Anteprima Sagrantino

Or: How I tasted 45 of the Most Tannic Wines and Lived to Tell the Tale
After hosting our recent Italian Food, Wine & Travel group’s foray into Sagrantino, I received a surprise invitation to attend Anteprima Sagrantino. This annual press event celebrates the release of young Montefalco Sagrantino wines in Montefalco, Umbria. The local Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco hosts a number of contests for celebratory artwork, wine pairing, and sommelier excellence.  And of course, the opportunity for the press to taste and evaluate the new wines.

Disclosure: I attended Anteprima Sagrantino as a press member and my trip was sponsored by the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco. All opinions expressed are my own.

Montefalco Sagrantino is a DOCG red wine made from the Sagrantino grape, a native of this region of Umbria in Italy.

What’s Sagrantino?
The Sagrantino grape is indigenous to the Montefalco area in Umbria. Even with DNA testing, there haven’t been any close relative grapes found. Local winegrowers suspect Middle East origins, as the grape is slow ripening, requires lots of heat and is drought tolerant. One downside, the grape is very susceptible to diseases related to wet conditions, such as downy mildew. Sagrantino possesses a thick skin, produces high sugar levels and its’ tannins are the highest in the world of Vitis Vinifera. It is vinified into both dry and sweet versions.  The dry versions incorporate long aging (37 months minimum) to allow the bold tannins to integrate. The sweet versions concentrate the grape sugars by drying harvested grapes on wooden racks for 60 days after harvest before starting the winemaking process.

Typical Sagrantino Characteristics
As I tasted through 45 dry Sagrantino wines, I gathered the typical baseline for a young Montefalco Sagrantino. There certainly are lots of variations and different versions, however the following characteristics were common.

Montefalco Sagrantino (dry)
Eye: Clear, medium to deep ruby with a ruby edge, medium stain on the glass and legs.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity aroma with lots of blue fruit. Aromas of leather, white flowers, and orange peel.
Mouth: Dry with medium+ intensity flavors. Big bold dark fruit, full body and high alcohol (15% abv is common). Medium+ acidity and big, bold tannins. However, the tannins had a fine quality, not rough or gritty. Especially while young, Sagrantino is not a cocktail wine! However, with food containing proteins or fat, the wines are delicious and the tannins are tamed.

The young Sagrantino’s can be quite closed, hiding their best features. During the week, I had the opportunity to taste some older wines, and I found wines that were 7-8 years out from the vintage year had emerged as fully formed wines that were a real pleasure to drink.

Montefalco Sagrantino Passito (sweet)
Eye: Clear, deepest ruby, nearly opaque
Nose: Clean, very ripe blueberry, raisings, balsamic vinegar, clean earth
Mouth: Sweet with a luscious texture. Deep blueberry with sweetness balanced by surprising tannins.

(click on any photo for slideshow, hit escape to return to the post)

Tasting through 45 Brand New Montefalco Sagrantino Wines
We could choose to taste the wines blind or in order of the book.  Because I’m only familiar with a few wineries, I chose the open tasting. At first, I was taking detailed notes.  After one hour, I had made it through 6 wines, ugh, that’s not going to work! As I gained familiarity, I was able to start looking for the elements that made a wine unique or notable. I skipped lunch, but I made it fully through 45 dry and 10 sweet Sagrantino’s by the end of the day.

A Walk Around Tasting
The tasting of all 55 Sagrantino’s was a press-only event. However, down the street, at the Chiostro Sant’ Agostino, there was a public walk around tasting event where all the wineries were pouring their wines.  Not just Sagrantino, they were pouring all their wines: Grechetto, Trebbiano Spoletino, Montefalco Rosso, Montefalco Sagrantino, and Montefalco Sagrantino Passito.  I stopped in for a palate cleanser where I enjoyed several of the white wines on offer.

9 Responses to “Anteprima Sagrantino”
  1. Lisa Denning says:

    Sounds like a great tasting. I can just imagine how purple your teeth were afterwards!!

  2. Thanks for offering us a glimpse into the Anteprima Sagrantino event. Did you come away with any unique food pairings for these beasts?

  3. Vino Travels says:

    It’s a lot to tackle that many wines. I was overwhelmed at the anteprima Amarone whenever I went. Big wines!

Check out what others are saying...
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