Amici e vini sono meglio vecchi. (Old wine and friends improve with age)… An Italian proverb.
Trying new wines can be “the best of times” or “the worst of times.” For a dedicated aficionado of indigenous grapes and the wine that results from their vinification, each bottle is fun and layers on another experience. But for casual enjoyers - those comfortable within their known taste zone – tasting a purchased bottle of wine made from a never-heard-of grape is entered into more cautiously. In real world speak, that means the bottle most often goes untried. Pity. A door remains closed that may have opened delights.
From my outlook, tasting wines made from grapes unknown is always a thrilling and mind opening experience but I respect that everyone’s palate is both personal and correct for the person possessing it. Perhaps I can add value to this blog by describing some of these grapes and lead you down the road that as Robert Frost said was the less travelled because, indeed, it may make all the difference.
Sagrantino is the grape. It is indigenous to Montefalco. Montefalco is in Umbria in Italy and the best place for growing this grape. No matter who produces wine made from Sagrantino, if you enjoy sweet or exclusively fruit-forward wine, these wines will prove unpleasant. If, however, you enjoy wines of different character and you enjoy matching such wine with different foods, or even the seasons, you should consider adding some Sagrantino to your racks.
But add it considerably in advance of when you plan to enjoy it. Referring to the quote above, Sagrantino improves with age. In its youth, tannins are concentrated. It’s not uncommon for Sagrantino to open beautifully at eight years of age and improve even further during the next five years. As Cabernet Sauvignon can be bold, powerful, concentrated, masculine and age- worthy so can Sagrantino be. Fortunately, for us, Colpetrone (the producer) makes Sagrantino in a more international style, meaning you can enjoy it earlier; not meaning the wine made from Sagrantino by Colpetrone has sacrificed its typicity.
Even so, Colpetrone’s Sagrantino will reward you for patience. With time in the bottle, polymerization binds pigmented tannins into larger particles that will collect as sediment and the juice softens. In the U.S., winemakers are sensitive to consumers thinking anything but the clearest wine must be a fault. Much of what is produced here has been filtered and fined to such clarity and, being drunk young, has become what many people take as a standard. Problem is, it is the tartrates and phenolics in wines that develop the aromatic compounds that form bouquet, build taste and develop the varietal’s character.
This 2009, ten years from vintage, still benefited from air. Decant for an hour or enjoy the next day after opening. Full bodied, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but not fruit forward, it exemplifies “old world” style in fruit being present but subdued as part of a seamless composition. Tertiary notes of chocolate and smoke add complexity. Its nose offers earth but lifted by lavender. Brambled berries reintroduce the forest element. Sour cherry and dried cranberry on the palate, some balsamic and dried strawberry linger into a long finish accompanied by a hint of leather and nutmeg. Fruit becomes more pronounced the second day with lots of blackberry, black raspberry and black cherry joined by strawberry (jam) on the nose. The wine is less edgy and its tannins softened. Strawberry (jam) also becomes more evident on the palate. But either day, the wine’s acidity provides a somewhat tangy finish making it also food friendly.
Keep a few bottles aside. Taste them along the way and enjoy the changes within each bottle. Fire up the grill on a cool, summer night and pair this wine with grilled meats and game. Braised meats can warm up the kitchen in the cooler months and Sagrantino from Montefalco will pair nicely then also. Aged cheeses do well as will red-sauced pasta and pizza. If you’re lucky enough to have a black truffle on hand, enjoy this wine’s earthiness against some crumbled truffle on the pasta. Thin sliced Italian beef with green peppers on an Italian roll may look less worthy than a magazine photo but will go together nicely regardless.
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The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG requires 100% Sagrantino grapes be used, with 37 months aging before release, of which at least 12 months are in oak barrels and 4 months in bottle. Colpetrone ages its Sagrantino 12 months in oak barrique and another 26 months (minimum) in bottle before release. The grape is noted for its thick skin which naturally develops tannin.
Imported by: Vias Imports, Ltd., NY, NY.
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