Discover Montefalco: The Secrets of Sagrantino

Let’s travel to Umbria - a region home to all good things: truffles, salami, beautiful landscapes, and wine. More specifically, this Italian region is where you will find a wine-producing zone with some of the most underrated wines on the Italian peninsula. Say hello to Montefalco.

We’re diving into everything you need to know about the wines of Montefalco, from its ancient history to its dazzling reds to even its under-the-radar white wines.

Let's get into it!

Where is Montefalco?

Nestled right in the middle of the Italian peninsula is the region of Umbria - Italy’s only landlocked region. Umbria may not have access to water, but that doesn’t mean it's short on resources when compared to its neighbors (Tuscany to the Northeast, Le Marche to the East, and Lazio to the Southwest.)

Umbria is like a treasure chest of secrets. And, one of those secrets is Montefalco. This historic town and wine region have quite the location. Many call the ‘balcony of Umbria’ for its idyllic placement, perched on top of a hill, with a vantage point of various cities, towns, and the majestic Apennines. To be more specific, Montefalco is located between the larger cities of Perugia and Terni, due east of Orvieto.

A Sacred History

Now, Montefalco may not be the largest town in Umbria. But, it has one of the richest histories. This history very much defines the wines and makes each sip more mystical than the last.

Montefalco is known for its medieval and Renaissance past. However, the history of this wine area began before that - with the Etruscans. These ancient peoples laid the foundation for Montefalco’s (and Umbria's) winemaking journey nearly 3000 years ago. The Etruscans were the first to cultivate vines in the area and ferment local grapes into delicious wine.

Fast forward to medieval times, we see the Montefalco wines we know today begin to blossom. We have to partially thank the Catholic Church for this. The Church controlled Montefalco for a few centuries and still had a hand in the region even after. It was the Church who vinified the most Montefalco wine. This is where Sagrantino found its spotlight.

Montefalco’s most famous grape, Sagrantino is quite the mysterious one. From its bold personality to its unknown origins, its flavors are as austere as its roots. But, what we do know is that its home is Montefalco. Sagrantino gets its name from the word ‘sacrestia,’ as it was used as sacramental wine in Church. In fact, Francesco di Assisi savored Sagrantino of Montefalco. Now, that’s a holy wine.

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Montefalco’s Terroir

Montefalco’s impressive geography can fool many tourists to scream - Chianti! Siena! Tuscany! While that’s most surely a compliment, Montefalco’s rolling hills of vines are unique when you look underneath.

The terroir of Montefalco is very definitive of its wines. From Sagrantino to Sangiovese, some of Italy’s most regal red grapes really thrive here. Umbria is graced with a Mediterranean climate that brings balance to the vines with average rainfall, hot summers, and cold winters. When it comes to soil, Montefalco is blessed with diversity, yielding opportunities for both white and red grapes to thrive. You will find mostly clay and limestone soils - which are great supporters of Sagrantino - along with other sandy soils as well.

The Wines of Montefalco

Montefalco Rosso

While they may be well-regarded, the Montefalco Rosso DOC wines are seriously under the radar.

Chianti isn’t the only place making wines with Sangiovese. Montefalco Rosso is surprisingly made with up to 70% Sangiovese (with the remaining 30% comprised of Sagrantino and other local grapes.) Sangiovese thrives on cascading hillsides in Montefalco’s clay and limestone soils supporting its structure and vivacity.

Montefalco Rosso wines generally are expressive of Sangiovese’s invigorating freshness. These wines usually have gorgeous cherry flavors, with herbaceous undertones. However, these wines can vary in character as wineries each have their vineyards and winemaking styles. For example, Caprai winery ages its Montefalco Rosso for 14 months in French barrique while Antonelli chooses to botti (large barrels) for 9 months, with a brief finish in cement. These approaches yield strikingly different, yet equally intriguing red wines.

Also, keep your eye out for Montefalco Rosso Riservas, which see longer aging and often more careful techniques that show off Sangiovese in a way you’ve never seen before.

Sagrantino di Montefalco

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Montefalco’s mascot - Sagrantino is quite the domineering grape. We say that because this grape comes off strong. Its tannins may be the most intense of all grapes in Italy. But, that doesn’t mean that it makes unapproachable wines. It’s the opposite - the winemakers in Montefalco have Sagrantino in their blood and know just how to make this wine show its regal colors.

Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG wines are dry red wines showcasing the elegance of Sagrantino. The wines here are exclusively produced in and around the town of Montefalco. We must say - these wines are not shy. With Sagrantino’s immense personality, these wines are deep-colored, structured, and forward. Along with Tannat, Sagrantino is considered one of the most tannic grapes in the world. Sagrantinos fill the glass with complex aromas that vary from dark berries to violet to mocha to even balsamic notes. Of course, these notes depend on the viticulture and winemaking style. In general, Sagrantino wines are built to last and can be long-lived. Generally, Sagrantino wines should be opened at least 30 minutes before drinking and 5-10 years of bottle age is a general recommendation for when to crack the bottle.

Montefalco Sagrantino Passito

The wine that started it all - Montefalco Sagrantino Passito is the original wine of the area. It is a passito-style wine, made using the appassimento winemaking method. This winemaking approach involves drying grapes until they lose enough moisture, concentrating the sugars and flavors. Then, the best grapes are selected to be gently pressed, yielding a sweet wine.

The story goes that centuries ago the people of Montefalco used the passito method to combat Sagrantino’s intense tannins. While this wine was enjoyed regularly, it was more commonly used as a sacramental wine in Church.

Today, Montefalco Sagrantino Passito exists practically as a time capsule of these ancient traditions. Of course, winemaking practices have modernized. But, wineries keep the customs going by selecting the best grapes for air-drying that put Sagrantino on the map nearly a thousand years ago.

So, what does Montefalco Sagrantino Passito taste like? It’s fascinatingly a sweet wine with the smoothness and dryness of red wine, thanks to Sagrantino’s intense tannins. Its flavors can range from blueberries to cherry to citrus to spice. All you need to know - though - is that it is a natural lover of all things chocolate.

A Special Mention - Trebbiano di Spoletino

Montefalco is known best for its red wines. But, we have to give a special mention to Trebbiano di Spoletino - a gorgeous white wine that’s the underdog in Montefalco. Its vibrant and bold acidity makes it a wine that persists and ages gracefully. Think of it as the Carricante of central Italy - it's quite the eccentric white wine with a vigorous freshness that only evolves into a thought-provoking wine through at least a few years of bottle aging.

Tabarrini and Antonelli wineries in Montefalco showcase the brilliance of this white wine by giving this grape just as much attention as their red grapes. The result - is a refreshing white wine with body, consistency, and the ability to transform in the cellar over the next 5 to 10 years.

Discovering Montefalco Wines with Big Hammer

Curious to step into the world of Montefalco? You don't necessarily need a plane ticket. Our talented team of wine experts is always on the lookout for Montefalco wines, answering all your questions along the way. Never hesitate to reach out to us - we're here to keep your palate excited, no matter where you are in your wine-loving journey.

Montefalco Wines to Try

Tabarrini Montefalco Rosso DOC
Moretti Omero Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG
Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG
Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Riserva Rosso
Tenuta Saragano Passito

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