If a late summer barbecue is in the offing, consider pairing whatever you plan to throw on the grill with a varietal you might not have heard of — Sagrantino.
What some have dubbed, “the best red wine you never tasted,” Sagrantino is a red grape grown exclusively around the hilltop town of Montefalco in the Umbria region of Central Italy, an area recently ravaged by a powerful earthquake. Though there is some debate as to the grape’s origin, whether it is indigenous to the area or was brought to Umbria by the Greeks, there is no disputing that Sagrantino is responsible for some of the most tannic, age-worthy wines on earth. Sagrantino is dark, big and powerful, incredibly aromatic and complex with notes of mature fruit and hints of vanilla and spice.
“They are amazing wines,” Stockton’s Lauren O’Leary of Nipote Wine Imports wrote in an email. “Sagrantinos are extremely high in tannic acid and can extract really dark color. This is a wine you do not want to drink young.”
Sagrantino di Montefalco can age longer than some Barolos.
“They pair well with herb-crusted lamb leg and aged cheeses, like beemster XO extra-aged gouda and Valderon, a goat’s milk blue cheese from Spain,” O’Leary wrote.
Sagrantino was first mentioned in Italian wine commission records in 1879, though the grape may have been planted as early as the 11th century. Sagrantino fell into obscurity and was on the brink of extinction before the early 1970s when the Caprai winery helped resurrect the variety. Their efforts have resulted in wines of exceptional grandeur that have gained international notoriety in the past 30 years.
Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to try my first Sagrantino:
Arnaldo-Caprai Collepiano Sagrantino 2010 di Montefalco DOCG ($54)
Deep ruby color with an intense nose of red fruit, spices and balsamic vinegar. The palate is dry with high tannins and medium-plus acid. You can taste the terroir: The ripeness of the fruit from the hot summers and extended ripening season is kept in check by the cooling breezes. The minerality comes from the limestone found in the soils which mostly are clay and sand. This is considered a reasonably priced, accessible Sagrantino that is ready to drink now or easily could spend another 5 to 10 years in the bottle. Others, such as the Arnaldo-Caprai 25 Anni or the Paolo Bea Sagrantino are bigger, bolder, require more time in the bottle and can cost close to $100 per bottle.
Why the steep sticker price? Only 250 acres of Sagrantino are planted, and with the demand, prices are up there.
If a late summer barbecue doesn’t fit your plans, Sagrantino is an outstanding wine to have on hand for hearty fall and winter fare, such as pot roasts, pasta with meat sauce and stews.
Montefalco also produces wonderful white wines from the Grechetto and Trebbiano grape varieties, such as:
Azienda Agraria Scacciadiavoli Bianco 2014 di Montefalco DOCG ($20)
The nose emits aromas of tropical fruits and yellow flowers and the palate is dry with flavors of peach and citrus. Poolside, seaside or on the patio, this is a refreshing, crisp wine that would pair well with seafood.
Wines from Montefalco aren’t exactly easy to find here, but finer wine merchants should be able to steer you in the right direction. They’re worth a shot.
— Contact reporter Bob Highfill at (209) 546-8282 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at recordnet.com/fromthevine and on Twitter @bobhighfill.