Italy has always been a bit of a mystery to me. When I first started studying for my WSET programs it was a toss up between Italy and Germany as to which was the most confusing. Now, after years of study I understand that I will NEVER, in my LIFE, know everything there is to know about Italian wines. I have contented myself, however, with exploring a region here and there when I get the chance. One such chance has presented itself in the last month and I hope to make the most of it. Montefalco is a small mountain village in the province of Perugia in Umbria almost exactly half way down the boot, in the middle of the peninsula. It was originally settled by the Umbri, an ancient Italian tribe, which lived in the area from the 9th-4th centuries BC. In March of this year, Montefalco was named Italy’s Best New Wine Region by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine. It is only a short train ride from Rome making it an easy escape from the bustling city to the mountains. The region, largely known for their fabulous truffles, olive groves, and amazing hill top vistas is now starting to break out from underneath the shadow of their Tuscan cousins. Every spring around Easter the town holds a large festival called Settimana Enologica or “Wine Week” to bring tourists in to sample the local wines. Until recently, the wines of this area have been not well known outside of Italy. However, the Consorzio Montefalco is working to change that and have graciously sent me two wines to taste and explore to get a sense of what this area and the Sagrantino grape are all about.
Colpetrone 2011 Montefalco Rosso DOC – Elegant and Floral
The first wine hails from one of the most important producers in the DOCG area. Montefalco Rosso is usually a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino. This wine is a beautiful blend of both plus a bit of Merlot coming from a vineyard planted in 1997 on limy soil with clay deposits. A moderately deep ruby colored core followed by a lovely burst of plum and black cherry on the nose. The wine had none of the “raspberry leaf” character I normally associate with wines from further north in the country but did have a distinctive earthy aroma reminiscent of crushed late fall leaves. The intensity of the fruit suggests a lack of oak influence which was confirmed by the dossier that accompanied it. With a moderate body, fresh acid, and structured but supple tannins that hit in the middle of the tongue, this wine is more weighty than a Pinot Noir but just as elegant. It is strikingly similar in style to Chianti Classicos but with darker fruit and rounded edges. While this wine can age a couple more years due to its textured tannins I highly recommend taking advantage of it’s fruitful youth!
Azienda Agraria Scacciadiavoli 2008 Montefalco Sagrantino – Power Punch
The second wine comes from the oldest winery of the Montefalco appellation, founded in 1884. The name Scacciadiavoli, literally translates to “cast out the devils” apparently named for a 19th century exorcist who lived in the village. The vineyard is 400 meters above sea level on a clay shale soil. The wine itself is intense with a dense ruby core that is impossible to see through, living up to the expectation that Sagrantino is one of the most deeply colored grapes in the world. The nose is quite concentrated with aromas of ripe black plum, graphite, and cedar. The full body continues with the concentrated theme with intensely structured tannins, the description of which is hard to pin down. It is similar to the texture of Nebbiolo but slightly smoother with the intensity and palate distribution of Cabernet Sauvignon. The finish is long and the wine is crying out for food as most Italian reds do. If the body were lighter the tannins would be harsh and out of balance however the richness in the core of this wine was deeply concentrated and left a seamless transition from beginning to end. My hat is off to the winemaker because I know it is quite challenging to balance tannins of that quantity! It is quite unlike anything I have ever tasted before. This is a 2008, already over 6 years old and I am of the opinion I opened it too young! This structure is built for aging quite in line with the other hallowed regions of this country. If you are interested in this wine it seems the previous vintage is for sale at one of my favorite wine sourcing spots, K & L Wines in San Francisco.
These wines have distinctively different styles however both show that this region is focused on making serious wine that can stand on the international market. The town itself looks charming and it’s views dramatic. I only hope I get the chance to visit for myself soon!
Picture courtesy of MontefalcoMob.com