Posts tagged ‘sagrantino’

More Harvest Updates

Sagrantino grapes, Montefalco, Umbria (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Two more harvest updates from Italy:

Filippo Antonelli – proprietor, Antonelli, Montefalco, Umbria

“2011 was a very strange season in Italy: a rather dry spring, a very fresh July and a very warm end of August and September; the results are: in general lower production, a very good vintage for Sangiovese (perfect ripeness), the Sagrantino, compared to Sangiovese, suffered the dryness a little bit more. The paradox is that we are harvesting better grapes of Sagrantino from the worst vineyards (rich soil) compared to the best ones (poor soil). Young vineyards also suffered more than old vineyards.

We are still harvesting, so it’s a little bit early to judge the wines/vintage.”


Evan Byrne – Internal Relationships, Az. Agr. Giovanni Rosso, Serralunga d’Alba

“In terms of this year, the vintage looks very good.  Quantity is small but the quality is high and the wines when finished will probably be similar to 2007.  It is an early harvest, with some of the east-facing slopes such as La Serra and Cerretta doing better.  We have already picked at La Serra and Vigna Rionda and have just Cerretta to come in, with all the grapes from each vineyard looking very healthy.”

Davide Rosso, winemaker, Az. Agr. Giovanni Rosso, Serralunga d’Alba in the La Serra vineyard

(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

October 4, 2011 at 9:16 am Leave a comment

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

Italian Varieties – P to S

Sagrantino vineyards near Montefalco (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Sagrantino vineyards near Montefalco (Photo ©Tom Hyland)




White variety from Abruzzo and Marche. Generally aged in stainless steel, though some vinters barrel age it, achieving a creaminess. Pear and apple aromas.


Lovely red variety of Campania, literally meaning “red feet,” a descriptor for the birds that sit on the vines when they eat the ripe berries. High acid, light tannins and charming fruit flavors of raspberry, cranberry and black cherry. Primarily used as a blending varietal; in small percentages (less than 15%), it cuts the aggressive tannic bite of Aglianico in the great Campanian red, Taurasi. It is also the primary variety in the medium-bodied Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso.


One of Liguria’s most important white varieties with flavors of pineapple and pear with notes of herbs (often rosemary).


Red variety of Friuli with big tannins and deep color and flavors of black fruits. Used only by a few producers and often in blends.

Pinot Bianco

The most widely planted white variety in Alto Adige, this has flavors of apples with a touch of spice. Examples vary from light, crisp and refreshing to more serious bottlings with deep fruit concentration and distinct minerality (such as the top examples from producers such as Cantina Terlano, Cantina Tramin and Alois Lageder.)

Pinot Grigio

Wildy popular white variety grown in several regions of Italy, with the finest bottlings coming from the cool northern regions of Alto Adige and Friuli. Flavors of apple, pear and dried flowers with most examples being quite light and simple. A few producers make single vineyard or special selection bottlings that are more complex. (Known as Pinot Gris in France and other countries.)

Pinot Nero

Known almost everwhere else in the world as Pinot Noir, this is a red variety with moderate tanins, cherry/strawberry fruit and high acidity. A few examples from Piemonte and Tuscany, but the best in Italy are from Alto Adige.


Red variety of Puglia, with deep color, black fruits and plenty of spice. Generally found in southern Pugila and often bottled on its own. DNA related to Zinfandel of California.


White variety from Veneto and Friuli used in the production of the sparkling wine of the same name. Flavors of white peach and lemon, aged in steel tanks.

Prugnolo Gentile

The name for Sangiovese in the town of Montepulciano (used in the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.)




The complete name of this variety is Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso – or “Refosco with a red stalk.” Yields wines of big spice, red fruit and distinctive tannins.

Ribolla Gialla

Charming white variety of Friuli that produces light to medium-bodied wines with high acidity and flavors of pear, lemon, chamomile and dried flowers.


One of the major red varieties of the Valpolicella district with deep color and good fruit (red cherry) intensity and moderate tannins.


Rarely seen red variety grown near Asti in Piemonte that makes a lightly spicy, high acid red.




Red variety of Umbria, grown only in the Montefalco area. Known for its intense tannins, Sagrantino is even more tannic than Nebbiolo. Cherry fruit and distinct spiciness as well. Sagrantino is made in both a dry and sweet (passito) version.

Ripe Sagrantino Grapes (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Ripe Sagrantino Grapes (Photo ©Tom Hyland)



One of Italy’s most famous and widely planted red varieties, this is best known for its use in three famous Tuscan reds: Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. High acid, garnet color and fresh red cherry fruit along with notes of cedar; today some modernists have tweaked Sangiovese to deepen the color and add spice and vanilla from small oak barrels. Sangiovese is also planted in Umbria, Marche and Emilia Romagna.


Known as Sauvignon Blanc throughout the rest of the world, this white variety is found most famously in Friuli and Alto Adige, where it produces assertive wines with bracing acidity and flavors of asparagus, pea and freshly mown hay. Also grown along the coasts of Tuscany.


Red variety from Friuli that produces lighter reds with cherry, currant fruit, high acidity and light tannins. Also known as Vernatsch.


Red variety of Friuli with big tannins and spice. Only a few producers work with this grape.


Red variety of Campania with lively acidity, dark berry fruit and moderate tannins. Usually a blending variety, but also used to make a lightly sparkling red wine.


Red variety of Puglia with deep purple color and big tannins. Usually part of a blend, but sometimes bottled on its own. Interestingly, the name of the grape is loosely transalted as “the back of a donkey,” perhaps because of its productivity in the vineyard.



August 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm 2 comments

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