Sagrantino is a thick skinned and heavily pigmented Italian red wine grape variety, found most extensively in Umbria. Smatterings are also found just over the border in Tuscany, where its is mostly blended with Sangiovese. The variety is increasingly appearing in experimental plantings throughout warmer Australian viticultural regions such as the engine rooms of Southeast Australia, but also in more premium regions such as the Eden Valley.
While Sagrantino's sturdy nature and subsequent resistance to disease and heat are commercially attractive, its high acidity and ferruginous tannins can prove obdurate and excessively drying if not tamed.Judicious extraction techniques and appropriate vineyard management are imperative to achieve balanced wines. In this respect, Sagrantino is akin to a more macho expression of Nebbiolo.
It is no wonder, therefore, that Sagrantino was traditionally used for dried grape wines, or passito. These are still made and largely consumed locally. However, Sagrantino di Montefalco, an elevated and isolated region, was elevated to DOCG status in the mid-1990's due to no uncertain efforts by the Arnaldo Caprai estate. Caprai's robust yet polished wines brought world wide acclaim for Sagrantino's full-bodied dry red table wines.
Caprai tamed the ferocious nature of Sagrantino with new oak and modern vinification techniques including micro-oxygentation. However, other producers including Paolo Bea; more traditional in their approach, have become sommelier darlings from New York to Tokyo. Bea, for example, eschews new oak while extracting more aggressively. His wines sell because of their minimal interventionism, but also because they are sappy, layered and highly impressive.