”Sagrantino is like a young man – almost impossible to tame, but worth trying”. That’s how winemaker Giusy Moretti once described it to me, as we walked through the vineyards and admired the Sagrantino vines sprawling lushly in the spring sunshine. The years since then with Sagrantino have underlined these words. A difficult but very rewarding Italian red wine we are talking about.
Sagrantino is still grown on a meager 350-400 hectares in Umbria, Italy. It is therefore a very marginal grape variety. From this small area the grapes are divided into dry (Secco) and sweet (Passito) varieties. Part of this is also used to make Montefalco Rosso DOC, a blend that must contain 10-15% Sagrantino. In this article we will focus on the dry Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG wines, which are made 100% Sagrantino grapes.
There are no great differences in altitude or soil on a relatively small Sagrantino growing area in the middle of the Umbria province. There are more differences in cultivation, vintage and wine making. Some producers have organic vines, some even have vines over 30 years old.
If there’s one thing these wines have in common, it’s the grape’s robust tannins. The pressing stage is critical. It has to be done gently. Otherwise the big seeds of Sagrantino will break and make an already tannin wine impossible to enjoy. Because of its tannins Sagrantino should be decanted for hours before serving. How ever those tannins make Sagrantino an excellent food wine.
Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (Secco)
A sign of Sagrantino’s marginality (and perhaps of Italian flexibility) is the fact that no firm definition of the region’s legislation seems to be in place. The following definitions should therefore be taken as indicative.
- Registration: DOC in 1979 and then DOCG in 1992
- Production areas: Umbria (Perugia) – Montefalco, Bevagna, Gualdo Cattaneo, Castel Ritaldi, Giano Dell’umbria
- Maturation: minimum 30 months, including a minimum of 12 months in wood.
- Minimum 13% alcohol and 4.5 g/litre of acids.
Cotarella RC2 2014
Producer: Famiglia Cotarella
Area: GUALDO CATTANEO
Altitude: 300 metres above sea level
Soil: hard clay soil with slate.
Oak: 24 months of new French oak.
Cotarella has been producing Sagrantino since 2006. The pioneering vintages did not cause great rejoicing worldwide but were appreciated at home. 2008 was also in Finland Alko selection. The 2010 vintage earned Wine Enthusiast 91 points.
A dark, nuanced bouquet. Cherry, blueberry and cocoa on the toasty side.
Full-bodied on the palate. Fine acidity and still greenish, fair tannins. Warm, slightly spicy finish. Surprisingly, the tannins are quite balanced. Still young. At least 3-4 years more in cellar. Not very personal, but potential. Enjoy with Flank steak.
Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – Rocca di Fabbri 2015
Producer: TENUTA ROCCA DI FABBRI
Region: GUALDO CATTANEO
Altitude: 200 metres above sea level
Soil: moderately clayey, slightly alkaline.
In oak: 18 months
The aroma is full of black cherry, blueberry, cedar and tobacco leaf. Floral and almond aromas float on the background. There is also a slight green note.
Strong on the palate. Light fruit forward acidity. Mouth drying tannins are fair and still pretty coarse. The finish is long, oaky, warming and velvety. The cocoa flavor is memorable. An interesting wine with a personality of Sagrantino. There are still corners in the wine but they will be smoothed if you have the patience to keep the wine in the cellar for another 5 years. Decant for at least 6 hours. A tasty pairing with roast lamb steak.
Colpetrone montefalco sagrantino DOCG 2012
Producer: TENUTE DEL CERRO
Region: GUALDO CATTANEO
Altitude or soil: Not specified, but I doubt they throw much from Cotarella.
In oak: 12 months
Other: Today, the name of the wine has been changed to ”Memoira” to distinguish it from the other Sagrantino on the estate.
I remember the 2005 vintage, which I tasted when it was 10 years old, with a wonderfully developed aroma. This vintage has the same – concentrated cherry jam and volatile acids. Dense, nicely evolving nose with cedar and almond in the background.
The palate is full-bodied, as Sagrantino should be. Gorgeous acidity folds in the smooth fruit. Lively tannins are nicely integrated into the wine. The long finish is dominated by a rich oak and a chocolaty tang. The vintage doesn’t quite match the personality of 2005, but it’s a stunning wine nonetheless. I wouldn’t keep this vintage in the cellar any longer. You don`t want those great acids fade away. For a tomato filled meat stew.
Colpetrone ”Sacer” montefalco sagrantino DOCG 2009
Producer: TENUTE DEL CERRO
Area: GUALDO CATTANEO
Altitude or soil: Not disclosed but I doubt they throw much at Cotarella
In oak: Batonnage 6 months + barrels 6 months.
Tenute del Cerro`s second Sagrantino in this tasting. This one has been kept in oak for only 6 months, where the previous one was for 12 months. How it fits into the DOCG classification remains a mystery!
After four hours of decanting, the aroma is still quite stuck. More red berry notes than the darker tones typical of Sagrantino.
The long finish tells us that this is a stunning wine. Incredible cranberry acids after 11 years! And of course those lush tannins. A bit reminiscent of Bordeaux’s tightest region, Saint-Estèphe.
After six hours of decanting the wine starts to show the dark notes of its own DOCG. Silk begins to find its way to the palate. But the fierce tannins are demanding a steak on the plate. A stunning wine that probably has another 5-10 years to reach its peak.
Lungarotti montefalco sagrantino DOCG 2016
Altitude: 400 metres
Soil: Medium mixture with light skeleton; naturally draining.
Oak life: 12 months
Would 2016 be the breakthrough vintage for Sagrantino? Echoes of this have been heard from all over the world. A long almost black colour. The fragrance is very plush. Dark cherry, some floral and cedar. A hint of marzipan as well.
Very full-bodied and brashly tannic on the palate. Cocoa-like and very dry aftertaste despite its fruitiness – due of course to the drying tannins in the mouth. Acids are scarce, but oak is present. A soft velvety mouthfeel before you get to the tannins, which are very noticeable. A very personal Sagrantino. It can only be recommended for tannin freaks. What age would do to the tannins remains to be seen. The excellence of the vintage is a sure fact, at least on the basis of this wine. Medium steak on a plate.
Moretti Omero montefalco sagrantino DOCG 2016
Producer: AZIENDA AGRARIA MORETTI OMERO
Area: Giano Dell’umbria
Height: 400-450 metres
Oak: 12 months in French (tonneaux)
More: Organic, 30 year old vines
Top vintage of the winery. Decanter scored a respectable 97/100 and it went among the top 50 wines in the world. The nose is fresh with blueberry and black cherry. Oak-ripened lushness; oriental sweet spices. An absolutely enchanting first impression.
The full-bodied wine glides down the tongue smoothly. Wonderfull layered acidity. Lingonberry is present. Energetic essence. The long finish is framed by Sagrantino’s lush but powdery tannins and oaky posture. Magnificent wine. Enjoyable now, but the cellar ageing will certainly last for years, thanks to its acidity. The producer encourages keeping for up to 25-30 years! Roast lamb on the plate.
Adanti Sagrantino Montefalco Arquata 2012
Producer: Cantine Adanti
The colour is already turning brick red at the edges. The nose is wonderfully developed; cherry jam, plum and marzipan. A powerful but velvety wine. Rounded edges, although there is still some acidity. Great, grippy tannins are nicely integrated into the wine. An elegant Sagrantino that still has cellar years left. Grilled veal fillet on the plate.
Photos, reviews and text: Janne Suomi