Sagrantino, a thick-skinned grape with off-the-scale color and body is where you find the red prize of Umbria.
Montefalco is perched high up in Umbria, in the foothills of the Central Italian Apennines. These lush, green hills are the historic home of Sagrantino yet it’s not well known outside of Umbria.
Say Italy and wine in a sentence and many likely gravitate to Tuscany and Piemonte, and the Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes. And many travel to these wine regions too, staying in northern Italy.
Lucky me the Italian Food, Wine and Travel group decided to head down to Umbria!
Flavors of Life
The only land-locked region in central and southern Italy is Umbria. It’s also the least populated and hilliest- 71% of the terrain is rolling with verdent hills. Having this position almost smack in the middle of the Italian peninsula means the area offers variety. And it’s easy to get to from Tuscany.
It offers water; the largest lake (Trasimeno) and the longest river (the Tiber) are in central Italy for boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Amazing cycling, archaeological riches, (museums and ruins), UNESCO sites, and of course food and wine are plenty including black truffles!
The climate is varied too. Both Mediterranean and continental areas, something exists for all tastes. Variety gives life flavors and they both ooze from Umbria!
The Perugia province is known for chocolate, I’m told visiting a historic chocolatier is a must… and a nice pairing with Montefalco Sagrantino Passito, a dessert style wine.
Orvieto For Many
In this less known region of hills and mountains you find several appellations and indigenous grapes. Historically the most popular is Orvieto. Made from the Grechetto di Orvieto and/or Grechetto di Todi grapes (two unrelated grapes that unfortunate for consumers, is referred to as the same and often not distinguished), swift success led to increased volume and exports. Like almond and soy milk everyone wants in on it, production swells and quality teeters. Instead of quality wine, Orvieto exports got the cheap, bulk wine rap. But producers are now making lovely Orvietto. You just have to ask a skilled wine merchant.
The Most Distinctive of Them All
Umbria and more specifically Montefalco is where Sagrantino calls home.
A longtime component in Montefalco Rosso DOC wines, winemakers coaxed such character from the grape as a stand-alone wine it received its own appellation in 1992: Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG for dry and Montefalco Sagrantino Passito DOCG for the historic sacramental sweet wine. It challenges Nebbiolo (Barolo) and Aglianico (the Barolo of the south) for the fullest-bodied, most powerful wine in Italy. And it produces delicately aromatic, beautifully balanced wines that can age as well or longer.
Getting To Know Sagrantino
Historically used for passito due to its strong character and high tannins, this very old grape also added color, aromas, body and alcohol to other wines thus was included in blends. The DOC wine Montefalco Rosso must contain ten to twenty-five percent Sagrantino, the remainder is Sangiovese.
It’s the choice for the “governo” method whereby a small amount of semi-dried Sagrantino grapes are added to other freshly vinified wine. This initiates fermentation producing a richer, rounder, approachable wine… and helps to tame Sagrantino’s tannins!
Now days the Sagrantino grape is also grown in McLarenvale and Barossa (Australia), Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma), and Sicily.
If You Like Barolo and Big Cabernets, There’s A Reason To Try Montefalco Sagrantino!
If you’re fond of Barolo and big Cabs, Austrailian Shiraz and northern Rhone Cornas, you’ll want to add Sagrantino to your list. The grape produces full, big wines with ample tannins that in the hands of skilled winemakers, develop beautifully. By law the wine requires thirty months of aging before release.
And more time in bottle is better. Sagrantino is a big wine. You may want to decanting it and let it sit a bit to open up. In the glass it classically presents violets and blackberries surrounded by earthy components, medium acid, a rich, round and full body, and medium to very high tannins.
Wines To Try
Mark and I enjoy Sagrantino especially in cooler months as it pairs nicely with heartier foods. Of particular note is its affordability. Sure some have a higher price tag but many, both released ready to drink or for aging, are very affordable (less than $50). Here are a few Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG to try, both our, and recommendations from others in the wine world.
Còlpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – $20
Producer link: Còlpetrone
Cantina Terre de Trinci, Ugolino – $43
Azienda Agraria Scacciadiavoli – $32 (Scotchee-dee-ah-vo-lee)
Both Stephanie Davis and Valerie Carusco from the WineTwoFive podcast are fans and Stephanie visited the winery. You can listen to her trip interview here: podcast episode. Producer Link: Scacciadiavoli
Mike Madaio, Italian Wine Ambassador with the VinItaly International Academy, is also a fan. According to Mike, “It still features all the typical brawny, tannic Sagrantino character, it also tends to showcase the grape’s more elegant, balanced side as well. This makes it a good pick for younger drinking (5 years old) and allows more versatility with food pairings. It’s also quite well-priced around $30.” Mikes wine writing outlet is Life at Table.
Roberto di Filipo Montefalco Sagrantino- $49
Scroll down for more information about the MonteFalco appellations, and facts about the region!
Italian Food, Wine and Travel – Chat and Articles #ItalianFWT
Saturday, February 2nd at 11am ET / 17:00 in Italy our group of writers chat about all things Umbria. You can read about the group and how to participate from Jeff Burrows at foodwineclick, our host this month. Join our chat using the hashtag #ItalianFWT.
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla whips up “Buridda for Befana + Còlpetrone 2011 Montefalco Sagrantino”
- Marcia from Joy of Wine shares “The Power of Sagrantino”
- Jill from L’Occasion shares “Azienda Agricola Fongoli: Making Natural Wine In Umbria“
- Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares “A Biodynamic Expression of Sagrantino in Umbria”
- Susannah Gold from Avvinare shares “Nectar of the Gods: Antonelli’s Montefalco Sagrantino Passito DOCG”
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Antonelli San Marco: Umbria’s Wine History in a Glass”
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest talks about “Italy’s Finest Wine At A Great Price“
- Giselle from Gusto Wine Tours (in Umbria!) shares “#ItalianFWT – Sagrantino For The Win(e)”
- Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Getting to know Italy’s Sagrantino“
- Jennifer from Vino Travels Italy shares “Lawyers to Winemaking with Antonelli San Marco”
- Nicole from Somm’s Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Còlpetrone Montfalco Sagrantino and Pasta with Red Pesto & Truffle Meat Sauce“
- Jeff, our host this month from Food Wine Click! tells us about “Montefalco Sagrantino on a Cold Winter’s Night”
~ Strada del Sagrantino ~
This is an association that promotes Montefalco wines and tourism in the area’s five villages: Montefalco, Bevagna, Giano dell ‘Umbria, Gualdo Cattaneo and Castel Ritaldi. They organize a variety of themed activities throughout the year. Their website has extensive information about the wine and visiting the region.
~ Umbrian Wine Facts ~
- Italy’s hilliest area (71% of terrain), the remainder is mountainous.
- International grapes are allowed in Umbria but native and traditional varieties have the upper hand (about 80%).
- The top five grapes (60% of production): Sangiovese, (most planted), Trebbiano Toscana, Grechetto (di Orvieto and Todi), Sagrantino, and Merlot.
- Trebbiano Toscana is called Procanico in Orvieto.
- Several grapes in Italy are called Trebbiano something. They might share some characteristics but aren’t related and must be considered separate varieties.
- Trebbiano Spoletino is only found in Umbria producing refreshingly acidic wines.
- Grechetto di Orvieto and di Todi are two distinct varieties but often not distinguished, and considered the same at one time. Any wine labeled “Grechetto” may be a blend of the two.
- Grechetto di Orvieto produces light, citrusy, delicately aromatic, ample acidity. Suitable for late harvest and botrytized wines due to thick skin.
- Grechetto di Todi (identical to Pignoletto in Emilia-Romagnia) high tannin content in skin produces fuller-bodies wines.
- IGT wine is 40+%, DOC/DOCG is 33%, the remaining wine is generic without origin.
- Wine is almost equally divided between red, white and rosé.
- The “governo” method is sometimes used with the Montefalco Rosso DOC blend (discussed above). Wine Guy Gavin Hubble has a nice description of the process here.
- Just two provinces: Perugia and Terni.
- Montefalco is one of the continental climate areas in Umbria where it often snows. The region as a whole is either Mediterranean (more west) or continental.
~ Montefalco Appellations ~
- Rosso and Rosso Reserva: Sangiovese plus other approved grapes and ten to 25% Sagrantino; minimum of 18 months aging, reserva ages 30 months with twelve in oak .
- Bianco: based on a minimum of 50% Trebbiano Spoletino
- Grecchetto: 85% Grechetto
Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (secco):
- Aging 37 months total, twelve in oak.
- Montefalco DOC and DOCG occupy the same area.
- Sometimes “secco” is included on the label to distinguish it from the historic passito style.
Montefalco Sagrantino Passito DOCG:
- Made via the appassimiento process where grapes are dehydrated indoors on graticci (mats).
- Aging requirements are the same as secco but oak is optional.