La Strada Del Sagrantino in Umbria
From the Diary of Axel Ritenis (2010)
“La Strada del Sagrantino (The Sagrantino Road) is the advised route for discovering the Sagrantino wine of Umbria.Dubbed by some as the “green heart of Italy”, this area of Umbria is known for its lush vegetation and heritage-rich Medieval hamlets. Sagrantino is the best known DOC denomination wine from here, and the wine trail includes an assortment of publicly-managed consortiums and private wineries guaranteed to offer the wine tourist a unique experience.It is possible to tour the zone of Montefalco and Bevagna tasting the Sagrantino and Rosso di Montefalco wines on the way, as well as purchasing fine olive oil directly from the producers.The wine route sits in the centre of Umbria, an equal distance south of Perugia and north of Terni. The towns and comune of reference are, in a clockwise direction, Bevagna, Montefalco, Castel Ritaldi, Giano dell’Umbria and Gualdo Cattaneo.”
Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG Secco and Passito
Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG or Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG wines are named after the Sagrantinogrape from which they are made. Cultivated for centuries on the hills of Umbria, Sagrantino is considered autochthonous, although there are various theories as to its origin. Some believe it to have come from Spain, others say it was imported by the first Franciscan friars, and others still claim that it was brought into Italy by the Saracens. This DOCG makes a major contribution to the reputation the Region of Umbria has earned as producer of fine wines, known and consumed by popes and governors during the Renaissance.
Sagrantino Passito goes well with unleavened sweet pastries, especially cookies, and crostate (tarts) with blackberry or red fruit jams. It is drunk as a meditation wine or, when aged, with sharp pecorino cheeses. Sagrantino Secco is suitable roasts, venison, furred game and hard cheeses.
Montefalco Rosso DOC
Made from 60-70% Sangioveseand 10-15% Sagrantino grapes, with the addition of a maximum 30% of other non-aromatic red grape varieties.
Montefalco Rosso is suitable for pork, stewed lamb and mutton, grilled and braised red meats, game and sharp aged pecorino cheeses.
Colli Martani Grechetto DOC
Made from a minimum 85% Grechetto grapes with the addition of a maximum 15% other non-aromatic white grape varieties grown in the production area. The “Colli Martani” controlled designation of origin (DOC) may include the following types: Rosso; Bianco; Trebbiano; Grechetto; Grechetto di Todi; Sangiovese and Sangiovese Riserva; Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Sauvignon Riserva; Merlot and Merlot Riserva; Sauvignon; Chardonnay; Riesling and Spumante.
Colli Martani Grechetto best accompanies light dishes: fish and shellfish appetizers, pasta with seafood sauces in bianco, fine roasted sea fish with extra virgin olive oil. It should be drunk within two years from the vintage year.
The Benincasa farm, established in the 1960s by Domenico Benincasa, is situated between the areas of Gualdo Cattaneo and Bevagna, in the green heart of Umbria. This location, in the south of the city of Perugia and 20 km far from that of Assisa, is in the heart of the prestigious Montefalco grapevine area and is the native land of the famous and precious wine Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. The farm covers 46 hectares, 10 of which are planter with grapevines and 18 with olive trees. The rest compromises arable land, woods and truffle fields.
In the 1970s Domenico Benincasa was the first to establish a vineyard exclusively planted in the Sagrantino variety. This focus led to Benincasa wines becoming the inaugural member of “Albo dei Produttori di Sagrantin di Montefalco DOCG”. After the 2000 harvest, the vineyard passed to Benincasa’s third generation: Marco and Roberto Alimenti, the founder’s grandsons.
Wines tasted: We tasted the Montefalco Rossa DOC which is a blend of Sangiovese 70 %, Sagrantino 15% and Merlot 15% and is medium bodied and mellow, but with a pleasant regional bouquet, and I remember thinking to myself how good it would be if I could get this at my local Waitrose or Oddbins store for a bit over a fiver!
Then we also had an excellent wine Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG which had both good bouquet, complexity on the palate and the typicity and power, excellent length to make it an exceptionally good and memorable wine.
The Cantina Novelli is designed to be tasted the same way its best wines are tasted to fully enhance your wine-tasting experience.
The winery is surrounded by vineyards and a secular oak grove, in the splendid hills of Montefalco, within view of cities and towns rich in history and art. The Cantina Novelli extends 3000 square metres, of which an area of 600 square metres is reserved for wine tasting and hospitality events. The large and harmonious spaces reward their guests with the highest standards of hospitality.
Cantina Novelli’s mission is to recover and promote the native varietals of the region. Those varietals with a long tradition tied to the territory. In this way, Cantina Novelli seeks to become a true ambassador for its area of origin, investing in several research projects, such as the recovery of the extraordinary white grape, Trebbiano Spoletino, in collaboration with Prof. Attilio Scienza of the University of Milan.
In addition, Cantina Novelli launched a sparkling line in pioneering collaboration with France, producing Sagrantino Rosè de Noir and Trebbiano Spoletino Blanc de Blanc, both made in the traditional method. A great Grechetto, a Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG made with 100 % Sagrantino grapes which is one of the few DOCGs in Italy that has been cultivated more than 400 years. The Montefalco Rosso DOC, a blend of the Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The Trebbiano Spoletino IGT, made of 100 % Spoletino grapes is a historic white grape varietal indigenous to Umbria that Cantina Novelli recently rediscovered through an extensive research project with the University of Milan.
Wines tasted: We started with Trebbiano Spoletino sparkling version. For its 2007 vintage, a pioneering collaboration began between Umbria, Italy and Alsace, France, producing the first Sagrantino Rose de Noir and Trebbiano Spoletino Blanc de Blanc sparkling wines, both created using the traditional method.
Then we tasted a very special white wine, I was particularly impressed with the Trebbiano Spoletino IGT DOC, characterised by impressive structure and finesse and not surprisingly it was awarded a Silver Medal in the DECANTER WINE AWARDS 2010.
From the reds we tasted the full-bodied red grape Montefalco Sagrantino 2006 DOCG (commended in the Decanter Wine awards) and the Montefalco Rosso DOC. The Montefalco Rosso is the perfect expression of the Montefalco territory, created using grapes Sagrantino and Sangiovese of Umbria.
Cantina Dionigi has been producing fine wines since 1896, when Gabriele Dionigi moved his family from Assisi to the beautiful hills near Bevagna. He realised immediately the type of cultivation that the land was best suited for: olives and vines. In fact, there existed, as now, a magical combination of altitude, climate and soil type that, together, form an environment whose outstanding products have always been greatly appreciated.
Over the years, the family has carefully selected the varieties of olive and vine that best complement this environment and, consequently, the best techniques for transforming these products into DOP. extra virgin olive oil and DOCG wines, both with unmistakeable body and taste.
Today, they produce Montefalco Rosso, Sagrantino di Montefalco (both sweet and dry versions) and the generous Grechetto dei Colli Martani, as well as other prestigious wines.
Even now, the descendants of Gabriele tend their olive groves and vineyards with the same intense care and passion, permanently striving to improve the quality of their products, more for their own satisfaction than for that of their customers!
Wines tasted: Whilst as a journalist, I normally object to working on a Sunday, with a little bit of coaxing, I came to appreciate the merits of the Grechetto dei Colli Martani, with great mouthfeel, flavour and intensity and a long lingering finish, perhaps the flavour reminded me of stonefruit and fresh acidity and sublime balance. The reds were also good and especially memorable was the Passito made from the Merlot grape which is a considerable rarity… delicious!
For more information visit www.stradadelsagrantino.it
Staff Correspondent – Connoisseur Magazine