The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2011

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Page 78 of 124

ITALY Passito Perfect THE DRIED-GRAPE WINES OF UMBRIA’S SAGRANTINO DI MONTEFALCO DOCG ARE A TREASURE by Anthony Dias Blue I taly is a county that holds many wine treasures. Nearly every corner of the boot-shaped nation has its own indigenous grapes and its own specialty wines made using techniques that date back many centuries. One of these little-known treasures is the passito wine made from Umbria’s native Sagrantino grape. Grown in a very small area in and around Montefalco, the red Sagrantino grape is highly tannic, one reason that the wines bearing the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG are mellowed by aging for a requisite 30 months before release. The dry Sagrantino di Montefalco table wines are deep and heady, but Montefalco also produces red passito wines from Sagrantino, using hand-selected grapes naturally dried on open racks for up to three months. UMBRIATOP Sagrantino grapes drying for passito. These sweet versions are historically the traditional wines of Montefalco and the process dates back to the 15th century. Like their table wine counterparts, the passito wines carry the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG designation and must be made from 100 percent Sagrantino. The Tiburzi 2005 Sacciamerli Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito ($20, 375 ml., through Wine Emporium) is earthy, dense and sweet with peppery spice and firm tannins. Rich and dark with concen- trated plum and cassis flavors, the Tenuta Rocca di Fabbri 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito ($30, 500 ml., available from Monsieur Touton Selection Ltd.) is tangy-sweet, with deep, long flavors of rich black fruit. The stunning Antonelli 2006 Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito ($45, 375 ml., through Omniwines and other importers) showcases tannins, wild berries and spice, with complex forest floor and chocolate tones on a finish that’s intense, smooth and balanced. These are wonderful “meditation wines,” as they are called in Italy—meant to be savored slowly in thoughtful peace and quiet, perhaps with ripe cheeses, nuts or dried fruit to accompany their dusky, intriguing flavors. 76 / the tasting panel / april 201 1 Created in 2009, UMBRIATOP is a cooperative of more than 50 premium wine producers and as- sociations from the top Umbrian wine-growing areas of Monte- falco, Orvieto and Torgiano. The organization represents a diverse group of world-class winemakers, producing wines of the highest quality in limited quantities. As the first collaboration of its kind, the cooperative aims to promote Umbrian products in the American market—ultimately allowing con- sumers to access and purchase Umbrian wines easily. UMBRI- ATOP is focused on educating consumers about the high-quality wines of Umbria as well as the unique and compelling history of this important region of Italy. Tips on Serving Passito • Stand bottle upright for 12–24 hours before serving • Open bottle and let breathe for up to two hours • Best served slightly chilled (not cold) PHOTO COURTESY OF UMBRIATOP

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