Friday, December 19, 2014

Sagrantino: The Insider's Italian Wine

Review of 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG Wine

The first time I visited Umbria, Italy—the land of the age-worthy sagrantino grape and Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG—I'd just quit a job teaching English in Lecce in Southern Italy to take an extensive tour of Italy's wine and food; Umbria was the fifth stop in the Italy From Top to Bottom travelogue, published by EuropeUpClose.com, and there, I discovered the famous cities of Perugia and Assissi and some of the most manicured countryside in all of Italy. Picture Italian cypress trees forming dotted lines across hills and valleys; astutely straight rows of freshly harvested hay; and luxurious wineries and estates built high above, on rolling green hills. To cap it all off was the wine, and when I reached Montefalco, the center of Umbrian wine country, I was welcomed with a huge wine-drinking festival, called Cantine Aperte.



While memories of my discovery of the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG remain strong, I have the luck of knowing where to find fine sagrantino wines in the United States to make the memories even stronger. Sagrantino is very unique grape, and if you're seeking a special holiday gift for a wine aficionado, you need look no further. With powerful tannins and flavors reminiscent of cherries and damp fall leaves, the wine has as much depth as any I've found elsewhere on the globe, but its rarity and price often keep it under the radar. They shouldn't. Prices are comparable to fine Oregon pinot noir and less than most Napa Cabs. What better time than Christmas to splurge on an exciting, sure-to-impress Italian wine? And the best sagrantinos age beautifully for 15+ years in the cellar.

I recently tasted an astoundingly deep and complex sagrantino, the 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Established in 1971, Arnaldo Caprai winery has been instrumental in distinguishing clones of sagrantino grape vines, and winemaker Marco Caprai stands alone in my opinion in his talent to express Umbrian terroir with the sagrantino grape.



The 2009 drinks well now, and it will only grow more complex with age. I let the bottle breathe for an hour before drinking, and the first sip was, as I said, astonishing. It was as though the wine jumped out of the bottle and challenged me to a gentleman's dual—that's how powerful, voluptuous, and multi-layered it was. The 14.5% alcohol content offers the first clue as to the size of the body. On the nose, I found a seemingly limitless number of aromas, beginning with spicy black pepper and dark chocolate and continuing with damp fall leaves, eucalyptus, and black cherry. The palate revealed mineral complexity—chalk and granite—lending a velvety mouthfeel. Tobacco and dark spices led to a bitter-chocolate finish.

More than anything, the 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG is a wine for grown-ups. It is for those who have tasted through many vintages and are looking for something potent and beautiful. The fruit is subdued; clearly, "jamminess" was not winemaker Sig. Caprai's primary goal. Pair it with grilled, smokey meats or a Christmas roast with a rich, dark sauce. To truly geek out, check out some of Umbria's traditional foods for inspiration.

WHERE TO BUY: Typically costing between $85-100 dollars, Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG is distributed nationwide by Folio Fine Wines. Check your local fine wine shop. Alternatively, if you live in AK, CA, DC, FL, MO, NV, NH, NM, ND, OR, VA, or WY, order online at www.noblemerchants.com.

Let me know what you think. Salute!

Sample Disclosure: I received this wine for review as a free media sample. Each month, I receive twenty or so offers for free wine samples. I only respond to offers that I believe will be review-worthy, and if I do not like the wine, I do not write the review.


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