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,

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