Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Comprehensive guide to Sagrantino & Montefalco

My passion for Italian wine has taken me all over Italy, but I'm honored to have the privilege to share with you an overview of a region, area and wine that I've touched upon before, but have long wanted to revisit as well as visit in person. Traveling to wine regions allows you to fully understand the terroir, the history of how a wine came about and hopefully have the opportunity to meet some winemakers that can deepen the understanding and share with you first hand information. Today I share with you the region of Umbria and the town and area of Montefalco including it's prized grape, sagrantino.

wine map of Umbria
Wine Map of Umbria copyright by Federdoc

Montefalco & Umbria

Montefalco is situated in the region of Umbria, which is the only landlocked region in all of Italy, also known as the “green heart of Italy”. In relation to Umbria you have Tuscany to the northeast, Lazio to the southeast, Emilia Romagna to the north, Le Marche to the west, and Abruzzo to the southwest. Montefalco is a town surrounded by 12th century walls and has the nickname of la ringhiera dell'umbria, meaning “balcony over Umbria”, since the town sits high overlooking the valley. It's surrounded by the mountains of Martani, the Apennines and Mount Subasio, which are possible to see from Montefalco with its panoramic views. The weather of this region is continental, but with the winds, known as Tramontana, coming off the mountains it helps moderate the heat and prevent rot and diseases in the vineyards.

Town of Montefalco in Umbria
Town of Montefalco in Umbria by Benito Roveran
Palazzo Comunale in Montefalco
Palazzo Comunale in Montefalco by Benito Roveran

The sagrantino grape

The region of Umbria has many important grapes with the well known white wine Orvieto made of grechetto and trebbiano, but when it comes to red grapes, Montefalco and the area surrounding it take the cake with the prized red grape, sagrantino. The name, sagrantino, actually stems from the word sacrements and the latin word sacer meaning sacred. This grape was grown by monks and was used mostly for religious ceremonies and almost faced extinction in the 60's. When utilized by monks it was used as a sweet passito style wine where the skins were dried, known as appasimento, that further concentrates the juice.  Sagrantino today still has a passito version, but is also a dry red wine with thick skins, high phenolics and tannins. You'll find it produced in the following towns: Montefalco, Bevagna, Castel Ritaldi, Gualdo Cattaneo and Giano dell'Umbria.


There is both a DOC And DOCG made with sagrantino within Umbria, Montefalco Rosso DOC (created 1979) and Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (created 1992). The major differences between the DOC and DOCG are the following factors:

 Montefalco Rosso DOC
Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG
Grapes 60-70% sangiovese
10-15% sagrantino
15-30% other grapes
100% sagrantino
Aging Process 18 months aging 37 months total with 12 in oak
Alcohol 12.00% 13.00%

*There are additional requirements as well


If you're never had sagrantino you may want to seek out some of the best vintages if you can find them to experience this grape at its finest. According to the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco, the 5 star prized vintages of Sagrantino di Montefalco are 1986, 1990, 1999, 2005 and 2009. The most recent vintage release of 2011 received 4 stars producing grapes of a “very good quality” that are balanced and have the potential of long longevity.

Food pairing with Sagrantino

Being of Italian heritage myself I know all too well that you can't talk about Italian wine without food.  Inspired by the Umbrian recipes provided on Italian Food Forever, I chose to pair the '09 Colpetrone Sagrantino di Montefalco with Pappardelle alla Norcina. Norcina stems from the town of Norcia located in Umbria that is known for it's pork products.  Pasta alla norcina is usually prepared in a tomato light-based cream sauce with sausage, but the healthy side of me withdrew the cream and tomatoes and decided to go with more of a aglio-olio sauce, garlic and oil. I have been dying to write about a sagrantino for some time now as well use my pappardelle I brought back from Italy and no better time than for this wonderful pairing. You can also pair sagrantino with braised meats, lamb, game and aged cheeses.  Always think of the region the wine comes from when it comes to pairing with food.  This is my rule of thumb when it comes to Italian food and wine pairing.

Pappardelle alla Norcina


1 pound of pappardelle

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

4-5 cloves of minced garlic

4-6 links of Italian sweet sausage

Baby bella mushrooms

½ bunch of kale


Sea salt and pepper

White truffle oil (optional)


1) Prepare a pot of water and boil, adding a little salt.  Once pot has reached boiling point, add pasta and cook to designated time on package.  

2) In a small saucepan simmer on low heat the extra virgin olive oil, including a dash of sea salt and 2-3 cloves of minced garlic.

3) In a separate saute pan add oil, dash of salt and 1-2 cloves of minced garlic and simmer on low. After 3-5 minutes add sliced mushrooms and chop kale and saute covered for about 8 minutes on medium heat. 

4) In another saute pan or after the mushrooms and kale is cooked and removed into a separate bowl, add sliced sausage and cook until browned rotating sausages on all sides. 

5) Once everything has been cooked and pasta has been drained, combine all ingredients into a bowl.

6) Finish by adding parsley, shaved pecorino on top and a touch of white truffle oil. 
Tartufo bianco, pecorino and pappardelle
Italian food love: White truffle oil, pecorino & pappardelle
Food pairing with Sagrantino
Food pairing with sagrantino

Pappardelle alla Norcina with Sagrantino
Pappardelle alla Norcina paired with '09 Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino
Wine Pairing with Pasta alla Norcina

There is no better way to understand sagrantino than to experience it for yourself and today I'm sharing with you the 2009 Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino DOCGI received a gracious sample from the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco and couldn't wait to pop the cork.

Colpetrone is part of the Saiagricola S.p.A.  The winery is located in the heart of Montefalco, in Gualdo Cattaneo, with about 155 acres of vineyards and an annual production of 200,000 bottles a year. This particular wine was aged 12 months in French barrique with 26 months additionally in the bottle before release.

I decanted the wine for about an hour before enjoying it with my meal, but obviously stole some sips prior as I always love to see how the wine evolves in the glass as it aerates. This wine was deep garnet in color with a dark, almost black center. Full bodied, well-structured with rich ripe red and blackberry fruit, earthy and balanced with good acidity and tannins. A hint of dark chocolate as well. The tannins were well integrated into the wine and paired very well with the Pasta alla Norcina, especially with the Italian sausage. It had a lengthy finish. 

Drinking well for 2009 it can still withstand additional years in the bottle and will probably develop to be even more smooth and balanced.  This grape is known to be a grape that withstand longevity.

2009 Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG

I hope you experience this region for yourself so you can envelop yourself in the culture, cuisine and wine, but you can also experience it in the comfort of your own home as I did as well. I'm looking forward to sharing with you an additional sample from this region, Arnaldo Caprai Rosso di Montelfalco so stay tuned.  Buon appetito and ciao ciao!

Source: Strada del Sagrantino Consorzio Tutela Vini MontefalcoItalian Food Forever,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

#ItalianFWT Explores the Food, Wine & Travel to Sardinia (Sardegna)

This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel (#ItalianFWT) bloggers group is virtually traveling to our 10th region of Italy, Sardegna. Following Sicily, Sardegna is the 2nd largest island in Italy. Sardegna, also known as Sardinia, is located off the west coast of Italy on the Tyrhennian Sea. For those needing a little bit of sunshine in their life you may want to consider travel to Sardegna with it's 300 days of sunshine.

Cala Goloritze in Sardinia
Cala Goloritze in Sardegna by Sara Pizzagalli

Sardegna may not be one of the regions that immediately comes to mind when one considers travel to Italy, but with it's rocky coastlines and pristine beaches there isn't a reason we should all get there one day. One interesting aspect of the region are the nuraghi, or round fortresses, that are spread throughout the island that allowed them to protect and defend themselves from invasion. Over 7,000 nuraghi still exist in Sardinia today.

nuraghe in Sardegna
Nuraghe in Sardegna by HrodebertRobertus

The wines of Sardegna
When it comes to wine Sardinia has made many technological improvements in their vineyards, yields and winemaking techniques and are building a stronger platform than their days of shipping wines off the island to be blended with other wines. There is only 1 DOCG of the island, Vermentino di Gallura and 20 DOC. Whites dominate over reds in this wine region with white grapes consisting of vermentino, malvasia, moscato, vernaccia and red grapes consisting of cannonau, carignano, monica and giro.

When it comes to food of the region we have plenty of recipes that will be shared throughout the group to give you a sense of the cuisine on the island.

Join us this Saturday August 1st as our group of Italian Food Wine & Travel bloggers will share with you their perspective of the region. Here is a preview of what's to come:
Vino Travels - The Native Grapes of Sardinia with Argiolas Cannonau
Italophia - How I was "Swept Away" in Sardinia
Enofylz - Sardinia Style Seafood Paella and Cantina di Gallura Canayli Vermentino #ItalianFWT
Vino in Love - Exploring Sardinian Wine
Rockin Red Blog - Mountainous Food & Wine of Sardegna 
Confessions of a Culinary Diva - The Food & Wine of Sardegna
Cooking Chat - Summer Spaghetti with Garlicky Shrimp and a Vermentino
Food Wine Click - What Wines Goes with Octopus?  A Sardinian Investigation
Culinary Adventures with Camilla - Grano Saraceno Risotto con Funghi e Miele

We'd love to hear from you on our live Twitter chat this Saturday at 11am EST time at #ItalianFWT. There is still time to join us as well. If you are interested please leave a comment or message me at vinotravels at hotmail dot com. Ciao ciao for now!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The autochthonous Grape, Pecorino, and It's Revival

In a recent tasting I sampled an indigenous and native white grape, pecorino, of central Italy, specifically of the Abruzzo and Marche regions.  Pecorino is an early ripening grape that is produced in low yields. If you remember the Italian Wine Word Wednesday I shared with you last week, fresco = crisp, this wine is another one to consider that is typically a light to medium bodied style wine that is crisp and clean with hints of nuts.

About the pecorino grape
The name derives from the Italian word pecora, meaning sheep, and is believed to derive from the sheep that were raised in the area where the grape grows. Another grape of Italy that almost faced extinction according to the Pecorino Vitigno E Vino site, pecorino was reborn by Guido Cocci Grifoni. 

The pecorino grape grows the best in the Piceno area of the Marche region. It's stated that from their site that the research that Guido did “revealed that north of the river Tronto, near Arquata del Tronto, there was a tiny, virtually abandoned vineyard, owned at the time by an eighty year old gentleman; the ancient grape vine known as pecorino grew in this vineyard.” They were replanted in the northern part of the land and to this day the pecorino has flourished from its days of extinction.

2014 I Lauri Avalos Pecorino Colline PescaresiI've spoken about this producer before, I Lauri. They are located in the hilltop town of Loreto Aprutino in the Abruzzo region at the foothills of the Gran Sasso Mountain. The 2014 I Lauri Avalos Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGP is a medium bodied dry wine with an aromatic, floral nose and notes of apricots and tropical fruit backed by good acidity.

It's amazing to me how many grapes in Italy have almost gone extinct and what a shame it would be to not be able to experience grapes like pecorino in this world. 

Have you tried pecorino yourself?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Crisp! Fresco! Fabrizio Dionisio Rosa del Castagno Syrah Rose

This past month I started featuring Italian wine words for those of you to start learning some of the Italian language in the wine industry. I started doing Italian Wine Word Wednesday that I'll feature on my social media and occasionally a blog post if it falls on a Wednesday. Since it's summer time and it's the perfect time of year to drink rose' (but not the only time of year don't forget) I figured this week we'll feature the word crisp as you'll find rose' to be potentially be crisp, clean and refreshing. It's perfect as well for all your Italian white grapes and wines too!

Crisp = fresco

Syrah of Cortona Tuscany
View from Cortona, Tuscany ~ By MojoBaron

This week I attended a wine tasting and rose' seemed to be the hit of the night for all the vendors. The rose' I'm sharing I thought was unique in the fact that you don't often see syrah from Italy nevermind a syrah rose'. I've featured this producer before, Fabrizio Dionisio, but I sampled the 2013 Fabrizio Dionisio Rosa del Castago syrah I.G.T. from Cortona, Tuscany. This wine is 100% syrah that is gently crushed and the free run juice ferments in stainless steel for about 15 days at low temps. Light salmon in color and dry, it has a good medium body with notes of strawberry and citrus that has a refreshing mouthwatering acidity that finished clean and fresco!

2013 Fabrizio Dionisio Rosa del Castagno Syrah

I find rose to be such a versatile wine and can pair especially with many of your summer dishes, but maybe not as much your hearty winter fare. It still holds a place on the table year round to serve as an accompaniment to many appetizers as well as dishes to include pasta, pizza, chicken and pork dishes.

I'll end in a perfect quote from Fabrizio Dionisio's site quoted by Fabrizio Dionisio himself:

I like to create, every year, real bottles of terroir which can accurately and sincerely express that particular vintage. I like to create a wine that can tell the autumn rain, the winter frost, the summer hot days and cool nights, the colours, the sounds and the smells of that very vintage with its unique and unrepeatable characteristics. That’s the way in which our Syrah of Cortona is created in our vineyards, following the rhythms of nature.”

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Alchemy of Hunt Country Vineyards Paired with Braised Beef Short Ribs

Breaking outside the rules a little today and not featuring an Italian wine. I'm part of the Wine Pairing Weekend food and wine bloggers group and this month we feature American or French food and wine pairings. Coming out of the 4th of July celebration festivities for the first time at our new vacation home in the mountains of northern NH I had a great pairing I shared with everyone, Hunt Country Vineyards Alchemy and braised beef short ribs. It doesn't get any more American than that with a Finger Lakes wine from upstate NY and ribs always remind me of summer time festivities with friends and family.

Hunt Country Vineyards Keuke Lake
Hunt Country Vineyards
I chose the Hunt Country Vineyard Alchemy wine that I brought back from my last trip to the Finger Lakes, one of my favorite regions in the US, although I have to say I have yet to visit the west coast. The Finger Lakes wine region is about a 6 hour drive from the Boston area and I usually take an annual trip to tour the wineries of the Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka lakes. Hunt Country Vineyards is located on the smallest of the three glacially formed lakes, Keuka lake, with about 16 wineries. They are also located on Italy Hill Rd, so I guess something is Italian about this blog today ; )  Keuka lake is celebrating it's 30th anniversary.   
Keuka lake wineries at Hunt Country Vineyards
Owners, Art and Joyce Hunt, met years ago in high school. In 1973 they relocated to Art's grandfather's land where they used 50 acres of that land to start grape growing where they sold off the grapes that they grew. When the Coca-Cola Company bought the Taylor Wine Company that devastated the area and damaged many of the winegrowers businesses, the Hunts in 1981 began their own winery, Finger Lakes Wine Cellars, that six years later became Hunt Country Vineyards that stands today, six generations in the family later.  The Hunt's are one of the founding members of the Keuka Lake Wine Trail.

Hunt Country Vineyards Keuke Lake
Having a little fun at Hunt Country Vineyards
The Hunt Country Vineyards Alchemy wine is a blend of grapes from a variety of wineries in the Finger Lakes with 53% cabernet franc (Hunt Country Vineyards grapes and Green Acres Farm), 28% lemberger (Fox Run Vineyards one of my favs), 17% merlot (White Springs Winery) and 2% cabernet sauvignon (Swedish Hill Winery). This wine was fermented in stainless steel, but aged in about 85% French oak and 15% American oak. On the palate is ripe black cherry, with some slight notes of oak/vanilla and a little pepper. This wine has been Hunt Country Vineyards best seller since 2012. Retails $15.

Hunt Country Vineyards Alchemy wine
I actually wanted to do ribs for this wine pairing event prior to selecting the wine and upon browsing through Hunt Country Vineyards web page came across a variety of wine pairings they suggested with their wines. Come to find out that they recommended for one of the food pairings with the Alchemy wine, braised beef short ribs. I'm always one for trying new recipes and I actually have yet to ever prepare a beef short ribs recipe so I thought it was perfect to try their own. Check out their recipe along with some of their other wines and suggestions as they have many. The sauce the beef short ribs were braised in was rather delicious and was a nice complement to the wine. The food and wine blended together well and neither were overpowered by one another. The herbs of the dish went nicely with the hint of spice and fruit profile of the Alchemy wine.

In addition to the braised beef short ribs I've also been exploring the vegetables in my farmshare that I'm participating in this year.  With this dish I decided to saute some swiss chard and beet greens and I also prepared the beets themselves in balsamic vinegar with a little salt.  

How to braise beef short ribs
Beef short ribs
Preparing beet greens and swiss chard
Beet greens and swiss chard saute
Braised beef short ribs with carrots and celery
Braising beef short ribs
Finger Lakes wine and food pairing
Braised Beef Short ribs with beets, beet greens and swiss chard paired with Hunt Country Vineyards Alchemy

We're also coming up to the Wine Bloggers Conference to take place in the Finger Lakes August 13-16th. If you've never been to this region you must seek it out. Do we have any readers that will be attending or that have visited this region and have favorites?

A Day in the Life on the Farm: “An American Feast for #WinePW”

A Pug in the Kitchen: Classic Nicoise:An American/French Pairing

Confessions of a Culinary Diva: “Provence Style Pan Roasted Chicken with Rose"

Cooking Chat: "Gruyere Cheeseburgers with a Bordeaux"

Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Tapenade-Topped Sablefish + Cave de Saint-Roch-les-Vignes Côtes de Provence Rosé”

Curious Cuisiniere: “Cherry Clafoutis paired with a Cremant Rosé”

Dracaena Wines: “Discovering the Truth About Bastille Day with #WinePW”

ENOFYLZ Wine Blog: “Independence Day at Ridge Vineyards Zins and Blends #winePW”

Food Wine Click: “All American Menu: Farmer & Winery Friends”

Grape Experiences: “Wine and Dine: Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc Cotes du Roussillon and Salade Niçoise”

Pull That Cork: “Domaine de Bila-Haut and Cobb Salad for #winePW”

Rockin Red Blog: “Celebrating America & France with July #WinePW”

Tasting Pour: “Steak with Mushroom Cognac Sauce, Patriotic Potatoes, and Bell Wine Cellars Cab Sauv #winepw”

Please join us this morning at 11 am EST on Twitter for a fun and lively discussion on our American and French food and wine pairings at #WinePW. Also, join us Saturday, August 15 as we explore Portugal, a land of delicious food and outstanding wines!

Source: Hunt Country Vineyards

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Food & Wine Pairing of Lazio: Saltimboca alla Romana w/Casale del Giglio Petit Verdot

Welcome to our 9th Italian Food, Wine & Travel (#ItalianFWT) event where we feature the food, wine and travel of a different region every month. This month our group focuses on the Lazio region located in central Italy. Earlier this week I shared some highlights and a preview of Lazio.
Map of Lazio wine region
Map of Lazio ~ Copyright of Federdoc
I always love to explore the wine and cuisine of each region and tie in my travels if I can. Mostly all my explorations of the Lazio region have been multiple times to Rome so I figured I have so much more to offer on the cuisine and wine of Lazio with my featured pairing: Chicken Saltimbocca alla Romana with a 2009 Casale del Giglio Petit Verdot.
Trevi Fountain in Rome
Trevi Fountain ~ Rome
Wine Pairing - Casale del Giglio Petit Verdot
The founding father of Casale delGiglio, Berardino, was a wine merchant. The three sons (Antonio, Isidoro and Emidio) began their partnership Berardino Santerelli & Figli in 1914. The business grew to include 11 wine and olive stores, “vini + olii”. In 1955 Emidio's son, Dino, founded Santarelli S.P.A where they sold wines of Lazio. In 1967 is when Casale del Giglio was established at Le Fernere, a hamlet in the provicne of Latina which is about 30 miles south of Rome located in the Agro Pontino Valley. Talking about generation after generation keeping it within the family, in the early 90's Dino's son, Antonio, then took over and with winemaker, Paolo Tiefenthale, from Trentino began producing wines under the Casale del Giglio brand.

The area where Casale del Giglio resides has much unchartered land where there weren't generations or years of what works and what doesn't when it comes to winemaking. In 1985 Casale del Giglio began a project where they partnered with other researchers and professors experimenting to figure out what would grow the best. They worked with 60 different vines and today the winery consists of about 160 hectacres where they mostly work with Bordeaux grapes.
2009 Casale del Giglio Petit Verdot
The 2009 Casale del Giglio petit verdot is purely made from petit verdot where part of the fermentation is in stainless and wood. It's aged 8-12 months in barrique with an additional 6 months in the bottle.  It's a full bodied wine with intense red berries and cherry.  Silky tannins with a little bit of pepper.

Food Pairing - Chicken Saltimbocca alla Romana
I paired up this month with a fellow columnist in the Boston Italian magazine that we write for called the Bostoniano. Francesca Bruzzese is a fellow american from Rhode Island whom is living in Rome and writes a food blog, Pancakes and Biscotti. Francesca and I discussed the best potential pairing with her expertise on Roman cuisine and came up with her Saltimbocca alla Romana recipe to be paired with my selection of the Casale del Giglio petit verdot pairing. I imitated her saltimbocca recipe, but made some substitutions. I'm not a huge fan of veal so I actually substituted her choice of veal with chicken. I also am a big fan of mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes so I added that to the sauce I made along with some garlic scapes from the local farmshare that I joined this year.
Chicken Saltimbocca alla Romana Lazio Food & Wine Pairing
The petit verdot was a nice pairing with this particular dish and complemented the flavors well.  Casale del Giglio also recommends another typical Roman dish known as costolette di abbacchio al forno, which is an oven-roasted lamb cutlet.  

Wait......there's more! Join my fellow bloggers with their feature on Lazio:
Italophilia – Visit Ariccia with Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell
Orna O'Reilly – A Foodie Easter in Rome
Cooking Chat - Orzo, Salmon and Pesto Paired with a Frascati
Food Wine Click - They'll Drink Anything in Rome
Rockin Red Blog - Live Like Caesar
Enofylz Wine Blog - A Taste of Lazio
Christy's Palate - Living La Vita Lazio
The Palladian Traveler - Civita di Bagnoregio: The Dying Town
Adventures of a Carry On - When in Rome Eat Like a Roman: Bucatini all'Amatriciana
Girls Gotta Drink - Eat Like a Roman (With a Roman): Unusual Things to do in Rome

If you're seeing this early enough make sure to join us live on twitter at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT. Tell us your food, wine or travel stories of Lazio. We look forward to chatting with you then. Next month on Saturday August 1st we'll feature the island of Sardegna in Italy. Feel free to reach out to me and join us! Ciao ciao!