Description 1 of 3
Name of varietal: Sagrantino
Common synonyms: none
Parentage of the grape: indigenous to Umbria, Italy
History of the grape: Sagrantino is mostly grown around the town of Montefalco in the central Italian region of Umbria. The region Sagrantino di Montefalco was given DOCG status in 1991. The area had been most famous for Montefalco di Sagrantino Passito, made from partially dried grapes, and considered one of the finest Italian dessert wines. However, in the 1970s, the fashion shifted to producing the grape in dry reds. Sagrantino is considered one of the most dark and tannic grapes in the world, akin to Nebbiolo. But unlike Nebbiolo, Sagrantino is not produced for long aging like Barolo or Barbaresco. Wine-makers have figured out that long maceration times and careful barrel aging will tame the harsh tannins and draw out the lush fruit characteristics, while still retaining an earthy and mineral balance. Most dry Sagrantinos are best consumed between five to ten years after release.
Characteristics of the grape: ample tannins, dark, inky, black cherry, dark plum, clove, bittersweet chocolate, espresso
Regions where the grape is currently important: Montefalco in Umbria, Italy
Type or types of wines the grape produces: dry red, passito dessert wine
Description 2 of 3
This red grape variety grown in the hills of Umbria, Italy was destined for obscurity, if not for some forward thinking producers. Traditionally, Sagrantino grapes were laid out on straw mats to raisinate. The dried grapes were then used to make a sweet yet powerful and tannic red wine, usually served at Easter. When consumer demand for sweet wines waned in the 1970s and 80s, a number of progressive producers attempted to make dry red wines from the grape. Yields were restricted in the vineyard, and wines were aged before release to soften the rigid tannins and high acidity of the wines, allowing the rich fruit character of Sagrantino to shine.
The variety is made almost exclusively in the small DOCG known as Sagrantino di Montefalco. Here, producers such as Arnaldo Caprai are producing impressively powerful and tannic wines that are considered to be among the very best in Italy. Plantings in California are limited. However, given the grape’s impressive potential, new plantings of this grape will surely rise.
You had been known to only a few devoted followers who enjoyed your sweet message at Passover. But, in recent years, you’ve donned a more secular appearance with a new oak suit, and a decidedly drier voice. To the uninitiated, your reincarnation might come across as fierce pontification. Given time, they will learn there is complexity and eloquence in your voice. Rest assured, if you continue to work with the influential image makers of Montefalco you will surely turn a new generation on to the ‘religion of Sagrantino’, even in the cult prone Napa Valley. – Description from Appellation America (view original content)
Description 3 of 3
Sagrantino di Montefalco. For those of you who are not familiar with Sagrantino di Montefalco a little background information might be in order. Montefalco is located in the heart of Umbria, on rolling hills between the cities of Perugia and Spoleto, well Spoleto might be more accurately described as a town, but anyway. This region of Umbria is a bit roughly hewn and quite dry, much like the wines produced from Sagrantino. Sagrantino is a bit of an anomaly as a grape with no known close relatives. It’s a true indigenous variety and is only grown in any significant amount in the Montefalco region. Even here in it’s home. Sagrantino has barely retained a foothold. The variety was almost lost in the middle of the last century and as of 1970 there were a scant 5 hectares being cultivated. Current production has exploded but remains modest at about 250 acres under vine spread among some 50 or so producers. The wines were traditionally made in a sweet style, from dried grapes: Passito de Sagrantino. The name Sagrantino is most likely derived from its use to produce these sweet wines for Church activities; Sacer being latin for sacred. The wines were produced in a sweet style for many reasons, such as the inability of many native yeasts to ferment these powerful wines fully dry. However, Sagrantino is arguably the most tannic grape on the planet, and does not lack for acidity, so the residual sugar helps give the passito wines a balance that many of the dry wines lack. The passito wines were given DOC status in 1983 but the dry Sagrantino had to wait until 1991 to receive official status, in this case as DOCG. Sagrantino di Montefalco is a wine based on 100% Sagrantino that is aged for a minimum of 28 months in a combination of wood and bottle. Even these 30 months (36 months from 2009 and going forward) do very little to begin to soften the tannins in the wines. A blend is also produced in the region, Rosso di Montefalco, which is based on Sangiovese with additions of 10 to 15 percent Sagrantino as well as 15 to 30 percent of other grapes. These other grapes have frequently been traditional Tuscan blending grapes or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo though more and more one find Cabernet, or more often Merlot, finding their way into the mix. It is also possible to produce the Rosso as a Riserva bottling by ageing it for at least 30 months in a combination of barrel and bottle. Well that’s a brief rundown of the situation. The wines tend to be exceptional tannic and packed with dry extract and polyphenols, the highest known levels of polyphenols in wine in fact, and by a significant margin as this chart shows. It’s a primitive chart that I put together for an article in the works, but it certainly is illustrative of the levels Sagrantino can achieve. – Description from Gregory Dal Piaz
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