Sagrantino has small but important role in the Italian region of Umbria, where it makes very long-lived wines. In Australia, its potential is being explored in warmer regions, as it tolerates heat well, retaining fresh acidity and not becoming overbearingly rich.
Also known as
There are no synonyms for sagrantino that would appear on a wine label.
What sagrantino tastes like
Sagrantino is frequently dry toned, savoury, earthy and leathery, with lifted spicy notes and dried cherry, plum and cranberry notes. The wines can be quite powerful, mineral and very structured, with some of the most assertive tannins in the world of wine.
Vineyard & winemaking
Although not from a particularly warm region, sagrantino is well adapted to the heat, ripening very late and holding its acid well. It is naturally quite low yielding and is disease resistant. It also has an extraordinary amount of tannin, so managing this in the winery can be a challenge. The Italians rely primarily on time to do the job of softening, with Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG aged for a minimum of 37 months before release, and most Italians not even thinking about drinking the wines for another 10 years.
Where is sagrantino grown?
Sagrantino is the great grape of the central Italian region of Umbria. A mountainous and landlocked region, Umbria cedes much of the glamour to Tuscany to its west. Indeed, its dominant grape is that most emblematic of Tuscan varieties, sangiovese, while sagrantino has very modest plantings. That said, it is the defining red grape for the region, producing very long-lived wines. The key zone surrounds the Village of Montefalco, where the top wines are classified as Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. The grape also makes it into the DOC of Montefalco Rosso, but sangiovese takes up the major percentage. There is little sagrantino grown outside of Umbria.
Sagrantino around the world
With a relatively modest presence in Italy, sagrantino has not travelled widely, though there are frugal plantings in California, Washington State and Texas.
Sagrantino in Australia
Like many of Australia’s plantings of less-known Italian varieties, the Chalmers family imported the first cuttings of sagrantino in 1998. Once out of quarantine, they subsequently planted it in 2000 in their then nursery in Euston in the Murray Daring region. The first vintage was 2004, with subsequent blocks established in 2008 in their Heathcote vineyard. While still in its infancy, plantings are on the rise, with vineyards primarily in warmer zones like McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley as well as the King Valley, Orange and the Granite Belt.
Photo of sagrantino grapes seen here, courtesy of Chalmers vineyard.
Some of the best Australian sagrantino