In July I spent about a week studying in the wine region of Tuscany - during this time I had the rare opportunity to visit and learn all about the research, work and the new plantings of Sagrantino that the Cecchi Winery has been involved with for some time now in Montefalco, Umbria, central Italy.
Sagrantino is an Italian red grape variety that is indigenous to the region of Umbria in Central Italy, in the province of Perugia, in the commune of Montefalco and makes some of that region's most distinctive and exciting red wines.
It is grown primarily in the village of Montefalco and its surrounding areas; there are a few dozen or so producers that work with this rare grape, with only about 250 acres planted in total. With such small production, the wine is not widely known outside of Italy, Montefalco for that matter, even though it was granted DOCG status in 1991.
The origins of the Sagrantino grape are widely disputed, but what is known is that it was used primarily for dessert wines for many years, the grapes being dried in the 'passito' style, much like a 'Recioto di Valpolicella'. At some point, the wines were made in a dry style, and that is how they are predominantly made today, which trust me is very good news.
The Sagrantino grape is one of the most tannic varieties in the world, and creates wines that are inky purple with an almost-black centre. Sagrantino has higher tannin levels than almost any other variety, including Nebbiolo. Thus a well made Sagrantino has excellent aging potential; indeed, given its firm tannins, Sagrantino demands sometime to develop in the bottle before it is opened. The bouquet is one of dark, rich berries and fruits with hints of plum, spices, cinnamon, and earthy undertones.
The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG requires 100 percent Sagrantino grapes to be used, with a required 30 months aging before release, of which at least 12 in oak barrels.
Sagrantino has as excellent ageing ability. A more approachable and affordable 'Montefalco Rosso' usually contains only 10-15% Sagrantino and allows up to 70 percent Sangiovese with the remainder being Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, though some winemakers also use Colorino in the blend.
Sagrantino is a dynamic and exciting wine to look out for on your travels, the Cecchi team and I enjoyed a few examples of this wine with several different local cured red meats and other dishes in the stunningly beautiful walled village of Montefalco.