The Sagrantino grape is one of the only few exclusive Italian red grape varieties that have been in cultivation at least since the late 1800’s.
Being rare and exclusive for most of its winemaking history, it has yet to reach international markets, although its elite reputation has given it much popularity outside the Italian peninsula.
In Italy itself, the grape is hardly to be found outside the Umbria region, where only a handful of vineyards grow the grape.
As a result, the grapes produce has been considered expensive and exclusive.
Sagrantino is both used as a blending agent as well as a grape to produce varietal and pure wines.
Some wines that are very popular in Umbria include almost 95% of Sagrantino content.
Historically, the grape is pretty recent, being introduced in the country sometime in the 1800’s and grown in handful amounts until it gained popularity starting from the 1970’s and 1980’s to other winemaking regions like Australia, California as well as Argentina where the grape is being passed through experimental phases only.
History of Sagrantino
Like several other grape varieties of Italy, the Sagrantino has foggy origins and an unknown history. Despite being referred to as a ‘jewel of Umbria’ at least since the late 20th century, the grape does not have a proper recorded history of its own.
However, its origins can be dated back as early as the 1500’s, when some early, vague records do mention cultivation of Sagrantino.
Quite a few ampelographers point out to its Greek origin, so that gives it an ancient origin; while others assert that it was none other than the French monks and friars who brought the grape from France.
One theory says that it was St. Francis, who brought the grape from the Middle East as a sacramental fruit to be used during the festive season.
However, it first properly written record is an 1879 record of the Ampelographic Commission of the district of Foligno that mentioned several facts and content based on Sagrantino grape.
In fact, the Montefalco region, the only producer of Sagrantino has records going back to the 11th century of vineyard cultivation.
Winemaking in Italy is thus an ancient practice and a tradition in its own right. All these cultivations of Sagrantino were headed towards extinction because of its very low profile and handful production that in the 20th century, most of its vineyards either got replaced or forgotten.
It was only until the as late as 1971 when a Caprai winery is said to have instilled some international attention towards the grape.
It was in 1979 then, that Montefalco received the DOC status by the Italian government and wine authorities and that has since then, great helped to preserve this exclusive variety.
Sagrantino possesses some unique flavours and characteristics that have helped earn its name as mysterious vine.
The grape produces very tannic, strong flavours with ruby, dark purple beverages. Part of its color intensity is mostly because of its high tannin content.
The Montefalco region is the only region in Italy that produces the grape in appreciable quantities so its climate and topographical features need to be noted here.
Possessing a cool, hilly climate with seemingly dry soils, Montefalco thus is the ideal cultivating ground for Sagrantino.
In addition, it’s a long fermenting variety with 30 months compulsorily reserved for its maturation in oak barrels that provide it with another arsenal of flavours and notes.
Sagratino wines have been observed to age effortlessly for decades, so they hold an advantage even for those who want to store the wine as a stock to be sold in the future.
Sagrantino is also a great blending agent and some of the most noteworthy wines from Umbria have been produced by blending Sagrantino and Sangiovese, its natural blending agent.
Sagrantino can be paired up with almost any Italian pasta, pizza or a risotto accompanied by a cheese.
Sagrantino wines taste especially best with Strangozzi pasta and Pecorino cheese when taken with a Sangiovese blend. It pairs also very well mushrooms and desserts.
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