Posted by: Andy Kelly
Collepiano Sagrantino di Montefalco has probably been the surprise of the year so far. Learn more about this stunning little wine from a relatively little known DOCG in the heart of Italy.
So, we were recently invited out by my sister in law and her better half to celebrate my partners birthday. We were heading to restaurant that neither my partner or I had been to in a long time and were probably in no rush to go back to in the near future. However, my sister in law and her partner (henceforth Katy and Twigg) know a thing or two about fine dining, so I knew that we were likely in for a treat as they had decided on where we were eating.
We had a good long look at the wine list and I insisted that either Katy or Twigg pick the wine and we would just crack on. We played a little bit of a game where I tried to guess what region and what grape variety we were drinking (I was miles out, literally!), but in my defence I had become distracted. I had become distracted because I knew that Collepiano immediately belonged in wine heaven.
For a 5 year old wine, it was already beginning to brown in the glass, and the nose was a pronounced bouquet of oak, black cherries that smelt fresh, plums and just a hint of earthy truffle.
The first glass was very good, and the notes of truffle really came to the fore. Oaky notes were prevalent, and the black cherries were joined with blackberry, blueberry and a touch of cassis. The finish was never ending, and it made me stop in my tracks as I just let the earthy notes envelop my palate. The tannins were supple, well integrated, and there was a hint of chocolate as it went down too.
I was fortunate enough to have a second glass (sadly, all 4 of us were drinking it and I really didn't want to share after the first!), and that's when it really came into it's own. It was really well balanced, and on that long finish, the earthy notes gave way to a lovely black peppery spice that I just couldn't get enough of.
Now, I may sound like a philistine here, but I've never really explored wine pairing with food and I've never truly embraced it. I believe that if you think a certain wine goes with any food then you knock yourself out but, with the Collepiano, I really did feel like the wine was enhanced by the spiciness of my food and they complemented each other very well. It was like one of those light bulb moments in your head where I just went "Oh I get it now"!
Needless to say that the Collepiano was enjoyed by all four of us and we each commented on how it complemented our food.
We paid approx. £50 in the restaurant but after quick browse on Wine Searcher, I was able to find bottles from around the £37 mark. This is an absolute steal for a wine of this quality and I'm surprised at how little the mark up was in the restaurant.
It really was the icing on the cake and it was partly the catalyst for us heading to a local wine bar owned by the restaurant around the corner. Here, we indulged in an Amarone and a Bolgheri and, whilst they were very good, neither of them could hold a candle to the Collepiano.
We have Arnaldo-Caprai to thank for this gem of a wine. Het founded the winery in 1971 and ever since his son, Marco, took over in 1988 it has gone from strength to strength. The 1993 vintage, or 25 Anni, received 97 points from The Wine Advocate and the winery itself has been receiving a steady stream of awards from day one. A quick browse over the website gives you some excellent information about the winery and its history. I'm pleased to see that they offer tours (I'm in Rome in the near future and I'm very tempted to pay a visit), and they've also branched out into beer by brewing an IPA. The 50 Anni is just around the corner too so I'll be keeping an eye on its release date. I will say that the website itself is not the easiest to navigate, and the translation from Italian to English leaves you needing to read the same sentences over and over to fully understand what is trying to be put across.
Sagrantino di Montefalco can be found in Umbria and it has enjoyed DOCG status since 1992. Like much of Italy, Umbria has a long winemaking tradition dating back to the Middle Ages when Benedictine Monks would cultivate the vines. Umbria quickly established itself as a key winemaking region in Italy and laws were passed as early as the 15th century to regulate production.
In central Italy Sangiovese is often the king but in Sagrantino, it definitely has a worthy pretender to the throne. It is in Montefalco that Sagrantino flourishes, and it's thought that the limestone/clay soils of the region really allow the grape variety to shine. It is highly tannic (though it was very well integrated in the Collepiano), often very acidic, and has decent ageing potential of up to 10-15 years. Expect both barrel and bottle ageing, with an ABV of between 14-14.5%. It is not quite known where Sagrantino originates from, but there is consensus among historians that the word "Sagra" or festival means that a version of Sagrantino was used in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.
So, there you have it. A complete barn burner of a wine that blew me away. Yes, I may have enjoyed it all the more because I was out with people I love spending time with. But, the fact that we all loved it, and that it has helped me appreciate just how wine and food pairing can work, means it belongs in wine heaven. Sometimes, the best wines are the ones that catch you by surprise and this wine, coupled with this grape variety from this region, have completely hoodwinked me.
Cheers to Arnaldo & Marco. I look forward to plenty of freebies on my visit when I tell you about this review...on a website you will have never heard of...which will likely not do anything to raise your profile...
And apologies to Twigg, for spilling a glass of wine over you mate. Thank god your jeans were black and that your phone turned out to be your plate of cheese....