At a banquet prepared by acclaimed Italian chef Massimo Bottura for President Barack Obama in Tuscany last May, there was no lack of choice when it came to selecting an all-star roster of wines from the country’s prized vineyards. Not surprisingly, a trinity of sublime reds—a Brunello di Montalcino, a Barolo and a Sassicaia—made the final cut. But so did a Sagrantino, the muscular Umbrian wine from the village of Montefalco that has become a cult favorite among oenologists, sommeliers and celebrities looking for bold new power sips.
With its inclusion at the Obama fête, it looked as if Sagrantino might be ready for its close-up, perhaps even becoming an obsessive collectible in the next decade, just as those other robust Italian reds, the Super Tuscans, were in the 1990s. Certainly Sagrantino prices can compete with the Super T’s: The Sagrantino served to Obama, the 25 Anni 2010 from Arnaldo Caprai, sells for $100; its Spinning Beauty 2006 is $300; and Wine Spectator ratings of the wine from top producers frequently rank 90 points and above. But enthusiasts and vintners are quick to note that Sagrantino, the elixir of a stubbornly quirky grape, is an exacting wine to produce, hence its limited production and its cognoscenti status.
Don’t think you’re behind the oenological curve if Sagrantino isn’t in your wine cellar yet. It’s a relatively new wine, although one with a deep and complicated history. Historians believe Pliny the Elder referenced the grape in the first century, and it’s been made in various forms since the Middle Ages. Modern Sagrantino as a stand-alone wine dates from the late 1970s, and it earned a DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), Italy’s guarantee of authenticity, in 1992.
While the number of Sagrantino cellars in and around Montefalco, the wine’s epicenter, has increased since then, the vineyard area permitted for DOCG wines is still small—roughly 1,507 acres. “The demand is constantly growing, which is why we have increased production, but the number of bottles for a DOCG Sagrantino is contingent on the territory limits,” says Alessandro Lunelli of the Lunelli Group, whose Umbrian estate has been making Sagrantino since 2001.
Another factor is the nature of the grape itself, a high maintenance, low-yielding vine that requires a long growing season. Sagrantino is typically harvested by hand toward the end of October—much later than the August and September harvest of other varietals. “It’s a slow vine and slow wine,” says Donatella Adanti of winery Cantine Adanti in Bevagna, referring to both the growth cycle and the lengthy maturation process needed for one of the most tannic, if not the most tannic, grapes in Italy. “It’s worth waiting a long time to let it be a great wine.”
Getting the tannin component right in the vineyard and cellar is the challenge for every Sagrantino vintner. But finding that equilibrium is essential—the early rap on Sagrantino was that it was too rustic and strongly tannic to make it into the big leagues. Liu Pambuffetti, whose family owns Cantina Scacciadiavoli, one of the oldest wineries in the region, admits, “It’s not easy to make the tannins less astringent while maintaining the personality of Sagrantino.”Per inviare comunicati stampa alla Redazione di CUOREECONOMICO: firstname.lastname@example.org