The Might of Montefalco
“Sagrantino, one of Umbria’s indigenous grape varieties, reminds me of a television celebrity whose lustre has faded. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Sagrantino was enjoying a boom. Back in 1970, only five hectares remained of the variety, which was used chiefly to produce a splendid passito wine for local consumption. Then a few growers began to vinify Sagrantino as a dry wine. Their hefty tannins and high alcohol were not universally admired, but the wines nonetheless built up an avid following.
“Growers from within the regions — and many from outside it — rushed to plant more vineyards on the mostly clay soils around the charming hilltop town of Montefalco itself, and in a handful of other nearby villages, such as Bevagna. Before long, more than 600ha were in production, but then the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco, the growers’ association, called a halt. Sagrantino was an expensive wine and sales were falling behind production …
Changing the recipe
“A decision to increase the maximum percentage of Sagrantino in Montefalco Rosso to 30% is imminent. It would certainly give the wines a more Umbrian typicity. But while leading growers such as Filippo Antonelli favour the change, the region’s most celebrated producer, Marco Caprai, who heads up the estate founded by his father, Arnaldo, thinks the current limit of 15% is still about right …”