My boss is an Italiaophile. He has a history working in Italian restaurants and loves Italian wine, a passion expressed in our lean but Italy-heavy wine list. I'm trying to wean him off an unhealthy dependency on the boot. So for now, we consider it our responsibility to drink through as many Italian wines as we can.
On Monday, that included the 2004 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco from Umbria. I was in Umbria a few summers ago (the region that touches the interior side of Tuscany) and even there, where wine tends to be substantially less expensive, Sagrantino still cost a pretty penny. We have our Bea Sagrantino on the list for $145. It was a grape once thought to be extinct until Bea and Arnaldo-Caprai saved it from the compost pile. These days, it still appears in limited production solely in Umbria, in accordance with Italian DOC laws that state that the government will only put a stamp on the wine if it hails from the confines of its growing region.
The grape is rustic and full-bodied with a deep purple tinge and dry tannins. Fruits on the palate include the Cabernet profile fruits: black cherries, currant, stewed fruits. The funk I always find on Italian wines dominates the wine's aroma. This is the kind of wine that one drinks to warm up.
2004 was a fine vintage, much more moderate, climate-wise, than its predecessor. In 2003, a heat-wave led to overripe grapes, higher alcohol wines, and Old World bottles that tasted like New World bottles. Such is not the case with this vintage, a more restrained (and for my money, more likable) year.
If you can't afford Sagrantino--and many of us can't--take its cousin Montefalco Rosso for a ride. Montefalco Rosso. The wine is a blend of Sagrantino, Cabernet, and Sangiovese, so it tends to be less weighty and more immediately quaffable. But it's also a fine example of what Sagrantino, as a grape, adds to a wine. So enjoy it, and drink up.