A Magical Moment in Montefalco

Montefalco is a town located in Umbria, Italy which is a region just south of Tuscany. It takes about 2 hours to drive to Montefalco from Rome. This is definitely a place you need to visit if you have an interest in history, art, the outdoors, food and wine. Montefalco is also home to the “Jewel of Umbria” known as Sagrantino.

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Montefalco is a medieval city which dates back to the ancient times of the Etruscans in the 13th and 14th century. Towers, and castles dot the surrounding hills. Churches abound in this town which was the birthplace of 8 saints. There are many examples of medieval and renaissance art. Beautiful frescoes are found in many of the old buildings. Since Montefalco is  located at the top of a hill there are fantastic views of the surrounding region. The countryside is a perfect place for hiking, biking, and outdoor activities. Only 5,500 residents live in Montefalco which is why it retains its small town charm.

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Montefalco has the perfect climate for growing olive trees, many types of vegetables, and grapes. Sagrantino is the native grape of the region. Since Sagrantino only grows around Montefalco it is known as the “Jewel of Umbria”.  The name Sagrantino is derived from the latin word for sacrement. In ancient times this native grape was cultivated by the monks as they used it for their religious ceremonies. Sagrantino gives low yields and it almost became extinct. Thankfully though Sagrantino was saved. The Consorzio di Montefalco was formed in 1981 and is dedicated to promoting the quality and visibility of the Sagrantino grape. Currently the Consorzio has 227 members.

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Montefalco is a world away as it is a long way to travel to from the West Coast of the United States where I live. Until I can make the journey to Umbria I’ll have to use my imagination. Fortunately the wines from Montefalco can help bridge that distance as each sip has the ability to transport you to the region. Having received 2 wines from the Consorzio di Montefalco I set about to create a magical moment in Montefalco right in my own back yard.

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Perticaia means “plow” in the old language of the Montefalco region. Positive thinking (Penso Positivo) and the plow led Guido Guardigli realize his dream with the creation of his very unique wine using the Sagrantino grapes found only in this territory. Guido’s emblem on the Perticaia label shows 2 letter ‘P’ for the emblem to reflect upon the importance of the plow and positive thinking. This particular wine is comprised of Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15% and Colorino 15% so it is designated as Montefalco Rosso D.O.C. The Italian wine laws state that in order to receive the premium quality designation of Montefalco Rosso D.O.C. the wine must contain 60-70% Sangiovese, 10-15% Sagrantino, and 10-30% other varietals ( such as Merlot, Cabernet, Colorino, etc).

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“If it grows together then it goes together” is an old saying when it comes to food and wine pairing. Nothing says Italy to me like fresh basil, and tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella so a caprese salad was definitely on my mind. I set about foraging for the fresh ingredients in my garden just like they would in Umbria.

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2011 Perticaia, Montefalco Rosso D.O.C. had fresh aromas of raspberry, blackberry, and spice. It was a medium to full bodied wine which tasted of raspberries and cherries. It was so easy to drink. Fresh, with good acidity, and smooth fine grained tannins. Although youthful, the wine was very well balanced and integrated, with a smooth, long finish. The balsamic dressing on caprese salad was a perfect match for the wine. Perticaia also paired very well with the salami and cold cuts featured below.

Trip advisor recommends wine tasting and cooking classes as the top activities to do in Montefalco. There is an official wine trail in the region called “Strada del Sagrantino”. A combination of 74 wineries and vineyards are located on this trail. Given I was using ingredients which can be found in Montefalco I went back to creating my Umbrian experience. Pasta and Mediterranean cuisine are recommended dishes to serve with Perticaia Montefalco Rosso D.O.C. . The spaghettini with fresh picked tomatoes and basil, drizzled with truffle oil and dusted with Pecorino was a perfect accompaniment to the wine.

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Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG is produced by the Lunelli family. In order to receive the DOCG rating this wine must be made of 100% Sagrantino grapes. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG requires a minimum of 29 months aging before release.

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The Lunelli family owns Tenuta Castelbuono in Umbria. The new winery is called Carapace. Carapace means tortoise shell. The copper color of the building along with the shape of the building definitely remind you of a tortoise shell. Despite the very modern architecture the Lunelli family consider themselves “Artisans of Time” and want to be in harmony with nature. Old vines have been painstakingly preserved while new vines are selected from a special Sagrantino cloning selection project. The Lunelli family is focused on sustainability and the winery is currently is the process of obtaining organic certification.

Grilled, smoky, black heirloom tomatoes and squash should be a great complement to Carapace. A juicy grilled rib eye steak, drizzled with balsamic vinegar should pair well with the Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino.

2008 Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG had aromas of blackberry jam, blueberries, rose petals and chocolate. A very sweet but earthy nose made my taste buds begin to salivate. On the palate the wine was rich, powerful, and full bodied. Flavors of sweet black fruit such as blackberries and plums dominated the taste. The tannins were supple and smooth. Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG spends 24 months aging in large oak casks, followed by a minimum of 12 months aging in bottle. The tannins were beautifully integrated, supple and smooth. The finish was long and persistent. A very elegant, well made wine that can age for many years. It paired splendidly with the grilled vegetables and steak.

After dinner, sitting back in the garden, sipping the wines of Montefalco I felt like I had been transported to Montefalco for the evening. I could imagine the medieval village, castles, picturesque views, renaissance art, and vineyards. These 2 wines allowed me to “Discover Sagrantino, Umbria’s Signature Wine” and enjoy a magical moment in Montefalco.

Lisa Stephenson

Certified Specialist of Wine. WSET Diploma student. Slave to the Grape. Traveling the world and tasting fine wines in pursuit of my wine passion.

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