It’s been almost a decade since I spent a half-day in Umbria, but my memory of the intensely magnificent landscape serves me well. On an excursion during a Mediterranean cruise, I attended a wine tasting in a barrel room --- my first --- and became smitten in the world of wine.
Fast forward to 2013 when one white and two red wines of Umbria were sent for my review. I was elated to taste these three Italian wines, the first a Perticaia Montefalco Rosso (SRP: $27.99). I have to admit, I was mildly impressed, even though this wine is predominantly made with sangiovese grapes, my favorite varietal. But then again, I hadn't known to drink this as my first course wine only. Or enjoy with grilled chicken. Live and learn. It was delicious enough, but even though it’s a 2009 wine, it could use a few more years in the bottle. Once I looked up the information on this wine, I found out more interesting facts, such as the word perticaia in the Umbria ancient language means “the plow” or the instrument that marks the transition from sheep-farming to agriculture.
The company boasts nearly 37 acres of vineyards, of which more than 17 are of the Sagrantino grape variety, 10 of Sangiovese, 4 of Colorino, 4 of Trebbiano Spoletino, with 2 acres of the indigenous white Grechetto varietal. Planted in the heart of Montefalco, the pristinely worked vineyards are slightly sloped and are mainly facing south, southwest.
The best of the two reds I tasted was, hands down, was the 100 percent unique taste of the thick-skinned Sagrantino grape - Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino di Montefalco (SRP: $39), to which you can long-age more than 20 years. It’s got great structure and …wait! It’s also got 15.5 percent alcohol by volume. That’s a lot of sugar in a grape that dates back to 1549 – and is now considered a noble wine variety of Italy.
Founded in 1884 as a complex and modern wine “factory,” Scacciadiavoli was the resulting dream of the Prince of Piombino, Ugo Boncompagni-Ludovisi. Today, the Pambuffetti family owns Scacciadiavoli. Its name translates to “cast out the devils.” The wine was drunk while performing exorcisms in the 19th century. Seriously.
The estate is made up of 321 acres, 86 of which make up the vineyards with an annual production of approximately 250,000 bottles. The vines cover a hill in the heart of the Montefalco appellation divided between the three provinces of Gualdo Cattaneo, Giano dell’Umbria and Montefalco. Mixed between sand, schist and the typical clay soils of the area, the terrain is well suited for quality viticulture, focusing on late maturing varieties like the indigenous Sagrantino.
Serving recommendations: grilled meats with dark sauces, game
Serving temperature: 64°F
Now for the white wine, an Arnaldo CapraiGrecante Grechetto dei Colli Martani (SRP: $19) made with 100 percent grechetto grapes. Not to downplay this grape, but it did offer a similar taste to a pinot grigio – a fresh, crisp wine best served as an aperitif or with seafood or poultry dishes. I enjoyed this wine on Labor Day with lobster chowder made personally with two lobsters I grabbed from a guy selling them down the street on the harbor.
A bit of information I uncovered about this winery: In 1991, the Arnaldo Caprai winery began a fruitful collaboration with the University of Milan and several Italian research institutes in order to improve production results. This cutting-edge research led to the identification of new clones of Sagrantino and to the production of top quality wines. For all this work, Arnaldo Caprai has been named "European Winery of the Year" at the Wine Enthusiast Magazine's Wine Star Award 2012.
So, where you can purchase these wines? In Boston at Federal Wines & Spirits.