The Sagrantino grape

Today’s article is about the Italian varietal Sagrantino (“Sa-grahn-tee-noh”). Sagrantino is an Italian grape variety that is indigenous to the region of Umbria in Central Italy. Sagrantino is grown primarily in the village of Montefalco and its surrounding areas, with only 250 acres (1.0 km2) dedicated to the grape in the hands of about 25 producers. With such small production, the wine is not widely known outside of Italy, even though it was granted DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status in 1991. DOCG is granted for wines of exceptional qualtity and renown. The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG requires 100 percent Sagrantino used, with a required 29 months aging before release. The origin of the grape is unclear. The grape is one of the most tannic varieties in the world, and creates wines that are inky purple with an almost-black center. The bouquet is one of dark, brooding red fruits with hints of plum, cinnamon, and earth. Several different wines made from the grape have been described as having exotic spiciness.

A appassimento or passito is sometimes made from Sagrantino grapes. These are made by drying the grapes on straw mats to concentrate the sugars. The result is a thick, syrupy wine with raisin and blueberry qualities. The flavors are similar to a vintage port. The alcohol content runs around 14 percent.

Sagrantino is more tannic then Sangiovese. This gives the wine more potential to age longer. The tannins are considered by some Italian growers to be sweet rather than sharp, making the wine drinkable when it is still young.

Good Sagrantino pairs nicely with rich, strong flavored meats as well as dry, aged cheeses that may be too strong for other wines. Sagrantino also goes well with the foods of Umbria such as game birds, roast suckling pig and truffles.

In Temecula Valley, two thousand vines of Sagrantino were planted in 2010 at Cougar Vineyard & Winery located at 39870 De Portola Road. The grapes will begin producing grapes next year but wine will not be made from the vines for 3-4 years. Look for this wine at Cougar in 4-5 years. This winery resides on the De Portola Wine Trail of Temecula Wine Country. As far as this author knows there are no other growers of Sagrantino in the Temecula Wine Country. Cougar Vineyard & Winery is a member of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association.

Mosby Winery, located in Buellton California, has had an Estate Sagrantino offered since 2006. The Mosby Sangrantino is the first domestically produced Sagrantino available for sale.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery is planted entirely in Italian varietals. The Sagrantino is actually planted on the adjacent property to Cougar that is managed as an estate vineyard. The vineyard, La Vigna e Destra, is planted with two thousand of the eight thousand vines planted being Sagrantino. We will be discussing all of these other varietals being grown and managed by Cougar in upcoming articles about the Italian grape varietals planted in Temecula Wine Country of Southern California.