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Sagrantino

Intense, full-bodied, tannic and well-structured, Sagrantino wine is produced from the pure vinification of the Umbrian vine of the same name. It is probably of Greek or Middle Eastern origin and was imported to Italy by missionary monks during the Middle Ages. It owes its name to the ancient Franciscan tradition of using it to perform sacred rites, although today it is one of the most prestigious and sought-after Italian red wines abroad. Its best versions are produced within the denomination of Montefalco, which includes an area comprising five municipalities in the province of Perugia. According to the regulations, the wine must be matured for at least 30 months in the cellar, of which at least 12 months in wood. It is characterised by an elegant bouquet of wild berries and spices, a strong impact on the palate, a significant tannic texture and an intense and clearly recognisable personality, which is destined to develop for a long time in the bottle.

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Intense, full-bodied, tannic and well-structured, Sagrantino wine is produced from the pure vinification of the Umbrian vine of the same name. It is probably of Greek or Middle Eastern origin and was imported to Italy by missionary monks during the Middle Ages. It owes its name to the ancient Franciscan tradition of using it to perform sacred rites, although today it is one of the most prestigious and sought-after Italian red wines abroad. Its best versions are produced within the denomination of Montefalco, which includes an area comprising five municipalities in the province of Perugia. According to the regulations, the wine must be matured for at least 30 months in the cellar, of which at least 12 months in wood. It is characterised by an elegant bouquet of wild berries and spices, a strong impact on the palate, a significant tannic texture and an intense and clearly recognisable personality, which is destined to develop for a long time in the bottle.

From Franciscan Monks to Michelin-Starred Restaurants: the History of a Sacred Red Wine

Montefalco Sagrantino is an Umbrian wine speciality with very ancient origins. Pliny the Elder, in his Naturalis Historia, praised the agricultural and production methods of the territory of Mevania, which corresponds to the present-day municipalities of Bevagna and Montefalco. These practices were based on the cultivation and vinification of a grape known as 'hirtiola'. It is possible, however, that the present variety was imported into Umbrian territory only from the 14th century onwards, thanks to the activities of Franciscan friars returning from their travels in Asia. The name of the variety remains closely linked to its history as it most likely derives from the Franciscan custom of producing passito red wines for liturgical services and religious festivals. Its etymology is therefore strongly connected to the Latin word 'sacer' and to traditions that are still folklorically celebrated in the Umbria region. The first evidence of 'sagrantino' grapes dates back to 1549 and refers to a commercial document of purchase of grape must by the Jewish merchant Guglielmo and his wife Stella. This name, used to identify a red wine typical of the area, only began to appear in the 19th century, when it began to be recognised throughout Italy. In the meantime, the cultivation of this grape had become a key feature of the area's activities and the historian Sergio Calandri mentions it in his publication 'Saggio geografico, storico, statistico del territorio Pontificio' (Geographical, historical and statistical essay on the Papal territory).

During the 20th century, the vine was in danger of disappearing, before being rediscovered and developed by a brilliant circle of producers from the 1960s onwards. This led to the granting of DOC status in 1979, the founding of a Consortium for the Protection of the vine in 1981 and its promotion as DOCG in 1992. Since the beginning of the 1990s, this red wine has been the object of growing interest and appreciation, becoming one of the most sought-after and well-known expressions also outside Italy. Alongside historic examples such as those of Arnaldo Caprai, Milziade Antano and Sagrantino Adanti, today we also find elegant and prestigious wines such as those of Tabarrini, which can be found in Michelin-starred restaurants all over the world, or those of Paolo Bea, who was one of the pioneers in Italy of very traditional and uncompromising agricultural methods.


The Production Area According to Regulations

By law, this red wine is only produced from the grape variety of the same name in an area that includes the entire municipality of Montefalco and parts of the municipalities of Bevagna, Gualdo Cattaneo, Castel Ritaldi and Giano dell'Umbria. These localities are all in the province of Perugia and are recognised as the historical birthplace of the vine as well as being extraordinarily suitable areas for viticulture. These are very beautiful and characteristic hillside villages, with a strong artistic and religious tradition, where the best Sagrantino coexists with excellent expressions of Sangiovese. The origins of the current name of the main municipality, once called Coccorone, can be attributed to Frederick II, who hunted in these areas with his falcon.

Both the passito and the dry versions, both included in the DOCG established in 1992, are allowed, provided that they have an alcohol content of at least 13%. The regulations also state that the wine must be aged in the cellar for at least 30 months from the 1st of December of the harvest year, of which at least 12 months in wooden barrels. This is necessary to soften the untamed and powerful personality of the product, as well as to smooth out the distinct tannins. When released on the market, this type of wine is equipped with great longevity, to the point that it can continue to develop in the bottle for decades if it is well preserved.


Intensity, Importance and Gastronomic Pairings

Sagrantino stands out in the wide range of Umbrian wines for its power, intensity and structure. It always presents itself with a consistent, very intense ruby red colour, with possible purple shades that become garnet with ageing. The characteristic aroma is reminiscent of blackberries although, in most cases, also all berries, earth, coffee, liquorice and many sweet spices are present. On the palate it is warm, concentrated, textured, intense and with the tannins clearly evident, giving it extraordinary ageing potential. In its best versions, the tannins and elegant freshness perfectly balance an aromatic concentration of rare richness and depth. These characteristics create a liquid representation of the charm of this ancient land full of history.

Given these unique qualities, which have made it famous throughout the world, Sagrantino is best paired with game, roasts, very mature cheeses and savoury dishes based on black truffles. The tradition of the area dictates, for example, that it should be paired with roasts, casseroles or stews of wild boar or lamb, as well as jugged pheasant, venison salami, donkey stews, mature pecorino cheese and a wide variety of well seasoned stewed sausages. The ancient and characteristic passito version, on the other hand, goes perfectly with dry desserts or dishes based on chocolate, nuts, chestnuts and sweet spices. All of these combinations ensure that one of the oldest and most characteristic red wines of the Italian peninsula, which has become famous for its power and a personality that fully reflects the magnificent production area, is perfectly enhanced.

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