Sagrantino on a Budget

terre-di-trinci-sagrantinoA comparative newcomer to the world wine scene, Umbria’s Sagrantino, a hugely tannic grape that features more polyphenols than any other vinefra, was mostly used for sweet passito wine until the 1970s. As modern winemaking technique evolved, a group of Montefalco-based winemakers began to tame this bitter and foreboding grape. Full-bodied, with an aromatic nose of herbs and earth, it features big cherry flavor and immense tannins that reward bottle aging and crave hearty food.

Not only difficult to vinify, Sagrantino is rare. Almost exclusively grown in Umbria, it’s only planted on 250 acres and produced by 25 or so wineries. As such, wines made from 100% Sagrantino, from the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG, have traditionally been on the more expensive side, even at the entry level. (A few years ago, it was almost impossible to find a bottle stateside under $30.)

For whatever reason, we’re starting to see more break that $20 barrier. In late 2012, the Chairman brought us Montechiara Sagrantino di Montefalco 2005, a nice example of the style at an even nicer price of $19.99. (Luis and I loaded up.) This winter, the Chairman struck again with a $17.99 bottle from Villa Mora, and the PLCB luxury buyer quickly countered with one from Terre de Trinci for $14.99.

Are these values too good to be true? The Villa Mora Sagrantino di Montefalco 2007, unfortunately, is a complete disappointment. Despite the great price, it is marred by off odors of synthetic rubber, blocking anything of interest in both the nose and palate. It’s the only Sagrantino I’ve ever tried (twice, for the record) that I did not like.

The $15 tariff on Terre de Trinci Sagrantino di Montefalco 2006 seems even more absurd, especially with the 2004 still available (in limited quantities) at $28.99. Having tried the ‘04 last winter, however, it’s clear this cooperative of small growers – whose website claims they were the first to vinify dry Sagrantino in the 1960s – can bring the goods. So why the price drop?

Who cares!?! For fifteen bucks, this is a scorching value. A very nicely made, typical Sagrantino, the nose brings classic notes of earth, anise, macchia and warm spice, with bold cherry fruit on the palate and a fiercely tannic finish. The mid-palate dips slightly, but for this price, it’s hard to complain. Go get ‘em before I do!

Drink now (decant at least 1 hour) or hold 3-5 years. Pair with winter stews or other hearty fare.