Great things come for those who wait: Anteprima Sagrantino (notes on vintages)

Original post: notes on Vintage 2011

Sagrantino, the famed red wine of Umbria, has its days of glory each year in February during Anteprima Sagrantino in Montefalco.
The event, organized by Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco (association of local producers), represented the debut of vintage 2011 to the press and operators.

Why vintage 2011 in 2015?
According to the regulation of production (DOCG) Sagrantino needs to be aged in barrels (and refined in bottle) for a minimun of 37 months,  that it’s more than 3 years. This long aging period is necessary to tame the tannins typical of this grape, to turn their natural strength into elegant notes.

Vintage 2011 vs. harvest 2014
Anteprima Sagrantino 2014 also offered the opportunity to make important considerations between vintage 2011 and harvest 2014, whose vintage will be released in 3 years). See my updates on this Vintage below.
Two very different years, characterized by very opposite seasons: hot and dry the first, cold and wet the second.
I’m sure that those who traveled to Umbria (and Italy) in Summer ’14 remember the very strange weather that we had, not the typical Mediterranean season, with peaks of heat and lack of water, but humid and less warm.

The last will be the first
An ancient proverb says: “the vine needs to suffer”, meaning that, in a certain sense,  the vine needs to be stressed to produce a good wine. Between a dry and hot season and a rainy and damp one, the first it’s definitely better. Humidity is the enemy number one for the vine as it makes the perfect environment for fungus and diseases.
During Spring and Summer 2014 protecting the grapes from adversities was really difficult. All over the region and the Country, 2014 was a very demanding year in terms of agronomic management of the vineyards.
However, where this management was prudent, accurate, very scientific and – at the same time – full of passion and devotion (not only in Montefalco area, everywhere also for other varieties) – the quality of the grapes was more than satisfying.
Sagrantino is a late grape, its harvest time begins one month and even more later than the other varieties like Sangiovese, for example. A peculiar characteristic that par chance  helped this grapevine,  considering the seasonal trend.
While Spring and Summer were very rainy, October and also the beginning of November (period of ripening/harvest for Sagrantino) was warm, dry and sunny. A favourable weather for late varieties.

The table below, although quite “technical”, shows that the data connected to all the important parameters are not so different between vintage 2011 and 2014, considering the very difficult year. Vintage 2014 will not have bad surprises when ready to be released. Probably even this year will lead to good balanced Sagrantino.

[Speech/slide by Oenologist Riccardo Cotarella]
The tasting room: 25 wineries 200 labels to taste

Vintage 2011 my first impressions
I tasted “randomly” some samples from the 25 wineries that took part to the event and I can say that 2011 tasted really good. In particular, I was very impressed by the incredible bouquet: the blackberries and blueberries together with an intense hint of spices are perfectly balanced and very elegant.
Giving that Sagrantino is a wine that needs to stay in bottle for some months (some wines were bottled just few time ago, some other were “barrel samples”) the tannins demanded some more time to express more elegance.


♦Update 20th February 2017 – Vintage 2014♦

It is really incredible how time really flies! Three years have already gone for Sagrantino Vintage 2014, whose mandatory ageing period has finished: now it is in my glass, here at Anteprima Sagrantino 2014, February 2017.
The focus of the presentation speech of Annata [vintage] 2014, now just released, was on the extreme weather conditions. Two season, 2014 and 2017 really opposite: 2014 with its unusual rain, humidity and low temperatures in Summer and 2017, extremely dry and extremely hot:  the thermometer reached even  42° C /108 F in some days. A year affected also by a violent off-season frost in April, who literally killed many new sprouts, a factor that – together with the endless Summer heat – reduced a lot the production, and not only in Umbria, but in Italy in general.

My personal tasting notes on Vintage 2014

So, let’s go back to Vintage 2014 that is now in my glass. Reading my last notes above “2014 was a very demanding year in terms of agronomic management of the vineyards”. Yes, I can really confirm it.
I’ve tasted randomly almost all the Sagrantino 2014 available from the producers who took part to the event this year and there are huge differences among them. Some samples reflected one-by-one all the challenges of that season in my mouth, not very good tannins and with a kind of still undefined bitterish finish, while in other ones, these problems were less evident or even disappeared. On the other end, I found the nose pleasant and quite deep in everyone.
I’ve talked a lot to the producers whose Sagrantinos were “well-made” [keeping always in mind that season] and all of them said that to “make something good” their work in the vineyards to save the vines, and then the grapes, was incredible, huge, both in terms of time and investments.

♦Update 19th February 2019 – Vintage 2015♦

Finally Vintage 2015, now officially released at Anteprima Sagrantino, February 18-20, 2019 in Montefalco. As last year, because of the extreme Vintage 2014 (read above) my first impressions were quite controversial, this new Year 2015 is completely another story. A beautiful story.
The keyword for Vintage 2015 is balance. As Sagrantino is a kind of grape that suffers a lot in case of extreme weather conditions, 2015 was very fair regarding climate. A quite rare season recently, considering the global trend.
Winter was rainy enough, Spring with high solar and ventilated sunlight, dry, warm and sunny Summer. The overall weather trend was optimal, the sufficient rains between September and October re-balanced the grapes, especially in acidity during the last phase of maturation and harvest, but without particular problems from the health point of view.

My personal tasting notes on Vintage 2015

Vintage 2015 immediately introduces itself as a very interesting Year from the qualitative point of view. Despite Sagrantino is a wine that needs time and time to be perfect, this vintage is instantly perceived as very promising. The nose is rich and deep, very good varietal aromas and balanced tannins.
Definitely a Year to be enjoyed but also to jealously keep in your cellar for some more time to see if these promises will be completely fulfilled.

♦Update 24th February 2020 – Vintage 2016♦

A five stars Vintage: 95/100

Vineyards/Climate in 2016: pretty mild winter, abundant rains able to restore the natural water supplies, almost empty at the end of 2015.  In Spring and Summer, the lucky sequence of warm days and proper rains, allowed the grapes to mature in an excellent way without any water stress, differently from the previous season.

My personal tasting notes on Vintage 2016

I’m totally in line with the official notes by the producers: 2016 Vintage has a great potential.  The wines are rich in colour with an excellent structure and very good acidity,  important conditions for elegant silky wines perfect for a long ageing. Again, a Year to be enjoyed, but also to jealously keep in your cellar for some more time to see if these very promising first tastings will turn into memorable masterpieces.

Notes on old vintages: during the event, this year I had the opportunity to taste again some old vintages. Giving for granted the that Sagrantino is a wine that improves incredibly with time, I was very surprised by some tastings of Vintage 2014. Scrolling up my notes on that Year, despite the difficulties (Vintage 2014 was officially rated 3 stars), I strongly re-affirm that the producers who worked very hard to save some bunches to be able to have some bottles, made real miracles, offering very balanced and smooth Sagrantinos, maybe less full-bodied, but very elegant, after 6 years.

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG Vintage 2016 will be available in all our wine tours in Montefalco wine area in this upcoming tourist season →Half Day and Full Day Winery Visits & Tours 2020.



More info on: Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco