Since we live in northern California, we drink a lot of red Napa and Sonoma wines on a regular basis — there are so many deals to be had and overflow bins where you can great Cabs and Zins, that it’s no surprising that dabbling in Chilean, Argentinian, Australian, South Africa, Italian wines and beyond are more a rarity than the status quo. Truth be told however and I’ve written about this before, you can drink better wine outside northern California for a more reasonable price. In other words, I’m not suggesting that all wine outside of Napa and Sonoma are better wines, but certainly the price points in California compared to the incredible values I get on the road cannot be compared.
I sampled over-the-top big rich and bold reds that had me at hello, all under $15-18 range in Hungary that easily tasted like $40-50 bottles. The same holds true in South Africa and Argentina and some wines in Australia. It always astonishes me and moreso annoys me that to get a oh so delish glass of red wine in a nice bar or restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re looking at anywhere from $12-22 a glass. Yes, really. For those accustomed to these kinds of prices and accept it, great, but avid travelers know just how inexpensive a decent glass of Bordeaux is in the middle of commercial Paris or a serious Chianti can be at a nice restaurant in Rome. When we got the opportunity to sample some Umbrian Wines from Italy, we were excited to have our Sonoma and Napa-trained palettes be challenged and of course, surprised – above is a lovely shot of this part of the world.
Recently, we took a look at six red wine gems from the region (pictured below):
Below is a shot of the 2010 Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino that received 91 points from Wine Spectator. Its essence: fig cake and sun-dried black cherry notes, accents of black olive, cured tobacco, leather and spice. Let’s compare that to the 2008 which we tried out.
So, how does the 2008 Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino compare to the 2010? Interestingly enough, we found some of the same tastes in our experience tasting it solo and then later, pairing it with food. It is tannic though also very jammy and full of plums and cherries which we love. Anthony also picked up on some chocolate notes as well. We used our Venturi aerator to open it up a bit faster since we didn’t have time to properly decant it. We tasted this bold and high berry wine with a beef ragu seaweed pasta and then later with smokey cheese and duck pate. I’d also suggest other dishes to pair, including any meat roast, game, mature cheese and stews. We also picked up on a little vanilla and spice on the nose. Worth noting for wine historians — their vineyard average age is 15-20 years.
Let’s now look at the 2012 Antonelli Montefalco Rosso, a rich ruby red wine that is so dark and oh so scrumptious with any red meat dish. See winemaker’s notes below.
Winemaker’s Notes: Deep ruby red with purple tints. The bouquet abounds in fruits of the forest, cherries and plums and enjoyable toasted aromas. In the mouth it is generous, warm, and beautifully balanced. Pair with flavoursome first courses like risotto, tagliatelle, ravioli, rare red meat, and mature hard cheese.
What we Took from these Notes & our Experience: The first thing you’ll notice about this wine is its dark ruby red in color and both the taste and smell of cherries most immediately. In addition to cherries, the plums weave in and out, making the wine incredibly flavorful with great texture, a must try for those who want a dark but dry, well rounded red to go with meat dishes, cheeses and pates and heartier pastas such as ravioli, tagliatelle and risotto. I’d also put chocolate on that list.
Other things to try with this: a boar ragu, sausage, steak or venison and hearty stews!! Then there’s the 2012 Montefalco Rosso Antonelli, which is another dark ruby red wine but at a lower price point than the first two. There’s plenty of cherry in this wine as well, but also some lovely tones of blackcurrants, plum and blackberry. We thought this was a decent value for its delivery. Recommended dishes for pairing include heavier pasta dishes such as calzones or homemade meat ravioli with ricotta cheese. The wine is based on Sangiovese, so medium to bold bodied Italian wine lovers, take note. It’s elegant and smooth and makes for a great every day drinking wine.
The Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantini is lightly toasted in barrels for six months and then in oak barrels for another 18 months before going into glass lined cement vats for 12 months and then aged in the bottle for another year. This wine too is intensely red, rich and bold. Unlike some of the others, there was a bit more fruit forward from this wine and you even get hints of citrus on the nose and tongue. Add to it, cherry, wild berries, mint and even oregano and you can imagine that this luscious wine will go well with any game dish as well as heavy stews, perfect for fall and winter months. It also goes well with grilled meats (we paired it with steak on the grill), a mozzarella and tomato salad with basil and string beans.
The 2011 Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino is also a delicious bottle and a must for your bucket list. I love oak and wood — always have and feel I probably always will, but that’s a personal preference. They age this wine in small and wood barrels – Barriques or Tonneaux – of French oak once the malolactic fermentation has been completed and this one aged for around 36 months, a third of that time in the oak/wooden barrels. Like the other cousins in this category we’ve talked about thus far, this also exudes garnet and ruby red. While cherries are at the core of this gem as well, the bouquet is a little spicier than the others and you even catch hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
The grape variety is 100% Sagrantino and it is aged in small wood barrels. It’s most definitely a very full bodied wine that will pair well with any game or red meat dish as well as make a lovely accompaniment to more mature cheeses. According to the vineyard, it will mature for at least ten years if stored properly. We tasted it with spare ribs rubbed with smoked Bourbon spices, a mozzarella tomato salad and asparagus – oh so yum! Perticaia is at the center of Umbria, among the hills cultivated with olive groves and vineyards, surrounded by medieval towers, villages and castles. They have nearly 15 hectares of vineyards, of which more than 7 are of the Sagrantino grape variety, 4 of Sangiovese, 2 of Colorino and 2 of Trebbiano Spoletino.
A Bit of Umbrian and Montefalco History
This region of Umbria is particularly special. Montefalco called, because of its location “The Balcony of Umbria”, is the area of cultivation of Sagrantino, but it is also a land rich in history and tradition. Montefalco is known as one of the “most beautiful towns in Italy” and the original city walls encloses the ancient town and is interrupted only by the four medieval doors. Montefalco is also one of the sanctuaries of Umbrian art in particular, the Church-Museum of San Francesco, which houses works by Perugino and Benozzo Gozzoli and the Church of Sant’Agostino with frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. the “Corsa dei Bovi” (Race of the Bulls), which takes place in mid-August every year, is a testimony of the rich and ancient folk traditions that are proudly passed down and kept alive. La “Strada del Sagrantino” (Sagrantino Road) crosses and connects the towns of Bevagna, Gualdo Cattaneo, Castel Ritaldi and Giano dell’Umbria, with castles and villages rich in archaeological finds.
Our favorite? It’s hard to say as we felt that they all made for great everyday drinking wines. Given that it’s summer in northern California (which means cooler temperatures and fog), we’ve been drinking more red than white lately, particularly with grilled meats and warmer vegetables. The 2008 Collepiano Sagrantino di Montefalco probably made my top vote list however, largely because of it’s jammy-like character which makes it a powerful and bold drinking wine with grilled red meats, which we’ve been doing a lot of in recent weeks. It was aged for 22 months in French oak and has an aging potential of 10-15 years. We did use the Venturi aerator on this wine as well, which helped to open it up just a little faster. On the tongue in addition to berry and cherry, you’ll be pepper, clove, vanilla and balsamic notes. Oh so YUM!!
Other similar wines below.
Photo credit: talk-a-vino.com. Other scenic photos taken from winery’s websites.