Category Archives: Umbria

Tasting Sagrantino di Montefalco

I’ve said this before and will say it again — Sagrantino di Montefalco is one of the great wines of Italy.  As a grape it ranks right up there with Nebbiolo, Aglianico and Sangiovese.

Sagrantino a is big complex wine with a very dark color, rich red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of spice, leather and prune, good acidity and a long finish.  It is a wine that can age for many years.  For more information on Sagrantino see

Sagrantino originally was a passito or sweet wine.  A little over 40 years ago they also began to make a dry version. Sagrantino in both its forms is not very well know in the U.S so whenever I have the opportunity I like to write about the wine.  They are a good buy as most of them are around $40 a bottle.

The Wine Media Guild had a tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant featuring the wines from Montefalco in Umbria.

The speakers were Guido Guardigili of Perticaia, Peter Heiborn of Tenuta Bellafonte and Marco Caprai of Arnaldo Caprai.

Here are the Sagrantinos that were at the event along with one white wine, which I really liked.


Trebbiano Spoletino 2011 Perticaia 100% Trebbiano Spoletino. Harvest takes place the third week of October. A soft pressing of the grapes takes place under inert gas. Cold static clarification  of the clear must in stainless steel tanks and the wine rests for 6 months on the fine lees. I visited this winery a few years ago and Mr Guardigli did a tasting of this wine with some local cheeses and it was a great combination. $24

Sagrantino 2007 Perticaia  The harvest takes place in the second week of October. Maceration is for at least 3 weeks with temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging is in small French oak barrels – barriques or tonneaux –  for 12 months until the malolactic fermentation has been completed, then 12 more months in vats followed by 12 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, a touch of prune and a hint of cherry, $48IMG_2873

Sagrantino 2008 Romanelli the vineyards are at 350 meters, the soil is silt-clay and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. After the grapes are hand harvested they are destemmed and lightly pressed. Temperature controlled fermentation with frequent pumping over and maceration lasts for 45 to 60 days. After racking, the wine is aged in French wood barrels ranging in size from 225 liters to 2,500 liters. The wine is filtered before being bottled and remains in the bottle for 10 months before release.

Sagrantino di Montefalco “Collepiano” 2007 Arnaldo Caprai.   Made from 100% Sagrantino from the Collepiano vineyard at 200-300 meters above sea level. The soil is clay-calcareous and there are 6,000 vines per hectare. The training system is cordone speronato and the harvest takes place from the third week in September to the beginning of October. The wine spends 24-26 months in French oak barriques; Marco said that some of the barriques were second passage. It is kept in bottle for a minimum of 6 months before release. This is a big modern style Sagrantino and the most expensive of the tasting. It has concentrated red fruit aromas and flavors and undertones of oak and vanilla. $60IMG_2863

Sagrantino 2008 Tenuta Bellafonte This is their first vintage and their vineyards are 12 years old and are 260 to 320 meters above sea level. The training is cordone speronato and there are 5,500 plants per hectare. Mr. Heilborn explained that the grapes are not crushed, only destemmed, and are put into vats where they start to ferment without any additional yeast. Maceration takes place through the pressure on the peels and lasts about two weeks. When asked if anyone else does this for Sagrantino his answer was “no”. After the wine rests for a few weeks and is decanted a few times and is aged in Slavonian oak barrels of not less than 30 hectoliters. The malolactic fermentation takes place naturally, activated only by the cellar temperature. The wine is checked and decanted as needed for the 40 months that it remains in the oak barrels. He added that the wine is bottled without filtration and any deposits at the bottom of the bottle are an indication of the guarantee of such production choices.

Sagrantino 2007 Antonelli  Harvest begins in the second week of October, with hand picked grapes placed into boxes and then a final sorting.
Vinification is by gravity with fermented on the skins for 15-20 days at a temperature of 25 degrees; followed by malolactic fermentation. Clarification is spontaneously without filtration. Aging  in 500-liter oak barrels lightly roasted for 6 months, then in 25 hl oak barrels for 12 months; assembly and clarification takes place in cement tanks for 3 months and the wine remains in the bottle for at least 12 months before release. This is a complex and elegant wine with hints of blackberry and plum with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. I visited this winery when I was in Montefalco a few years. They make excellent wines and the highlight of the visit was a 1985 Sagrantino that was 25 years old at the time. The wine was drinking very well and it proves that Sagrantino can age. $38

Sagrantino 2006 Tenuta Castelbuono– -How can I not love this winery when they say “The decision to use large barrels over small barriques was crucial to the creation of a wine with such a long aging potential”? There are 6,250 vines per hectare and the training is spurred cordon. There is a cold pre maceration for 30 hours in wood barrels. Skin contact is for 15 to 20 days and the wine is aged 12 months in large barrels and 12 months in bottle before release. This is a complex wine with aromas and flavors of blackberries and blueberries and a hint of leather. $37IMG_2869

Sagrantino 2007 Scacciadiavoli (Drive away devils) 2007 The vineyards are at 900 feet with a south/southwest exposure and the training system is spurred cordon. There are 2,300 vines per hectare.   Harvest takes place at the end of October. The wine is aged in different sized oak barrels: used barriques, tonneaux, and 30HL barrels for 16 months. The wine from each different type of barrels is blended together to make the final blend. It is aged in bottle for 9 months before release. $39IMG_2862

Sagrantinio 2008 Le Cimate The 19 hectare vineyard is at 360 meters with a south/southeast exposure. The soil is clay moderately calcareous with 4,400 plants per hectare. After the grapes are crushed and destemmed the skins are macerated for 20 days with three pumpovers each day. Aging is for 36 months of which 8 are in barriques and 4 in large barrels. The wine is filtered and put in bottles for 6 months before release. $NVIMG_2861

Sagrantino  2008 Colle del Saraceno –Az. Agr. Franceseco Botti This may be the oldest winery in Montefalco producing Sagrantino. It is a very traditional winery. The vineyards have a southern exposure. The wine has  an aromas of dried fruit with hints of prune and spice and a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. $NV

Sagrantino Passito 2008 Colle Del Saraceno-Az. Agr. di Francesco Botti. There is a long period of natural air drying of the grapes. This is a big rich wine with flavors and aromas of blackberry, cinnamon and dried fruit– it was almost liquor-like. $NVIMG_2875

Sagrantino Passito 2008 Cantina Colle Ciocco the harvest takes place at the end of September. This wine is produced from select Sagrantino grapes left to wither on the vine for over 3 months and the yield is very limited. After several rackings the wine is aged for one year in 5HL oak barrels. This is a wine with intense aromas and flavors of blackberries, dried cherries and a hint of spice. It is a dessert wine but I have been told that at Easter in Montefalco they drink it with lamb. $NV


Filed under Antonelli, Arnaldo Caprai winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Perticaia, sagrantino, Sagrantino passito, Scacciadiavoli, Tenuta Bellafonte, Umbria

From Rome to Williamsburg, Brooklyn

When in Rome last June, Michele and I enjoyed lunch at Pier Luigi, a favorite restaurant for fish.  After our meal, we got into a conversation with Lorenzo Lisi, an owner, who said that he and his partners were going to open a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which they found similar to the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.  The new place would be a version of Antica Pesa, one of the oldest restaurants in Rome, known for its classic Roman cooking.

I love the food in all 20 regions of Italy, but as I have often said, if I were a rich man I would live in Rome.  One of the main reasons is the food.

Williamsburg seems like a big trip across the river, but in reality, it took us less than a half hour to get to Antica Pesa from our Manhattan apartment.  When we entered Lorenzo Panella, the general manager, greeted us.  Since it was a cold night, he graciously seated us in front of the fireplace until our other guests arrived


Fried Calamari

At the table, we ordered the tasting menu.  The highlights included perfectly fried calamari, marinated skate with sauteed escarole, linguine cacio and pepe, schiaffoni all’ amatriciana (a pasta resembling rigatoni, though I would have preferred it with bucatini) and a very tasty lamb crop.IMG_2807We brought our own wines and the corkage fee here is $25 per bottle.  The beverage director, Gabriele Guidoni, is a true sommelier and before long we were having a discussion about Italian wine.

The WinesIMG_2797
Langhe Bianco Nascetta- Anas- Cetta DOC 2010 Elvio Cogno.
Made from the Nascetta grape (autochthonous Novello Bianco). This grape is of Mediterranean origin and might have originated in Sardinia. Cogno first produced the wine in 1994 and there are records of it going back to the 19th Century.  He is one of the few that make it now.  The Nascetta vineyards are at 350 meters and the 4,000 vines per hectare are vertical trellised with Guyot pruning. Harvesting is at the end of September. The wine is vinified in 70% stainless steel and 30% in barriques. It is aged 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in barriques and is 180 days on the lees. After 3 months of bottle age it is released.
I visited this winery a few years ago and Valter Fissore,  Elvio Cogno’s son-in law and the wine maker, said that it has a mineral character but when it ages, it resembles Riesling! It is a very elegant wine with good fruit, a long finish and great aftertaste.IMG_2803

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 100% DOC 2005, Edoardo Valentini.  The winery is organic and biodynamic. This is a very complex and full bodied wine with a mineral character, hints of citrus fruit and apple, good acidity, great finish and aftertaste and an extra something that is difficult to describe.
The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. I do not like to compare types of wine, but if asked what other type of wine this reminded me of, my answer would be a great white burgundy.
In one of her books, Jancis Robinson says that the grape for this wine is not Trebbiano d’Abruzzo but Bombino Bianco. When this question came up when I was at the winery, Edoardo Valentini said that the grape was a special clone of Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo. Both the importer and Edoardo’s son, Francesco say it is Trebbiano d’ Abruzzo.IMG_2804

Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 1979 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks and lightly filtered before bottling. This is a wine with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of black cherry and a touch of leather and spice with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, Note: this was NOT the Vigna Monticchio but the regular Rubesco which made it even more impressive!IMG_2805

Barbaresco Campo Cros Martinenga 1982, 100 % Nebbiolo Tenuta Cisa Aisnari dei Marchesi di Gresey.
In his book the Italy’s Noble Red Wines Wasserman describes the wine as: “Tobacco and cherries on aroma; full of flavor, extremely well balanced; long finish the best Martinegna to date.” This is his note from 1985; I tasted the wine with him a few years later and was very impressed. 30 years later his description still stands and  the wine is at its peak. Wasserman also says that the 1982 was almost perfect and gives the vintage four stars, his highest rating. He gives the wine three stars with a possible four. After drinking it with dinner I give it the extra star, too.IMG_2806

Amarone 1961 Bertani 70% Corvina Veronese, 30% Rondinella-this is the present blend.
Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Vines are cultivated using the “spalliera” method while pruning is done using the Guyot  method with 5.000 vines/ha.
Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With marly-calcareous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for Amarone.
Harvest begins in early October and extends over a two-week period. After harvest, ripe, unblemished grapes from the uppermost portions of each cluster — those grapes richest in sugar and extracts — are painstakingly detached and laid out to dry on cane mats. The mats are stored on raised platforms in airy lofts, sheltered by a roof but otherwise exposed to drying breezes on all sides. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation in February, they will have lost up to 60% of their water content (appassimento). A lengthy maceration period ensues, a factor responsible for Amarone’s tremendous body and structure. After a controlled fermentation, the wine is transferred into oak casks for a period of 5-8 years (the 1961, I believe, spent a longer time in wood) during which it was racked twice annually prior to bottling.
Dry, full-bodied, and amply structured with hints of cherries, red berries and spice.  The wine was showing its age. 1961 was a very good vintage for Amarone.


Filed under Amarone, Antica Pesa Restaurant. Brooklyn, Bertani, Elvio Cogno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lungarotti, Marchesi di Gresey, Mrchesi di resey, Nascetta, Rubesco, Umbria, Valentini, Valter Fissore

Chiara Lungarotti and the Wines of Umbria at the Wine Media Guild

 With only one free day when I attended last year’s Sagrantino event, I decided to ask Chiara Lungarotti to show me Cantina Lungarotti’s new winery in Montefalco. What better way to learn more about Umbria and its wines. Even though it was a Saturday she said yes.  Chiara and I talked about wine in general, Umbrian wine in particular, and her wines as we tasted them. I am always impressed with her wine knowledge so I invited her to come to NYC to do a presentation for the Wine Media Guild on the wines of Umbria. Chiara is very passionate about all things Umbrian and works very hard to promote her region and its wines. I was very happy when she accepted my invitation.

 Chiara planned the tasting to include at least one wine from each of the wine producing regions of Umbria. She said the two most important red grapes in Umbria are Sangiovese and Sagrantino and the most important white grape is Grechetto. All but three of the 20 wines we tasted were made with at least one of these grapes. Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot are also grown here.

 The Wines

 Grechetto di Todi Colli Martani “Montorsolo” DOC 2009 100% Grechetto di Todi Cantina Peppucci the vines are on the hills of Montorsolo which are rich in limestone and clay. The harvest takes place in the middle of September. The wine is clarified by the “debourbage” and fermented in stainless steel tanks with periodic “batonnages” then bottled and released. At $12 it is a very good buy.

 Chiara explained that traditionally Orvieto was amabile, slightly sweet, and it was only in the last 50 years that it has become a dry wine. Today she said very few producers make an amabile. There are many tunnels and caves under Orvieto built into the volcanic rock. Many of the wine merchants in Orvieto have their cellars in these caves right in the town. When the Duomo was being built, construction began in November 1290; the workers’ contract stated that they would be given this wine every day.

  Orvieto Classico Superiore “Terre Vineate” DOC 2009 50% Procanico, 30% Grechetto and 20% Verdello Durpeggio and Malvasia Azienda Agricola Palazzon. The wine is fermented in stainless steel for 20 days. It had more body then I expected and nice fruit with hints of white peaches $17

 Torre di Giano, Bianco di Torgiano DOC 2009 Lungarotti.  Made from 70% Trebbiano and 30% Grechetto. The soil is clay with good water retention and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. The Grechetto is harvested in the beginning of September and the Trebbiano in the middle of September. The wine is made from the free run juice, after a brief cryomaceration, and is vinified in stainless steel at low temperatures. It is kept on the lees at low temperatures until bottling. $15

 Sangiovese dell’Umbria “Vigna La Pieve” IGT 2006 Cantina Fanini 100% Sangiovese There are 5,500 vines per hectare. Fermentation and maceration takes place in stainless steel. This wine is aged in second and third passage barriques for not less than 12 months and in bottle for not less than six months before release. This a very pleasant fruity wine easy to drink. $23

 Assisi Rosso DOC 2008. Sportoletti Made from 50% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet. The vineyard is 400 meters above sea level and the harvest takes place in mid-September. Fermentation is stainless steel for 10/15 days with steeping and regular mixing. The wine is then aged in wood for some months and in bottle before it is released. I have not had many wines from this DOC and this one had nice red fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of cherry. $18

 Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC 2007 Lungarotti 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The soil is clay and sand of medium depth with limestone sub soil. There are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in September/October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 18 days maceration on the skins. It is aged for 12 months in oak casks; lightly filtered before bottling. This is an easy drinking wine with red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of black cherry with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste, a bargain at $15.

 Rubesco Riserva “Vigna Monticchio”, Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG 2005  Lungarotti Sangiovese 70% and Canaiolo 30% Fermented in stainless steel and maceration on the skins for about 25 days. It is aged in barriques for one year and then for several years in bottle before release. In the past it was aged almost 10 years before release, now it is closer to 5 years. The 2005 is the current vintage. I have been drinking this wine since 1981 when I first visited the winery in Torgiano and drank the 1973 vintage. The wine was granted its own DOCG in 1990. The Rubesco Riserva is a wine that can age for 30 years. $55

 Rubino 2006 Umbria Rosso IGT La Palazzola 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot the vineyard is 250/300 meters above sea level and the soil is clay, rich in skeletal deposits. Merlot is harvested the second week in September and the Cabernet Sauvignon the first week of October. Maceration is on the skins for 25 days in stainless steel. It is aged for 12 months in barriques. This is a big wine a with a lot of fruit, and a good finish and aftertaste. $50

 San Giorgio, Umbria Rosso IGT 2004 Lungarotti 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. The vineyard for the Cabernet Sauvignon is pebbles and tangentially limestone. The Sangiovese and Canaiolo vineyard is clay and sand with limestone subsoil. There are 4,000/5,000 vines per hectare. The harvest takes place the second week of September. It is fermented in stainless and maceration on the skins for 18 days followed by 12 months in barriques. It is aged in the bottle for 36 months before release. This is a big wine with red berry aromas and flavors and hints of leather and rhubarb. $62

 Recently Italian producers from outside Umbria have been coming to Montefalco and building wineries. Chiara also wanted to expand but wanted to stay within Umbria where she feels at home. A few years ago they brought land in Torrota di Montefalco and opened up a winery there. It is only 45 minutes away from the main winery in Torgiano.

 A few producers also make a Montefalco Rosso Riserva. Chiara felt that this was a mistake. She felt that there was not much difference between the regular and the riserva (the riserva is aged longer) and that it would confuse the consumer.

 Montefalco Rosso DOC 2008 Lungarotti Blends of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 10% Sagrantino. Soil is a combination of clay and sand, with 4500 vines per hectare.

The harvest takes place in September/October. It is fermented in stainless steel with 25 days skin maceration, aged in French oak barriques for 12 months, and six months in bottle before release. It has aromas and flavors of red berries, violets and a hint of coffee. $48

 Chiara said that in 1970 there were only 5 hectares of Sagrantino in Montefalco! The name Sagrantino comes from the Latin sacer, a holy wine used doing Christian festivals. The Passito is a sweet dessert wine and is the traditional version of Sagrantino di Montefalco.

 Alter Ego Umbria Rosso IGT 2006100% Sagrantino Cantina Peppucci Even though this wine is 100% Sagrantino the vineyards are outside the classified zone and therefore it is IGT and not DOCG. This is the reason for its name. $23. This is a good buy.

 Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 Lungarotti 100% Sagrantino. The soil is a medium mix with small pebbles and clay and the vineyard has full southern exposure. The harvest takes place in mid-October. Fermented in stainless steel with maceration on the skins for 28 days and aged for 12 months in French oak barriques. There is a light filtration before the wine is bottled and it spends 20 months in the bottle before release. This is a complex, tannic wine with red fruit, cherries and blueberries and a touch of spice. $48

 Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG  2005 Tenuta Alzatura 100% Sagrantino. The wine is fermented for 26 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with frequent pumping over. It is aged for 16 month in French oak barriques and eight months in bottle before release. It has concentrated black fruit aromas and flavors with hints of leather and coffee. The estate is owned by the Cecchi family of Tuscan fame.

 Sagrantino di Montefalco “Chiusa di PannonE” DOCG  2005 Antonelli 100% Sagrantino. The soil is of pleistocene origin, calcareous clay, rich in gravel and fluvio-lacustrine conglomerates(professor Attilio Scienza at Vino 2011).  Chiusa di PannonE is the name of the vineyard and it is 400 meters above sea level. Vines are grafted on rootstock 420A. The grapes are handpicked into boxes the second and third week of October. Fermentation in contact with the skins for 20 days and malolatic fermentation takes place in wood. The wine is aged in lightly toasted 500liter barrels for six months and 25HL barrels for 15 months. This is followed by assembling and clarifying in cement vats for three months and 2 years in bottle before release. The wine has not been stabilized or filtered. As I have mentioned before, I like the style of wine that they produce.  $40

 Passito 2005 La Palazzola Made from Trebbiano and Malvasia. The vineyard is 300 meters above sea level. 60% of the grapes are dried before pressing at the end of November.  Not too long ago they would have been able to call this wine Vin Santo but now to be labeled Vin Santo it must be produced in Tuscany.  This is a light sweet dessert wine with hints of apricot. $50

Drying the Sagrantino Grapes for the Passito

 Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito DOCG 2006 Antonelli 100% Sagrantino form the Balocco vineyard 340 meters above sea level with a southern exposure. The grapes are handpicked the second week of October and placed in single layers in crates. The bunches selected are the ones most suited for drying. The grapes are dried naturally on cane trellises for 75/90 days with the elimination of imperfect bunches. Vinification takes place using the force of gravity because there are to levels in the cellar. Fermentation in contact with the skins for eight day and malolatic fermentation takes place. The wine clarifies spontaneously with no need for filtration. Aging takes place in 10HL Slovenian oak barrels for 15 months. The wine settles in fiberglass cement vats for 3 months and another 12 months in bottle before release. This is a big dessert wine with rich dried fruit and tannin with blackberry, black jammy fruit flavors and a hint of spice. It is well balanced with a very long finish and a great aftertaste. When I visited the winery they opened a 1985 passito that was just lovely and I really enjoyed it. $50


Filed under Italian Wine, Umbria