It was a beautifully sunny and brisk afternoon when we visited the sprawling Caprai vineyards in Montefalco in late January. It was only days before a once-every-two-decades snowstorm halted movement across Italy but we could still stand outside at the base of the vineyards in as winemaker extraordinaire Marco Arnaldo took us on our first journey into what makes the Sagrantino grape, and Umbrian wines overall, special.
He should know. He manages the 41-year-old family business and has been at the forefront of cutting edge research into new Sagrantino clones, in what he calls the “fruitful collaboration,” with the University of Milan, since 1988. What he has spearheaded is every grape’s dream: a spot on the top indigenous varietals in Italy.
This was the still the beginning of our adventure in Italy for the International Wine
and Tourism Conference and Marco spoiled us with the 25 Anni, a Sagrantino so named in celebration of the estate’s 25th anniversary in 1996 for its first vintage, 1993.
We didn’t realize then that 25 Anni was a pure-varietal Sagrantino that is as dark and perfect of an native grape as you could find in Umbria, and specifically in Montefalco. It’s deep ruby to purple in color and screams of blackberry and dark plum aromas with a smooth vanilla undertone. Thaddeus raved about the grape – and Marco’s wine rendition of it – for weeks after the trip. “On the palate, the tannins were like a vice grip with that dark fruit and just the slightest hint of pepper,” he said. “It’s a light pepper, not even quite white, but just enough to let you know it’s there.”
With such a strong tannin finish, this was a wine that could hold its own on its own. Marco said it should be aged for 10 to 15 years, but easily can withstand 20 years.
We were also big fans of the Lungarotti 2007, a fine expression itself of the grape that has given Umbria yet another reason to shine.
Have to give a shout out to the Arnaldo-Caprai extra virgin olive oil I’ve been craving for oh so many months now. It was the greatest addition to a number of mid winter meals, particularly the soups we learned how to make in Italy!