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The Cellar: Montefalco Rosso & California Chard

Thursday, December 24, 2015


A few years ago I featured an unusual wine; a Sagrantino based wine from a small Italian wine region called Montefalco – a wine that absolutely blew me away. The 'Sagrantino di Montefalco' was a so-called DOCG wine referring to its classification (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), which is the highest for Italian wine. Other famous Italian wines that carry the DOCG designation are Amarone, Barolo and Barbaresco, just to mention a few. The wine was absolutely amazing, but at $50+ a pop probably not what most of us would consider an 'everyday wine'. 

But not all wines from Montefalco are that expensive. The mountainous region is also home to two 'DOC wines' (Denominazione di Origine Controllata); a white and a red - wines that are less exclusive, arguably more 'everyday', but just as interesting and delicious. While the region's whites must be made from a least 50% Grechetto and 25% Trebbiano, the Montefalco reds (Rossos) has to be made from at least 70% Sangiovese, typically blended with the native Sagrantino and/or international varieties such as Merlot.

This week's featured red, the 2011 Montefalco Rosso from Cantina Colpetrone, is exactly such a blend. This wine, of which they make less than 6.000 cases, is made from 70% Sangiovese with equal parts Sagrantino and Merlot sourced from a vineyard just outside of the nearby town of Marcellano, a 20 minute drive west of Montefalco. After blending 60% of the wine is aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve its freshness while the other 40% is aged 12 months in French oak barrels for oxidation and added complexity. After bottling the wine rests for an additional 4 months before release. The resulting $25 wine is medium-plus bodied and densely flavored. This wine tasted of licking a raspberry covered piece of old leather. Delicious! It hits on all the important structural notes with firm tannins from the Sagrantino and lingering acidity from the Sangiovese. This is a food wine for sure; one that would pair well with game or a holiday roast.  

Oh, and if you’re looking for a good, inexpensive Chardonnay let me throw another recommendation out there. Perfect for your upcoming holiday party, look for the Leese-Fitch. Priced at around $12 per bottle this Californian Chardonnay is a good value and definitely one that will please most white wine drinkers. I like it because it is straightforward and fruit-driven – no rough edges here. A lot of Californian Chardonnays in this price range are very oaky and buttery, but not this one. The Leese-Fitch focuses on the fruit and displays just enough acid and whiffs of wood to keep things in balance. Flavors of pineapple and ripe peaches come to mind alongside subtle hints of clementines. 

Happy Holidays,

Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected] with any wine-related questions or learn about wine in person by signing up for one of his tastings at the Providence Wine Academy. 


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