approach. Thanks to research work and long term experimentation we work to produce top quality elegant wines that show a unique character. The colour, aroma and taste of our Sagrantino will make you feel the strong character of the people who work it, the beauty of the gentle hills where it grows and the richness and complexity of the long traditions of Montefalco.

Umbria Arnaldo Caprai winery

“Tradition, Innovation and Territory are the key words that drive us in our everyday efforts.”

  • Tradition: Respecting the tradition that has allowed Sagrantino grapes to grow in Montefalco for centuries; yet meeting the tradition with innovation.
  • Innovation: Utilizing new practices to promote sustainable and eco-friendly practices to produce the highest quality grapes possible. Additionally, embracing modern technology to communicate first hand with the consumer to promote our wine and also “our culture and the values our wine symbolizes.”
  • Territory: Arnaldo – Caprai is constantly working to know more about the “character of the terroir of Montefalco: its untapped potential are identified and transformed into product and innovatives production’ process.”

In 2012, Arnaldo – Caprai was named Wine Enthusiast “Winery of the Year!”

Arnaldo – Caprai has an outstanding web site filled with information on the winery and their entire portfolio of wines. I highly encourage you to visit the site to learn about this unique winery.

After researching, tasting, and writing this article I am dying to jump on a plane and head to Umbria to visit the wonderful wineries of Montefalco and taste some Sagrantino! Thank you again Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco for sending me these two delicious wines and providing me the opportunity to learn about Montefalco and Sagrantino!

Umbria Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco logo

My Song Selection: Italians love jazz! It is fairly common for me to pair great Italian wines with great jazz music because Italy celebrates the style of music so well. Umbria hosts a jazz festival each summer simply called “Umbria Jazz” with artists from all over the globe signing up to perform. I chose one of the artists who performed just a couple of weeks ago in Umbria to pair with these two outstanding wines so grab a glass and enjoy.

Please seek out Sagrantino Montefalco DOCG and Montefalco Rosso DOC wines and request them from your favorite wine retailers. Though production is small compared to other Italian wine regions these are very high quality wines that you want to drink and share with those you love. Furthermore, add Umbria and Montefalco to your bucket list and be sure and visit the next time you are in Italy! Each year around Easter Montefalco hosts a wine week where visitors can enjoy the principle wines of the regions, including the wines in this article. It is a perfect time to travel to Montefalco! Cheers!

4 responses to “The Beauty of Montefalco’s Sagrantino”

  1. Great post! Have you had Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito? One of my favourite ways to finish a dinner, unfortunately there is not much of it in my part of the world.

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