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Savoring Sagrantino

Savoring Sagrantino

As the days grow shorter and colder, we reach for a rich glass of Sagrantino. Creator of dry red wines, this lesser-known grape varietal is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets.

Sagrantino is native to the scenic hills around Montefalco, an ancient city in central Umbria. Here in the “green heart of Italy,” the grape achieves its truest expression, thriving among the rolling hills and moderate weather. The unique microclimate features cooling mountain breezes — called tramontano — tempered by hot sunny days. The region’s soil is mostly clay with limestone and sand, keeping the roots cool and forcing them deep into the earth to find water.

The resulting small grape features an extremely thick skin, which yields a wine of great power, structure, and tannins. Because of this robust nature, Sagrantino must age for at least 37 months.

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During medieval times, Sagrantino — aptly translated to “sacrament” — was first cultivated by local monks for religious rites. The resulting wine is now known as Sagrantino Passito, sweet, almost syrupy version that boasts aromas of black raspberry with notes of bittersweet chocolate on the finish.

Over the following centuries, Sagrantino was typically only used during religious feasts and farmers’ festivals. By the 1960s, the grape had virtually disappeared. Luckily, a handful of viticulturists recognized its value and reintroduced it to their vineyards, playing with the production process. Sagrantino finally achieved DOC status in 1978 and DOCG in 1992 (refresh yourself on wine classifications here).

When you order a glass of Sagrantino today, you’ll likely be greeted with Sagrantino Secco, a deliciously complex red. In the glass, the wine is an inky maroon shade. The bouquet reveals aromas of dark red fruits with hints of earth and spice; on the palate, the full-bodied wine is highly tannic with notes of blackberry.

At Eataly, we love to pair Sagrantino with a variety of dishes and desserts. The wine’s tannins can stand up to hearty dishes, such as wild game and roasted meats; its complexity opens up with simple, earthy recipes, such as pasta with truffles, risotto with mushrooms, and so on.

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Salute!

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