You know it really is fall when the Montefalco Sagrantino festival rolls around. Sagrantino is Umbria’s most prestigious red wine and this year most wine maker’s were releasing their 2006 vintage; although some makers will hold the wine in wood longer than the required 12 months to soften some of the characteristic tannic edge. By law, Sagrantino must be made from 100% Sagrantino grapes and it must age for a minimum of 30 months, with at least 12 months in wood.
It’s a tough wine, austere, lean, and really needs to be drunk along with some sort of protein. It makes a fine companion to a good grilled piece of Umbrian meat. What that really means is the wine ranges from paint stripper to a sip from the holy grill, which leads to visions of charred steaks sizzling on that grill. Yes, Holy Grill.
Because palate fatigue is inevitable at these type of events, this year I concentrated on looking for wines that were a bit more unusual and I stayed away from all but a few of the Sagrantino. Palate fatigue syndrome is when you are trying to get a whiff of lavender from your glass, but your brain is saying…”Please….give me some water…!” Wine tastings are hard work!
My hands down favorite new wine is Predara from Romanelli. Light, easy to drink, but full flavored, it would work well with white meats, fish and cheese. And at 6,50 euro a bottle, it won’t cause wallet shock.
An interesting grape that is being resurrected is the Trebbiano Spoletino. A variety of the common Trebbiano grape, the Trebbiano Spoletino was nearly extinct and is now being actively cultivated. We tried it spumante style (bubbly) and still. Cantina Novelli has a Trebbiano Spoletino Riserva that is particularly yummy.
The actual festival is a four-day event, with tastings every evening. The tastings take place in Montefalco’s centro storico, in a gorgeous palazzo. This year they set up crates full of each type of grape so that we could taste them. Great idea! There was also an exhibit of ‘cask art’; who says a barrel has to be boring?
The Enological Sagrantino festival occurs in mid-September, so wine lovers and Umbria lovers, mark it on your calendar for next year.