WHAT: I like learning about new wines, or grapes I haven’t tried before. So I was thrilled when I came across the Perticaia Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007. It is an aromatic, full-bodied wine that is perfect for a hearty meal.
It’s a beautiful wine, deep ruby-red with touches of purple around the edges. Lush aromas of cherry, dark fruit and cinnamon float out of the glass as soon as you pour it. This is a heavy wine, full of depth and complexity. It is also loaded with powerful fruit flavors, including black cherry, currant and cedar.
Sagrantino is a very tannic wine, so you need to open it long before you drink it. I decanted the wine an hour before dinner, and it would have been even better if it were open two hours.
Italian wines can be confusing because there are so many of them. There are 900,000 registered vineyards in Italy’s 20 regions making wines from more than 1,000 grape varieties. As the quality continues to improve we are seeing more top Italian wines coming to the U.S., so I am trying to learn more about them.
Sagrantino di Montefalco are Italian wines from the town of Montefalco in Umbria, which is next to Tuscany. The grapes have been grown there for centuries, but nearly disappeared in the 1960s, until some growers made a push to revive Sagrantino. It was recognized as DOCG, Italy’s highest wine designation, in 1992.
Sagrantino comes from the Latin word for sacrament. It is believed the grapes were made into a raisin wine by monks who used it for religious rites 500 years ago. Local farmers also drank it during Christian religious festivals.
Between 2000 and 2008, production of the wine quadrupled. The wines are required to be aged at least 30 months before release, so we will see 2007 and 2008 vintages, or older. That’s OK, because the wines should age well for many more years.
Some people don’t like big tannins in their wines, but in Sagrantino, they really mellow over time. I liked the mouth-drying feeling from the tannins mixed with the spicy fruit flavors in this wine.
Perticaia (the name of the producer) Sagrantino is aged 12 months in small French oak barrels, 12 months in steel vats and 12 months in the bottle before release. The grapes are hand-picked and fermented with natural yeasts.
I think the wine should continue to mature in the bottle for at least 10 years. It may be a bit pricey for some people, but it is definitey worth the cost.
WINERY: During a trip to Umbria in the early 1990s, Guido Guardigli became excited about the land in Umbria and about the potential of the Sagrantino grape. He had retired after serving as director of winemaking at several estates in Umbria and Tuscany.
After seeing this land he decided to un-retire. He bought the land, planted new vineyards and built a winery. He was careful to make sure everything blended in with the old farms in the area.
The company now has 37 acres, about half planted in Sagrantino with the rest split between Sangiovese, Colorino and Trebbiano Spoletino, with a little Grechetto. There also are 250 olive trees. The sloping fields face south, southwest and are between 900 and 1,100 feet above sea level.
In Umbria’s ancient language perticaia means plow. Guardigli decided this was a perfect symbol to mark the transition from sheep-farming to agriculture and viticulture that is sweeping through the area.
Perticaia is part of the Montefalco Consortium, which since 1981 has guided local producers in quality research and the promotion of the wines of their territory. The association has 213 members representing 82 percent of the certified production of Montefalco Sagrantino and Montefalco Rosso in the region.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this with grilled Italian sausage with sauteed tomato, onion and green pepper served on top, with homemade French fries on the side. It was delicious.
The powerful tannins tamed the spicy sausage and blended well with the sauteed vegetables. This wine will not be overpowered by a heavy meal.
The wine also would go well with most any meat on the grill, pork chops, red meat with hearty sauces, stews, pasta with red sauce and mature cheeses.