From Assisi to Montefalco: the Sagrantino Wine Quest
For my upcoming ZOOM presentation (October 10th) on the art and cultural history of wine from pre-Roman times to the present, I wanted to include a vineyard visit in the Montefalco area where one of Umbria’s coveted indigenous grapes, il sagrantino is cultivated.
The maiolica cups with the grape motif in Luca’s Assisi store launched me into the spirito di vino even before we headed to Montefalco….as did the maiolica wine boraccia (canteen, flask):
Wine canteens in leather were once carried on horseback by pilgrims – though Luca tells me these portable wine flasks were also made in maiolica in Deruta, “as leather would have have cost too much for the locals.” Luca then showed me how the pilgrim carried la boraccia – and then used it to quench his thirst:
Wine pitchers, called “vaselle,” flanked the cups. These pitchers -with prominent beaks – are shorter than the traditional pitchers used for holding water.
Before heading up the vineyard-draped hills near Montefalco, we stopped in Bevagna for a photo of the doorway of the 12-th-century church of San Silvestro…..
…..for I wanted a photo of grapevines in art. On the travertine arch over the doorway – topped by another arch of the pink limestone of Mt. Subasio – grapevines intertwine, sprouting from four streams, symbolizing the Gospels. The vines bear grapes (the Church) and a variety of animals (the faithful) hide in the midst of the vines. On the right, a demon (the devil) spews a river from his mouth.
We left behind the sculpted vines in Bevagna and soon encountered a spread of grape-laden vines on the hills leading up to Montefalco.
We were in “sagrantino country” – and we pulled over as soon as we saw workers picking these coveted red grape.
The Sagrantino grape is an indigenous grape of Umbria with strict regulations governing its cultivation and cultivation restricted to an area of only about 1000 acres in the Bevagna/Montefalco area.
We headed on to the Antonelli wine estate, where over 120 acres of vines are cultivated, rows of Sagratino grape vines fanning out down the hillside.
Wine estate manager, Luca Rosati, warmly welcomed us and we headed to the estate manor for the start of our tour.
Under the portico at the entryway, we stopped at table with two goblets ad two open bottle of vino rosso. No better way to start a tour than with salute (“health:).
Logicamente, Luca described to us the two red wines
He then showed us the rooms for dinners for groups and also the well-equipped kitchen where cooking classes are offered, with the olive oil from the Antonelli estate (nearly 25 acres of olive groves cultivated here), starring in many a dish.
After our brief tour above ground, we headed downstairs to the cellars.
Wine vats were being cleaned in one area in the vast wine cellar..
……and other huge steel cannisters stood in quiet rows behind the workers, red grapes fermenting inside them:
In an adjacent room, wine aged in oak casks and terracotta vats are used for the aging of three months of the prized white Spoletino trebbiano grapes:
And at the Antonelli winery, all the red wines are aged in cement vats after aging in oak – and before the bottling:
Bottles of the coveted Sagrantino – of the 2015 vintage – were stacked nearby….
….and not far away, a group of masked women affixed labels to bottles of wine which would soon head to Poland:
As we headed out of the cellar, we heard the hum of the diraspatrice (“destemmer”). Sangiovese grapes had just been brought in from the vineyards and workers were unloading the tubs of grapes into the destemmer:
And of course, Luca as well as Antonelli Winery owner, Filippo Antonelli, wanted us to try a couple of their vini – enjoyed with bruschetta drizzled with Antonelli olive oil:
How not to purchase that buonissimo wine before leaving?
Salute, Luca Rosati – and mille grazie for a memorable visit.
We’ll be back.
And many thanks, too, to Deruta ceramicist Luca for taking me on this “vino adventure.”
Read more here about the Antonelli Winery of Montefalco.