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Umbria II Sagrantino and Montefalco

Lets continue our Umbria tour, introducing new beautiful places and great wines.

Another DOC region to keep an eye on is COLLI DEL TRASIMENO DOC. This appellation entirely surrounds Lake Trasimeno and stretches from Tuscany to the Western outskirts of Perugia. This area includes , gentle rounded hills and small valleys where vines grow alongside olive trees. Lake Trasimeno is the site of a famous battle between Romans and Carthaginians .. when the famous Hannibal annihilated the Romans in an ambush. Here is Sangiovese land and also Ciliegiolo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. For the whites, it is Grechetto , Trebbiano Toscano, Chardonnay and Malvasia bianca. But one of the grape to keep in mind is "Gamay" del Trasimeno. It is only grown here , it is been identified as a local biotype of Cannonau/Grenache.

Among all the Trasimeno wines, the "scelto" its a category on its own... with the meaning "selected" , the disciplinare for these wines is more stricter in terms of alcohol level.

Finally we moved into Montefalco , which is a remarkable medieval hill-top village near the foothills of the Central Appennines about 30 miles southeast of Perugia. It is also called the "Ringhiera dell'Umbria" ( The Balcony of Umbria) because its position on the hill afford a panoramic view of the river valleys below and the mountain ranges in the distance. It is unanimously recognized as one of the Umbria's most important viticulture centers.

The wine growing area of Montefalco was already known in the 11th century. In the 14th century , vines and wines were of such importance that they were regulated by village government statutes. Sagrantino made its appearance well before Middle Ages. Due to its strong character and very high tannins levels, it was principally used to produce sweet passito wines. It was also used to add color , aroma and alcohol to other wines , often via the "governo" method. A small amount of semi dried Sagrantino grapes were added to freshly vilified wines from other grapes. This would trigger a new fermentation , producing a richer, rounder and more approachable wines.

Interesting, Montefalco was one of the few towns were vines were cultivated within the village walls. Vines were commonly found growing in residential gardens. Today, vines still adorn the entrances of the towns mansions , villas and ancient palaces and are found within monastery walls.

Until the middle of 20th century , Sagrantino was known for the sweet wines. However in the 1990s its popularity exploded. It became a cult wine among industry insiders, an obtained unanimous acclaim both in Italy and abroad. This was thanks to the effort of the Caprai Brothers Marco and Arnaldo . At the time the retail market hungered for big, deeply colored, powerful wines, characteristics Sagrantino could deliver. Fortunately the situation reversed in the early 2000s , when the producers started focusing less on the extraction and level of alcohol and more on leaving the Terroir of Montefalco expresses itself. Given its high tannic content, Sagrantino wines require oak barrel aging to tame it.

If the high polyphenol content allows the wine to age well, this tannic wealth is also a hindrance. Sagrantino is Italy’s most tannic red wine, by far. All too often the wines are hard and unyielding, and no amount of cellar time will reduce their stubbornly tannic aura. However the tannins are remarkably polished, according to winemaker Emiliano Falsini. “It’s not at all like Nerello Mascalese, where you can macerate on the skins only for ten days at most or risk leaching out very dry, astringent tannins. Despite their wealth of polyphenols, Sagrantino skins can be put through even long macerations because the tannins are usually smooth and polished, though there are a lot of them.” When sagrantino is well made by gifted producers, it offers rich, brambly black fruit and aromatic herb aromas and flavors that are persistent and pure.

The dry style of Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG wines are dark ruby in color. They offer aromas and flavors of black fruit combined with leather, ;licorice and earth with meaty, spicy notes.

The wines are dense, powerful, full bodied and high in alcohol 14.5-15.5% abv.

During my trip in Umbria I visited many Sagrantino producers. Lunelli, Caprai, all making great wines.

With the winemaking experience of three generations behind it, the Lunelli family has decided to cultivate in greater depth its passion for producing outstanding wines by adding to the success obtained by its Ferrari Trentodoc with a range of top-quality still wines, made by three wineries in three different Regions of Italy: Tenuta Margon in Trentino, Tenuta Podernovo in Tuscany and Tenuta Castelbuono in Umbria. The project began in the 1980s, with the creation of still wines in Trentino that capitalized on the experience gained through years and years of growing Chardonnay and Pinot Nero in high hillside vineyards. From the start of the new millennium the family began paying particular attention to regions with a consolidated reputation for the production of fine red wines. Seduced by the charm of the hills near Pisa, and in particular by the vine-clad hill on which the historic Casale Podernovo lies, the Lunellis began their adventure in Tuscany by acquiring forty hectares in the commune of Terricciola. In 2001, on the other hand, it was the turn of the ancient and mystical Region of Umbria and of a wine with great power and longevity, Sagrantino: the Lunellis purchased land at Bevagna and Montefalco, partly already planted with vines, where years later the Carapace would take shape. After several decades of commitment, this large-scale project encapsulating agriculture and life, high quality and beauty has been summed up in the Tenute Lunelli brand, a seal chosen to express the typical characteristics of zones that are especially suited for making fine wines: products that interpret their particular terroirs in a profound way and whose distinguishing trait is their elegance and longevity.


The Carapace is the result of the Lunelli family’s dream of having a winery that is also a treasure chest for wine. From the Lunellis’ long-standing friendship with Arnaldo Pomodoro and their previous collaboration (which had led the great artist to create “Centenarium”, the sculpture that celebrates a century of history of the Ferrari winery) sprang the idea of suggesting that he – whose sculptures adorn important sites all over the world – should design the winery. Pomodoro enthusiastically accepted the challenge of creating a work that called into question the dividing lines between sculpture and architecture and which forged a dialogue both with the outside – the landscape in which it would be inserted – and with what would be inside: with the wine for whose production it had to be strictly functional.

INTUITION The Carapace stems from his careful study of the site. After an initial survey, Arnaldo Pomodoro had already dreamt up the project. “The landscape”, he recounts, “reminded me of the Montefeltro region where I was born, the one that one finds in lots of paintings by Piero della Francesca. My work, therefore, didn’t have to contrast with the gentleness of the hills on which the vineyards lie; indeed, it had to perfectly integrated with the environment. I had the idea of a shape that was reminiscent of a tortoise, a symbol of stability and longevity which, with its shell, represents the union between the land and the sky”.

A typical expression of a grape variety that is absolutely unique in terms of power and longevity, the Sagrantino from Tenuta Castelbuono, which is certified as organic, amazes one with its mellowness, which results from skilful vineyard husbandry and long ageing in large oak casks. A deep, luminous ruby red in colour; concentrated and refined. The nose is a triumph of blackberry jam and blueberries – typical of the variety – with attractive and intense notes of cherries in brandy, carob and rose petals. Its traditionally-styled profile is further enhanced by liquorice and chocolate notes. It has a distinct creaminess on the palate, along with very powerful, mellow fruit. The finish is long and persistent, with precisely defined tannins of rare finesse, elegance and gentleness.

Grapes 100% Sagrantino obtained from the best vineyards of the Estate, harvested by hand in October.

Production area Family-owned vineyards at Montefalco and Bevagna; a special selection was made of the Estate’s finest historic vines as part of the “Patriarchs Project ”, carried out in cooperation with the Agricultural Institute of San Michele all’Adige.

Type of soil A clay-silt mix with excellent agronomic potential, well-structured and resistant to summer drought.

Training system Cordon Spur, 6250 vines per hectare.

Yield 35 hectolitres of wine per hectare.

Fermentation temperature Cold pre-maceration at 12°C for 30 hours. Maximum fermentation temperature: 26°-28°C in wooden vats.

Maceration period 15-20 days.

Ageing 24 months in large oak casks, followed by a minimum of 12 months in bottle.

First year of production 2003


Marco Caprai strongly believed in the great opportunities that could come from such a long tradition and he translated this heritage with a modern and innovative approach. Thanks to research work and long term experimentation we work to produce top quality elegant wines, that show a unique character. The colour, aroma and taste of our Sagrantino will make you feel the strong character of the people who work it, the beauty of the gentle hills where it grows and the richness and complexity of the long traditions of Montefalco.

Tradition, Innovation and Territory are the key words that drive us in our everyday efforts. 

The tradition that belongs to this territory allowed Sagrantino vines to over the centuries. The idea behind our work is revaluate this tradition, through an innovative approach. Research and experimentation are at the heart of innovation, so we practice them both in the vineyards and in the cellar.

The methods applied to obtain top quality grapes include different types of experimental training systems and a stable, natural and artificial cover cropping. Moreover, a more rational approach in the plant  protection processes and a reduced use of nitrogenous fertilizers, together with the choice of the most suitable location for Sagrantino and all the varieties grown in the estate has proved fundamental for the production of good quality grapes.

Innovation for Arnaldo Caprai means also an open approach to new communication strategies, such as internet. Through our website not only  we promote our products, but we also encourage communication between those who love our wine and want to know more about the culture and the values our wine symbolize. A wine club, events such as Wine Day, and a special wine sold exclusively on the net Nero Outsider are some examples of the importance that Arnaldo Caprai attaches to new communication technologies.

The territory is not only the element on which we built our identity but can be considered the base from which we  constantly raise the quality standards of our production. In this perspective, we are always working to learn more about the character of the terroir of Montefalco: its untapped potential are identified and transformed into product and innovatives production’ process.

Variety: 100% Sagrantino First vintage produced: 1993 Training Techniques: Spurred Cordon with vine density of 6.000-8.000 vines per Ha. Yield per hectare 5 tons Aging: 24 months in French oak barrique and minimum 6 months aging in the bottle Aroma: surprising complexity from blackberry jam to rose pot pourri, from nutmeg to pepper, from pine resin to mint, from clove to cocoa Taste: soft and persuasive, intense persistant finish. Fresh, with complex tannins Serving suggestions: roast and grilled lamb, black truffle, game. Best served around 64-68 ̊F Aging potential: over 20 years


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