Sagrantino di Montefalco: From Umbria Comes The Best Red Wine You Never Tasted!

So, for those of you enticed by this wine, the question in making a purchase is where to start. The two best wines are the traditionally styled Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco and the modernist Arnaldo Caprai 25 Anni. The Bea wine is the more difficult to find. It usually retails for about $80 a bottle. Occasionally, one can find an older bottle in a good wine store or restaurant as these are wines not known to even to the average connoisseur. Ideally a Bea wine should be at least seven years from the date of vintage before opening. Even older is just fine. As long as these wines are stored properly, they can last for 30 years. It is earthy and complex; with great fruit exhibiting exotic spices, cherries and black raspberries. A friend in Rome opened a bottle of the 1999 for me last year. An incredible wine! I have never found so many different aromas in a glass. I detected scents of plums, cotton candy, iodine, seaweed, bacon fat, black raspberries and cherries. Upon tasting it there were flavors of boysenberries, cherries and some raisins. Still on the young side, it was just extraordinary. This wine goes well with a wide variety of foods because while being a large wine, it does not dominate the food.

The Arnaldo Caprai 25 Anni usually retail for about $90. It is much more available than the Bea and often older vintages can be found. It is a beast of a wine. I have heard some lovers of this wine complain, only half in jest, that they have never tasted a mature bottle of this wine. Truth be told, I have only had one that I thought was ready to drink. A 1997, bought in a restaurant in Sorrento, Italy last year, was absolutely fantastic. This dark opaque wine had an aroma to it that I could sniff all night including cocoa, cherries, smoke and currants. The flavor was dominated with cherries, black raspberries and a bit of raisins. This wine was decanted for an hour before serving and was still quite young. I doubt it will reach its peak for ten years. On the other hand, a bottle of the 2000 that I opened not too long ago required much more air. I decanted it for 10 hours prior to drinking. Even then it was still so young and tight with lots of tannins. That did not stop anyone at the table from appreciating it. It was fantastic. I would like to revisit the wine in another 10 to 20 years. As such a large wine, this needs serious food to stand up to it. No delicate flavors for this wine. Treat it like you would a young Californian Cabernet of young Bordeaux.

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There are other less expensive Sagrantinos that mature more quickly and are worth seeking out. Caprai makes a wine called Collepiano that is reasonably priced and rather accessible for Sagrantino. Collepiano is ready to drink now but can be aged for a few years and available for around $50. Other Sagrantino di Montefalcos that I have found to be worth trying include Milzade Antano (around $50), Colepetrone (about $40), Antonelli (about $30), Adanti (about $30) and Terre de Trinci (about $30). All of these provide authentic drinking pleasure. These are intellectually interesting wines that will please your fruit loving friends too. If you should happen to also see the dessert wine from any of these producers, and are feeling wealthy that day, try one of those too!

Sagrantino di Montelfalcos are food friendly wines that match nicely with most Italian foods. They have the tannins to hold up to a nice steak or lamb. They go nicely with pastas or pizza. Add some truffles if available for a great match.

I hope you all go out and try a bottle or two and let me know what you think.


Loren Sonkin is an Featured Contributor and the Founder/Winemaker at Sonkin Cellars.

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