Sagrantino: Wild and Wonderful

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Italy, as a whole, provides the largest spectrum of wine styles, grapes, and traditions in Europe.  France may have been the first to itemize their terriors by the Appellation Origine Controlee system, but Italy has an equally rich vinous history represented by the country’s staggering amount of native varieties.  One of Italy’s most fascinating wines is grown tucked away in the landlocked region of Umbria.  Here the Sagrantino grape is king, but the full bodied table wine that we presently know is a fairly recent phenomenon.  In the 1960s Sagrantino was used for making passito wines with some degree of sweetness.  These wines did not appeal outside of the local market, and the grape was in danger of becoming extinct.  In 1980, the newly founded DOC Sagrantino Secco, and the full-bodied and dry wines of Arnaldo Caprai re-established the grape as a powerful variety with plenty of bold character that could rival the wines of Montalcino to the west in complexity and longevity.  Sagrantino makes spicy wines that are robust, and often quite tannic in their youth.  The grape brings to mind the richness of Primitivo, but tempered with the black cherry toned structure of Sangiovese.  We appreciate wines from Montefalco producers who don’t allow barriques to obscure the wild qualities of Sagrantino.  Many of our customers are familiar with the stellar natural wines of Paolo Bea, but the pricing of the marquee “Pagliaro” single vineyard Sagrantino may be a bit steep for some occasions, so we are very pleased to offer a less expense all-Sagrantino wine from the fantastic estate.   Beyond Bea, we also encourage you to try the great value Montefalco Sagrantino by the traditional Milziade Antano estate.  JR

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Bea, Paolo 2006 Umbria IGT Rosso de Véo

The new “Rosso de Veo” is 100% Sagrantino from Bea’s young vine holdings.  Many of the plants are located in the “Cerrete” vineyard some 1300 to 1500 feet above sea level.  The soil is clay joined with limestone and sedimentary deposits.  Fermentation occurs in tank, and then the wine rests in both large old barrels and bottles before being released.  Despite the long élevage, there are plenty of feral and anise elements that evolve in the glass, and would surely evolve in the bottle.  This is a truly exciting introduction to Sagrantino, but also a true value for those that love the structured, complex wines of Paulo Bea.  JR

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  • $39.99

Bea, Paolo 2007 Umbria Rosso Vigna San Valentino

The 2007 San Valentino is mostly Sangiovese that is fortified by a splash of Sagrantino, and a dash of Montepulciano. Although this wine is not nearly as tannic as some of his all-Sagrantino bottlings, the always vocal Sagrantino grape makes its impression felt through a refined tannic structure. San Valentino is a vineyard composed of clay soil perched 1,300 feet above sea level. Extended resting in tank creates a mellow wine that is easy to enjoy now for its beautiful, bright, berry fruit.  JR

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  • $31.99

Antano 2004 Montefalco Sagrantino Antano

Although not as rustic as the wild Sagrantino of Paolo Bea, Antano’s Sagrantino is not as polished as Arnaldo Caprai’s modern interpretations of the grape either.  Quality starts in the vineyard with a very aggressive green harvest to concentrate the crop into a powerful and concentrated expression of Sagrantino.  Barriques are avoided in order to let the natural charecter of the grape to shine.  This creates a wine that is the perfect complement to summer barbecues or all types of rich Italian fare.  JR

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  • $49.99