Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Montefalco Rosso & Sagrantino: "Winter Wines"

In my previous article, Umbria, Montefalco & Sagrantino: Wine Rising From The Shadows, I discussed the intriguing wines of Montefalco and the Sagrantino grape. I went into the history of the region, discussed traditional food pairings and offered suggestions on how to spread the word about these wines which remain unknown to many wine drinkers. I've continued my exploration of the wines from this region, participating in a recent virtual tasting of six more wines from this region.

The Montefalco Consortium, and Colangelo & Partners PR presented a media tasting event, on UStream TV and Twitter, which was led by Filippo Bartolotta, a wine journalist and educator, and a representative of each winery also attended. A number of writers, including myself, received media samples of six wines and participated in the tasting. You can read the numerous Tweets that were generated from this event on Storify.

Bartolotta did a great job of leading the tasting,and my only minor complaint was that the tasting was only an hour long. We easily could have spent much longer talking with the winery representatives, learning more about the region and their wines. These virtual tastings can be educational events and the chance to ask questions of winery representatives can be invaluable. I've participated in numerous virtual tastings and this was one of the best organized ones. Kudos to Bartolotta!

For background on the region and its wines, check out my lengthy prior post, and I'll mention a few additional items here which I learned from the tasting event. The harvest is currently occurring in Montefalco though not everyone has started harvesting their Sagrantino grapes yet.  The best recent vintages were said to be 2008 and 2011. Montefalco Rosso wines, which are currently blends  with Sangiovese, Sagrantino and other grapes, are somewhat "entry" level wines, intended to be more easy-drinking. In addition, Rosso is considered more of an every day wine while the Sagrantino DOCG wines are more for special occasions, primarily because they are more expensive.  However, if you have deeper pockets, you can afford to drink Sagrantino far more often.

As I mentioned in my prior article, the legal blend for Montefalco Rosso will change next year, and only a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino will be allowed. I asked what this might entail for Rosso wines and I was told that it should lead to wines with more structure and longevity. Sagrantino itself can easily age for 20-30 years, and with time, it gets smoother and more complex. The secret to its longevity is its tannins and acidity. It was also said that these are more "winter" wines, which pair well with hearty stews and game meats. Though I agree they go well with hearty winter dishes, I still would enjoy them in the summer with a thick grilled steak.

The 2011 Colpetrone Montefalco Rosso ($19.99) is produced by a winery that has about 140 hectares of vineyards and produces about 200,000 bottles annually. This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Merlot, and 60% is aged in steel vats while the other 40% spends about 12 months in French oak. It finally spends about four months in the bottle before release, and about 70,000 bottles are produced annually.

Why Merlot? It was mentioned that the grape came to Italy a long, long time ago so it seems natural to use it. With an aroma of red fruit and vanilla, I found this to be an easy drinking wine, soft and lush, with brought cherry and raspberry flavors, enhanced with prominent vanilla and mild spices. This is a wine for pizza and burgers, uncomplicated and appealing to the majority.

I previously reviewed the Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino, which impressed me, and you can check out that review for some background info on the winery. For this event, I got to taste their 2011 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso ($27.99), a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15%, Sagrantino and 15% Colorino which was aged for 12 months in steel vats and then 6 months in the bottle. This is a fresh and fruity wine, with pleasing cherry and raspberry flavors, a slight rusticness and mild tannins. There was some depth of flavor and it offered more complexity than some other Rosso wines. Another excellent example from this winery.

Onto the Sagrantino DOCG wines....

The 2008 Tenuta Castelbuono "Carapace" Montefalco Sagrantino ($37) is produced by the Lunelli family which also produces Ferrari Trentodoc, a famous sparkling wine. They started Tenuta Castelbuono in Umbria in 2001, producing their first wine in 2003 and becoming certified organic in 2014. "Carapace" is the name of the winery building which was designed by contemporary artist Arnaldo Pomodoro, took six years to build, and opened in 2012. It has a large copper-covered dome engraved with fissures  that resemble furrows in the earth.

This wine, like all Sagrantino DOCG, is made from 100% Sagrantino (using their best grapes) and it was aged for 24 months in large oak casks and at least 12 months in the bottle. With an alluring nose of red and black fruit accompanied by hints of licorice, I was captivated by this wine. It was elegant, with well integrated, smooth tannins and a complex blend of flavors, including black cherry, blackberry, and raspberry. There were also hints of spice and licorice, with a lingering and satisfying finish. A very well-made wine. Highly recommended.

The 2009 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino ($45) is from an older winery, which was founded back in 1881 by Francesco Antonelli, who bought the estate and planted vines. The estate now consists of 170 hectares with 40 under vine.  This wine was aged for 6 months in lightly toasted 500 liter barrels, then spent 18 months in 25 hectoliter barrels. After that, it spent about 12 months in glass-lined cement vats and another 12 months in the bottle. Besides a fruity nose, there was also a strong herbal aroma to the wine, and those herbal elements came out on the palate too, especially some mint notes. With moderate tannins, black fruit flavors were prominent, accompanied by the herbal aspect. It also had a strong acidity, which cries out for a hearty stew or thick steak. This was maybe the most different Sagrantino of the four.

I previously reviewed the Scacciadiavoli di Pambuffetti Montefalco Rosso, which I strongly recommended, and you can check out that review for some background info on the winery. For this event, I tasted the 2008 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Sagrantino ($40), which was aged for 16 months in new oak and then 9 months in the bottle. This is dark and brooding, a muscular and rustic wine with ripe black fruit flavors, spicy elements and plenty of complexity. Despite its power, it is well-balanced and doesn't overwhelm. To accompany this wine, you need a thick slice of wild boar or a hearty ragu. This wine is sure to keep you warm this winter and gets a strong recommendation.

The 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Sagrantino Collepiano ($60) is from a winery founded by one of the pioneers of Sagrantino, which I mentioned in my prior article. Without such pioneers, Sagrantino could have passed away into obscurity, if not extinction. Eight to nine years ago, the first wine I tasted and loved from this region was the Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso.

The 2009 Sagrantino spent about 22 months in French oak and another 6 months in the bottle. This was another wine of power but also of elegance.. The complex melange of flavors are intense and subtle, multiple layers that intrigue and delight the palate. Ripe black fruit, earthy undertones, hints of vanilla and spice, and moderate tannins. It possesses a lingering finish that seems to go on and on, and you will yearn for glass after glass. It is well worth its price and it was the first bottle that was empty in my house the night of the tasting. It garners my highest recommendation.

So why aren't you drinking Montefalco Rosso and Montefalco Sagrantino?


Jennifer Martin said...

I agree that I was sad to have that tasting end. It was the best virtual tasting I've attended so far. Bartolotta was really fantastic! That strozzapreti with the wine was fantastic!

Richard Auffrey said...

Let's hope their next tasting lasts longer & Bartolotta moderates it again!