Wine is a world product, produced nearly everywhere. From the bottom of South America, to China, from the great estates in France to small farms in the Pacific Northwest, there are a wide range of viniferous liquors reflecting their particular grape varietals and location. The Advice Sisters have sampled quite a few lovely wines from Italy, where the pairing of food and wine is a lifestyle and not just saved for a special occasion. At Mario Batali’s Eataly marketplace in midtown, the press were introduced to two of the wines of the Wines of Montefalco, from the Umbria region of Italy.
These wines are based on the Sagrantino grape, grown only in Montefalco and the wine is called Montefalco Sagrantino. The grape is one of the most tannic varieties in the world, and creates wines that are inky purple with an almost-black center. The bouquet is one of dark, brooding red fruits with hints of plum, cinnamon, and earth. The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG requires 100 percent Sagrantino grapes to be used, with minimum of 29 months aging before release, of which at least 12 months must be in oak barrels. A sweet wine, a passito is still made, a thick, syrupy wine with raisin and blueberry qualities. The alcohol content is around 16 percent.
The Sagrantino grape isn’t widely known outside of Italy with only 250 acres of these grapes being grown in the hands of only about 25 producers. With such a small production, Montefalco di Sagrantino gives wine lovers a chance to try unique wines that have a strong tannic structure , good for aging;.
If you’re not all that familiar with wine, The Advice Sisters offer this about tannins. First off, they are important to red wine, because they give red wine color, flavor and structure to a wine. They also act act as a preservative. But too much of a good thing is a matter of taste. Tannins in wine can dry out the tongue, with almost an astringent quality. Some people call them bitter (if you’ve ever tasted a very strong, over-brewed black tea which also has a lot of tannin, you might have experienced this feeling on your tongue). Some say tannins give you the sensation of biting into an unripe green apple, or eating a persimmon. That’s why wines that are heavily tannic are often stored (“cellared”) from a couple of years, to perhaps, decades. As the wines mature, the tannins tend to mellow out, actually enhancing the wine’s body and flavor.
Of course, those without the room, budget or interest in cellaring wines for years, can also drink Sagrantino di Montefalco right now, just as they are, although they’re best for pairing with strong flavors like with game, grilled meats and duck, and the bites that were passed at this event – particularly nibbles with “fats” and salt: crustini with oil oil, hard cheeses, and salami. Fans of Syrah and the Rhone varietals, will find that the tannis in these wines are similar.
The good news for wine collectors is that adding a few bottles of Montefalcodi Sagrantino to your cellar will be a good investment, as long as you are patient enough to wait for the wines to mature. And, at a range of $16 to $40 per bottle, there are plenty of wines to choose from. Look for any of the ten featured wines to provide a hearty, structured value. These included Antonelli San Marco, The Arnaldo Caprai winery, Tenuta Castelbuono, Perticaia, Scacciadiavoli , The Bellafonte Estate, Colle Ciocco, Colle del Saraceno, Le Cimate and the Romanelli farm and vineyard, all of which featured the indigenous Sagrantino grape. You can purchase some of these at Mario Batali’s Eataly wine shop (200 5th Avenue, New York, NY — 212.229.2560) , or ask for them at local wine stores in your area.
My thanks to John R. Dunham in helping to create this report