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Fall in Montefalco: Revisiting Beauty of Montefalco Rosso and Power of Sagrantino

September 27, 2016 6 comments

montefalco-winesHistory of the grapes is full of mistaken identity cases, survival fights, global dominance going nearly extinct – yes, these are the grapes I’m talking about, not people. There are also “lost and found” stories, as in the case of Sagrantino, the Italian grape from Umbria. Sagrantino was a very popular grape for more than 500 years – until it practically disappeared in the 1960s, and made almost miraculous comeback due to the effort of the few passionate winegrowers.

My first meaningful encounter with Sagrantino wines took place 3 years ago, when I participated in the virtual tasting of the wines from Montefalco – Sagrantino’s growing region in Umbria. I don’t want to repeat everything I learned about Sagrantino the last time, so please take a look here for some interesting fun facts about Sagrantino (for instance – did you know that Sagrantino has the highest polyphenol concentration among all commonly used red grapes?).

Two groups of red wines produced in Montefalco. One is Montefalco Rosso DOC, where it is required that the wine would have at least 70% of Sangiovese, up to 15% of Sagrantino and up to 15% of the other red grapes (however, these percentages are changing). The second one is Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG, with the wines made out of 100% Sagrantino grapes. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG also includes production of the sweet Passito wines – as you would expect, after harvest, the grape bunches are left to dry on the mats for at least 2 month, before pressing and fermenting together with the skins. High tannin content helps to alleviate the sweetness of the wines.

Our tasting, very appropriately called “Fall in Montefalco”, was conducted in the virtual format, with the group of 9 winemakers presenting their wines remotely from Italy. Live Q&A discussion was accompanying the tasting via the Ustream channel (take a look at the live feed to the right).

Fall in Montefaclo Virtual Tasting

Fall in Montefaclo Virtual Tasting

Fall in Montefaclo Virtual Tasting

Few interesting facts from this presentation: There are currently 700 hectares (1750 acres) of Sagrantino planted in Montefalco, and there are 70 wine producers in the region. Current production of Montefalco Sagrantino is about 1.3M bottles, and Montefalco Rosso is about 2.2M. Someone asked one of my favorite questions of all the producers in the studio – what is the oldest vintage of Sagrantino you have in your cellars? Going around the room, this is what I was able to capture (as usual, it is hard to follow presentation and chat with people at the same time) – the oldest vintage Custodia has in the cellar is 2003, Arnaldo Caprai still has 1979 Sagrantino; Tabarrini’s oldest is 1996 and then 1999.

Before I leave you with my tasting notes I can say that overall, the wines in the tasting showed nice improvement, comparing with the wines we were drinking 3 years ago – you will also see it in my ratings, which are also higher across the board. Also as you will see from the notes, I have a sweet tooth – and not afraid to show it – Passito was my favorite wine in the tasting. Don’t get me wrong – again, all the wines were excellent, and if I have to use one word common description, the word would be “elegant”.

Here are my tasting notes:

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2013 Broccatelli Galli Montefalco Rosso DOC (13.5% ABV, $19, Sagrantino/Sangiovese blend)
C: dark Ruby
N: cherries, herbs, touch of minerality
P: bright tart cherry, leather, tobacco, cherry pit, medium body, easy to drink
V: 7+/8-, simple and nice, would work well with food

2013 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso (14% ABV, $21, 70% Sangiovese, 15% sagrantino, 15% Merlot)
C: dark garnet
N: beautiful, open, inviting, red fruit
P: warm, spicy, velvety, medium body, front tannins on the finish, leaves surprisingly light perception. Touch of characteristic leather.
V: 8/8+ (definitely 8+ on a second day, very round and elevated)

2012 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, $20)
C: Dark garnet
N: herbs, sage, touch of cherries, restrained
P: medium body, good acidity, leather, cherries and cherries pit, soft, polished, easy to drink, soft tannins, very round overall, medium finish
V: 8, was perfect PnP wine, delicious and makes you crave for more

2013 Tabarrini Boccatone Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, SRP $28)
C: dark garnet
N: intense, sweet plums and cherries, sandalwood, complex
P: complex flavors, lots going on, cherries, earth, nice tart, soft, supple, layered, spicy notes
V: 8/8+, will evolve with time

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2011 Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $55)
C: dark garnet, practically black
N: ripe red fruit (restrained), baking spices
P: tart cherries, velvety, firm structure, full weight in the mouth, full bodied, very present, “Rutherford dust”, cherry pit mid palate
V: 8+, delicious powerful wine – if you like powerful wines

2006 Tenute Del Cerro Còlpertone Gold Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (15% ABV, $50)
C: garnet with brick hue
N: cherries, eucalyptus, oregano, intense, balsamic
P: round, layered, earthy, cherries, medium to long finish, powerful, excellent balance, another 10 years to evolve
V: 8/8+, delicious

2010 Tenute Lunelli Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (15% ABV, $35)
C: garnet
N: earthy, herbaceous, touch of cherries, medium intensity
P: round, fresh, open, cherries, tartness gets a bit in the way, but wine is very enjoyable from the first pour and sip. Long finish.
V: 8+, excellent

2010 Terre De la Custodia Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $45)
C: bright garnet
N: barnyard, medium intensity, ripe plums, roasted meat
P: crushed berries, acidity, tannins jump in quickly, very enjoyable but needs time
V: 8/8+, delicious Italian wine, will open up in about 10 years…

antonelli-montefalco-sagrantino-passito

2009 Antonelli Passito Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14% ABV, $49)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: dried fruit, figs, raisins, delicate – not overpowering
P: wow. And another wow. Dried fruit, but perfectly restrained. Cherry pit, tannins, acidity, tartness. Perfect balance, and very try finish.
V: 9, needs time, superbly delicious and enjoyable as it is, but will evolve amazingly…

That was an excellent tasting, I’m glad to be a part of the Fall in Montefalco.

What is your experience and opinion of Sagrantino wines? Cheers!

Beauty of Montefalco Rosso and Power of Sagrantino

November 19, 2013 12 comments

About two month ago (yes, I know, I’m the speedy one) I was invited to participate in the virtual tasting. The subject – Italian wines. To be more precise, the wines from Umbria, made out of the grape called Sagrantino.

I never participated in the virtual tasting before, so I was not sure how it was going to work. The idea was simple. I will get the wine, which should be opened and tasted in parallel with the winemakers, who will be doing it live on ustream. Of course I gladly agreed to take part in this wine drinking tasting.

The subject was wines from Umbria, from the region called Montefalco. Actually, it was not just one tasting, but two – one for the wines called Montefalco Rosso, and the second one for the wines called Montefalco Sagrantino.

It appears that Sagrantino is an Italian indigenous grape, which seems to be cultivated in Umbria for at least 500 years, if not longer. However in the 1960s it became literally extinct, and if it would not be the effort of the few winemakers, Sagrantino would be gone completely from the winemaking scene.

Sagrantino has dark and very thick skin, which results in very tannic and concentrated wines, literally black in color when young. Sagrantino has the highest polyphenolic content among most of the red grapes, if not among all red grapes in the world (take a look at the chart below). Just to get technical for a second, polyphenols (also called phenolic compounds) is a large group of chemical compounds, responsible for color, texture and mouthfeel of the wine (think tannins!), and the group also includes medically beneficial elements, such as reservatrol. As usual, I have to refer you to Wikipedia for additional reading, but I hope you get the point here.

Sagrantino_Polyphenols

My wines arrived few days before the tasting. As luck would have it, the day which the wines spent on the UPS truck, was one and only day in September when temperature outside reached 96F (extremely atypical for Connecticut in September). When I took the wines out of the box, I could feel that they are quite warm – on average, my wine thermometer showed all the bottles to be at around 84F, so I was obviously concerned… I opened a number of bottles the next day, and to my big relief, the was no sign of heat damage (I quickly closed the wines back using the gas canister) – I was ready for the tasting.

First day of tasting was dedicated to the wines called Montefalco Rosso. Montefalco Rosso wines typically are Sangiovese based, with the addition of 10% – 15% Sagrantino and 10%-15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We had an opportunity to taste through 5 different wines:

DSC_0586

At the specific time, the ustream broadcast started with live tasting, where the panel of winemakers from all 5 wineries were talking about their wines and answering the questions. The ustream broadcast was accompanied by the live twitter exchange among all the participants in the tasting. The twitter stream was used to ask panelists the questions, share tasting notes and impressions. Definitely was interesting to see and hear the diversity of opinion both from the panel, and from the audience on twitter. To be entirely honest, the most difficult part was to do a few things at once – taking my own notes, talking to the people on twitter and listening to the panelists – difficult, but well worth it!

Below are my notes for the 5 Montefalco Rosso wines we tasted (as you will see, not necessarily taken exactly during that live tasting session).

2009 Romanelli Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, Sangiovese 65%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 10%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%, 12 month French oak, 6 month in the bottle) – good dark fruit, easy to drink. Drinkability: 7
2010 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso DOC (13.5% ABV, Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15%, Colorino 15%, 12 month in stainless steel, 6 month in the bottle) – day 2 notes – outstanding. Dark inviting fruit with a hint of sage on the nose, spicy cherries (cherries + black pepper) on the palate, with tobacco notes in the background. Delicious! Drinkability: 8+
2010 Le Cimate Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, Sangiovese 60%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 15%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%) – was perfectly drinkable 6 (!) days after opening the bottle. Spectacular. Supple, ripe cherries, perfect acidity, espresso and dark chocolate, powerful, balanced. Drinkability: 8+
2009 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso DOC (14% ABV, 60% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 25% Merlot, 12 month French oak, 6 month in bottle) – Excellent. Dark, spicy earthy nose with some gaminess. Excellent minerality and dark fruit on the palate. Drinkability: 8+
2009 Colle Ciocco Montefalco Rosso DOC (14% ABV, Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 15%, 12 month in oak barrels, 4 month in the bottle) – nice soft red fruit on the nose, sweet and supple fruit on the palate, good acidity, soft tannins. Drinkability: 7+

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The next day we had the tasting of Montefalco Sagrantino wines. Montefalco Sagrantino wines are made out of 100% Sagrantino grapes. The tasting was done in the same format – panel of winemakers discusses the wines live via ustream, and twitter followers taste and discuss in parallel.

It was recommended to open wines one hour before the tasting. Considering how massive those wines are, I would think the right suggestion would’ve been to open them in the morning. I don’t know if it could make the difference, but I have to admit that my experience was rather frustrating during the live tasting. For the most of the wines, I couldn’t get any of the flavor descriptors and impressions, compare to what was exposed by the other twitter tasters. For instance, Arnaldo Caprai was showing literally as corked, where the other tasters had violets, black tea and other nice things to say. Literally only one or two wines cooperated with me during tasting. But – most of them came back nicely right after (see the notes).

Below are my notes for the Montefalco Sagrantino wines (all wines are 100% Sagrantino).

Montefalco Sagrantino tasting

2006 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, 15 month in oak, 12 month in the bottle) – Dark fruit on the nose, same on the palate, very restrained. I’m sure needed more time. Drinkability: 7+
2007 Caprai Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, 20-24 month in French oak barrique, minimum 6 month in the bottle) – opened on 09/17, then closed with the argon canister. Reopened on 09/23. Concentrated, very dark. Initially gave an impression of being mildly corked. After 3 days finally started to open up into something interesting. Very substantial tannins ( more of stem/seeds tannins than oak). Dark fruit with undertones of leather and black tea. Drinkability: 8-
2007 Tenuta Castelbuono Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, 28 month in oak, 10 month in the bottle) – dark supple fruit on the palate, very powerful, a wine with “broad shoulders”. Beautifully opened over the next few days, showing roasted meat notes on the palate, good acidity, excellent balance. Drinkability: 8-
2008 Tenuta Bellafonte  Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14% ABV, 36 month in large barrels, 10 month in bottle) – wine was first tasted on 9/17, then closed with gas canister. Reopened on 9/25. Powerful, concentrated, almost black color in the glass. Nice fruit undertones, cassis and plums, with more tannins coming in later. Overall delicious and “dangerous” wine. Drinkability: 8
2008 Colle del Saraceno Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, 12 month stainless steel, 12 month French oak barriques, 6 month in the bottle) – this wine unfortunately showed signs of the heat damage. N/R.

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All in all, this was a great experience. The virtual tasting format was pretty well done, and I definitely will be looking forward to more virtual wine tastings in the future. And for the wines – my notes are above, and I definitely recommend looking for Montefalco wines – both Rosso and Sagrantino well worth your attention. Cheers!

Disclaimer: The wines were provided complementary by the PR agency. All opinions are my own.

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