April showers bring….. new Italian wines to the city? Who needs May flowers when you can try some fabulous vino. While Sagrantino is not "new" per se, I bet it’s something many of you haven’t tried before. Well get to it! April is Sagrantino month in NYC, and for those of you still trying to find your way through the wine map of the world, this one is just off the beaten path east of its better known neighbor, Tuscany, in Umbria.
The wine is Sagrantino di Montefalco and is uniquely representative of the area, which according to some local producers I spoke with, has not been downtrodden by tourists…yet. Though I assume once I head over there to drink this wine in its natural environment I would be considered a tourist as well. I don’t know why or when that word took on a negative meaning, but I suppose it has something to do with the fact that natives often feel tourists do not appreciate the uniqueness and authenticity of their land. I once took a good friend with me to Greece for the summer. I was horrified at her daily quest for McDonald's or pizza, and insistence on dipping only her big toe in the crystal blue Aegean, because she was "unsure" of what was in the water…the rest of her body cooled off in the chlorine pool at the hotel which I suppose was a lot healthier…
Back to wine…this small town of Montefalco in northeastern Umbria emphasizes its own unique wine, a hearty red made from the local Sagrantino grape. These wines are not for the faint of heart, or mouth for that matter. Sagrantino has more tannin than I’ve probably ever experienced, but I happen to like tannic wines. Again, this is where personal tastes come into play and wine becomes more of a subjective thing.
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I recently tried a Sagrantino I loved, but boy did I feel that one on my cheeks! It is called Perticaia, a Sagrantino di Montefalco from the 2006 vintage. It is a powerful dry red wine, with a woody and earthy nose. On the palette it displays an abundance of jammy fruit like blackberries, plum and even prune. I hated prunes as a kid, who didn’t? But I have to say they make a nice flavor complement to a tannic red wine. Perhaps my parents should have given me more wine to get my daily prune intake instead of forcing me to eat them individually before I could leave the breakfast table.
The wine is complex but nicely balanced for a long smooth finish. It’s not shy about its smokiness either. Sagrantino wines should be aged a few years at least. You will want to pair this with something that can stand up to it, and I’d suggest you lose your inner vegan. Pork chops, ribs, pancetta, etc. should all be invited to your Sagrantino tasting party this month.
Other notable producers from the area include Antonelli, Scacciadiavoli, and Castelbuono. Look for them making appearances this month at some of the city’s top Italian tratorrias like my favorite, Il Buco which now has expanded to include Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria next door. Just when you jaded New Yorkers thought there was nothing more to love in this city…