Posts tagged ‘sagrantino di montefalco’

A New Direction for Sagrantino

Filippo Antonelli (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


Sagrantino di Montefalco is a wonderfully distinct red wine from a small area in Umbria not far from the towns of Assisi and Spoleto. Designated as a DOCG wine, it is produced entirely from the Sagrantino grape, found only in this territory.

While the zone for Sagrantino may be modest in size, the wine is anything but diminutive. This is a robust red with plenty of spice and herbal notes along with big fruit concentration in most years. But what may be most distinct about this variety is the level of tannins, which is greater than Nebbiolo;  indeed, Sagrantino is probably the most tannic red variety in all of Italy.

The job then for local vintners is to tame these tannins and some do it better than others. One of the most successful producers of Sagrantino di Montefalco is Antonelli San Marco – usually known simply as Antonelli; its owner is the engaging and easy-going Filippo Antonelli.

Antonelli is a traditional producer, meaning his preferred method of wood aging is in large casks. This makes a great deal of sense when you have a very tannic variety, as small barrels actually increase tannins; as Sagrantino doesn’t need to be more tannic, why use barriques?

Since 1979, Antonelli has been producing some of the most traditional and elegant bottlings of Sagrantino di Montefalco (as well as a scrumptious Passito Sagrantino with delicious black raspberry fruit and a delicate sweetness). His versions emphasize the spice and richness of the variety without ever being out of balance or too intense. His wines never call attention to themselves; they are a wonderful reflection of the soil in which the grapes were grown.

Beginning with the 2003 vintage, Antonelli has released a single vineyard Sagrantino called Chiusa di Pannone. I didn’t get the opportunity to taste that initial bottling, but just last week, I sampled the most recent 2004 bottling. Offering notes of red cherry, sandalwood and cedar, this is medium-full with very good concentration. The oak – the wine was aged first in tonneuau and then in large casks – is quite subtle and the tannins are quite sleek. The acidity is ideal and there is excellent fruit persistence in the finish. 2004 was a wonderful year in Montefalco and Antonelli took advantage of the mild weather to craft one of the most complete and complex bottlings of Sagrantino di Montefalco I’ve tasted in a long, long time. Look for at least 10-12 years of cellaring potential with this wine – maybe more – and pair it with dishes ranging from roast pork to venison stew.

You too often associate Sagrantino di Montefalco with power and not with finesse. How nice that Antonelli is imbuing this wine with a new identity. Perhaps this 2004 bottling, which received a Tre Bicchieri rating from Gambero Rosso will give Sagrantino di Montefalco a new-found respect among the great Italian red wines!

March 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm Leave a comment

The Decade’s Best Producers – Part Three


Alois Lageder (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


Here is part three of my list of the Top Italian Wine Producers from the first decade of the millennium:


Alois Lageder

One of the most thoughtful and considerate men I have ever met, Alois Lageder has been producing wines of wonderful varietal purity and clarity for the past two decades. His “Benefizium” Pinot Grigio is one of the two or three finest examples of this variety in Italy, while his “Cor Romigberg” is a stunning cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon. This past decade, Lageder increased his efforts with organically produced wines. Individuals such as Alois Lageder are rare – his wines reflect his thoughtful nature.

Elena Walch

Elena Walch and her husband Werner continue to dazzle with their lineup of wines, especially with the “Kastelaz” Gewurztraminer, the “Castel Ringberg” Sauvignon and the superb blended white, “Beyond the Clouds.” Consistent excellence is what this estate is all about!

Cantina Tramin

Winemaker Willi Sturz quietly continues his brilliant work at this great cooperative winery. The “Nussbaumer” Gewurztraminer is one of Italy’s best white wines, while the blended white “Stoan” is another exceptional offering. Also highly recommended are the “Urban” Lagrein and the “Montan” Sauvignon. These wines represent the heart and soul of Alto Adige.



Under the leadership of Sandro Boscaini, this estate continues to be one of the leaders of Amarone. The regular bottling known as “Costasera” is beautifully balanced, while the cru bottlings, “Campolongo di Torbe” and “Mazzano” are more powerful, yet still quite refined. 


It’s a bit of a broken record, but Roerto Anselmi continues to dazzle with his Garganega-based whites, especially the simple “San Vicenzo” and the “Capitel Foscarino.” Then there is the gorgeous dessert offering “I Capitelli.” A benchmark producer, to be sure.

Roberto Anselmi and his daughter Lisa (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


Stefano Accordini

Modern style Amarone, but with nicely integrated oak, unlike some of his competitors. The “Acinatico” bottling is first-rate and ages beautifully, while the “Il Fornetto” made in the finest vintages, is a classic. Also look for his superb Recioto della Valpolicella.


How nice to know that Leonildo Pieropan still makes one of the classic bottlings of Soave Classico and prices it for everyday consumption! His top bottlings of Soave, “La Rocca” and “Calvarino” are exotic, deeply concentrated and ageworthy.

Ca’ La Bionda

Pietro and Alessandro Castellani produce traditionally styled, elegant, sumptuous bottlings of Amarone that are a sheer pleasure to consume. The “Ravazzol” bottling is outstanding, while the regular bottling of Amarone is excellent. Also worth seeking out are his bottlings of Valpolicella (no Ripasso here).

Ca’ Rugate

Under the winemaking talent of Michele Tessari, Ca’ Rugate has become one of the leading producers of Soave. There’s so much here to love, from the stainless steel-aged “San Michele” (a wonderful value) to the oak-aged “Monte Alto” to the lush; lightly sweet “La Perlara”, one of the finest bottlings of Recioto di Soave, this is a model for other Soave producers. Lately, reds have become a major part of this estates as well including a delicious Valpolicella and a delightful Amarone.



Beautiful, traditionally made bottlings of Sagrantino di Montefalco, a rich, complex red wine that is one of Italy’s finest and unfortuntely, most underrated. The Montefalco Rosso is also worth seeking out, as is the velvety Passito.


Always a very good producer, this has become an excellent one, thanks in part to the winemaking talent of Stefano Chioccoli. Round, ripe and flavorful, these are modern offerings, but maintain the character of the Sagrantino grape. The Passito is delicious!

January 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm 2 comments

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