One of my tasting associates sent a picture this week of a bottle she was enjoying at home - it was Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG, which is a deep rich, tannic red wine from Umbria; vintage 2011. The remarks came back about how good it was and how it was just settling down with respect to the tannin level and the intensity of the wine. Underlying this though was an elevated level of acidity and ripe fruit - even at 9 years of age. This is what I would expect from this wine, though.
Sagrantino is a grape that is in all likelihood indigenous to Umbria, or at least central Italy. For many years it was used to produce grapes that were dried to produce rich, sweet wines of the recioto style. For the past 25-30 years though, much more attention has been on this great grape for dry wines, mainly due to a few producers elevating it to a style that competes with some of the best Italy has to offer. From Umbria, this grape produces wines with extraordinary tannin AND acid - not a typical combination. The tannins in the grape are so high that few other grapes can match it - think antioxidant powers. Early budding, early flowering, and late harvest all equate to a grape with intense color, aromas and flavors - and long aging potential. All of this makes for beautiful wines that have lasting power, often only beginning to show their best at 10 years or more.
Intrigued, I knew I had a bottle of Colpetrone in the cellar, but mine was of the Montefalco Rosso DOC, 2014 (now known as Rosso di Montefalco).
What is interesting is that Colpetrone put a Diam 3 cork in this bottling. Even with a year of aging in barrels, that still means this wine is four years at the time of drinking, so it seems weird that a 3 year estimated cork life would be used(?) My wine was in perfect shape though and the cork was not an issue.
The Rosso is built around Sangiovese and Merlot, as well as Sagrantino. This seems to be a fair and generous combination, as the wine is balanced with ripe red fruit aromatics that carry to the palate. The tannins are firm-ish - a little tight, but well on the way to be resolved with the other components. Beautiful red fruit dominates all the way through the wine. Acidity provides a great counter to the tannin and fruit making this a wine to have with food. We enjoyed with roasted root veggies in broth over polenta - YUM!
Umbria is a region that is landlocked. In fact, it is the only region of Italy that does not touch the sea in some way. This means that the climate is slightly more continental, with colder winters and hotter, dryer summers. Some think this is why the Sagrantino grape is perfectly suited to the region, as it does best when left to ripen over a very long season, allowing for super thick skin development that results in high tannins and deep color/flavor components.
Being in close proximity to Rome, Umbria has been both a get-away and resource since antiquity. Lakes and rivers in the mountains provide refuge from "city life", while ample rolling hills and valleys provide places for a diverse range of grape and other agriculture produce that was able to get to the Roman market fairly quickly. I visited the region in 2007, and was enchanted by the rolling hills, quite countryside and tranquility of the region, despite being just and hour or two form Rome. Orvieto is a beautiful Etruscan city with just enough rusticity left to make you feel like you are a few years behind the rest of the world.
Umbria is one of the regions of Italy, at least from a wine perspective, that does not always get a lot of worldwide attention, but makes solid wines. There are a number of key, classic regions and styles to be aware of, and the Sagrantino wines are certainly part of that list. Salute!
Lioco Winery Carignan Sativa, 2016, Mendocino
Who, what, where, and why does it matter?
Lioco is a winery founded about 15 years ago and now owned by Matt and Sara Licklider. The focus on the winery is to produce wines in a style that is more about nuance, finesse and flavor, rather than power and alcohol. Sourcing fruit from cooler, coastal regions in Santa Cruz, Sonoma and Mendocino, they are able to craft wines that are more in the pleasure than pain spectrum. This Carignan is a prime example of that.
Sourced from a vineyard planted just after WWII, and at elevation of about 2400+ feet, Carignan is not one of those grapes that immediately comes to mind when thinking California wine. Carignan is a grape that is most often seen in blends coming from northern and western Spain and southern France. A compliment to grapes like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, it is often a powerful wine with deep color and flavor. Grown on a higher site (think cooler climate), such as the Pine Meadow AVA vineyard owned by Jim McCutchen, the fruit becomes elegant and berry focused, developing deep intensity, but not high sugars. The back label on the Lioco Carignan boasts tons of information, including the 22.6* Brix, which correlates to the 13.2% alcohol in the wine. Be careful, this wine is a pounder for sure.
Beautiful black raspberry fruit develop on the palate, with supple tannins, giving and immensely drinkable wine. Easy to have this wine with a steak or pizza, it will stack up to more sophisticated dishes as well due to the length of fruit and juicy acidity.
Found at retail for $28 (you may need two bottles)
Check out the winery website here
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With over 25 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.