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Wine Report From Italy: Sagrantino di Montefalco

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

 

The Umbrian village of Montefalco is home to one of the best-kept secrets in the Italian fine wine scene: Sagrantino di Montefalco.

Attention Italian wine lovers! If you’re the type of afficianado whose favorite reds are big, robust, super-dry and tannic, if you’re the kind of person who would pour Barolo over your cornflakes if that was considered appropriate behavior, if young Barbarescos, Brunellos and Amarones are among your everyday wines, pay attention as you are about to be introduced to wine that will knock your socks off!

Every heard of the Sagrantino grape? Or what about the Umbrian village of Montefalco? If not, you’re missing out as one of the best kept secrets in the Italian fine wine scene is a wine named Sagrantino di Montefalco. While the wine zone was given its DOCG status (the highest classification in Italian wine) as early as in 1991, the wine never really captured the international wine drinking audience as has the other Italian big boys Amarone, Brunello and Barolo.

The Sagrantino grape

On the reasons for this is the wines scarcity. The Sagrantino grape is only grown in and the around the village of Montefalco. At last count there were less than 30 produces growing less than 300 acres of Sagrantoni vines (with more than 2 mio. acres under vine that’s less than .02% of Italy’s total acreage). Another reason the average wine drinker probably haven’t heard of this wine is because of its high price. According to the strict rules of this DOCG, the wine must age for a minimum of 2 years prior to being released, of which 12 months must be in oak. Time is money in the wine business so all this aging boosts the prices of Sagrantino di Montefalco which normally retails in $40-$60 range.

I was recently offered to taste the $60 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano from Arnaldo-Caprai. The 40-year-old family-owned winery Arnaldo-Caprai has about 220 acres under vine and grows traditional Italian varieties, international varieties, as well as indigenous varieties such as Sagrantino, which they both blend with other grapes and make into a single varietal wine. The ’05 Collepiano is 100% Sagrantino, a grape infamous for making some of the darkest, most tannic wines in the world. With most red wines the time after crushing when the grape juice soaks with the skins and seeds (the period called maceration) is usually no more than a few weeks. In making this Collepiano the winemaker allowed 28 days of maceration imparting massive amounts of flavor, color and tannins.

The need to breathe

Because of this concentration you must allow the wine to breathe and the tannins to soften. I aerated the wine in my decanter for 4 hours prior to tasting it. Let me be honest; by itself the wine is overwhelming (in a good way). The amount of flavor and tannin that assaults your tastebuds is massive; it practically numbs your palate for a brief second. Your tongue dries up like a sponge and you start to wonder if you will ever be able to taste anything again. But as the palate shock subsides wonderful intense flavors of sour cherries, dark chocolate, muddy earth, ripe plum and spice starts dancing around in your mouth. No, this is a food wine ladies and gentlemen. I paired the wine with roasted duck breasts, caramelized onion and apples, roasted potatoes and a cream/redwine reduction sauce. With food this wine is smacking!

Cheers.

Steffen Rasch CSW is ready to answer any wine-related questions, comments or concerns you may have. Feel free to email him at srasch@golocalprov.com. And as always, don’t forget to follow GoLocalProv’s Wine Cellar on Facebook.

 

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