At the Life of Wine event, I came across the vertical tasting of Montefalco Rosso Riserva of the Antonelli San Marco Winery, one of the oldest producers in the Umbrian Sagrantino area. Owned by the family since 1881, Antonelli San Marco is now directed by Filippo Antonelli with whom I tasted the wines with.
The winery, which has 190 hectares in the centre of the Montefalco area, since 2009 has completed the full conversion to certified organic farming for all its productions. The vineyards extend over a hilly countryside at about 350 metres above sea level, surrounded by woods, with an ideal micro-climate for vines and olive trees. Ten hectares of the property are dedicated to olive groves, while about fifty are designated to the vineyard, placed on the top of the hills and with a mainly south and west aspect. The soil has different geological origins and is generally clayey and rich in limestone. Some of the soils are deep but others are characterised by a great presence of stones. The producer grows mainly indigenous grape varieties being: Grechetto, Trebbiano Spoletino for the white wines and Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Sagrantino for the reds.
The cellar is completely underground, placed under the old farmhouse and it has been designed to take advantage of the gravity effect. So the vinification process can take place without using any pumps. The cellar has low environmental impact so the winery can save a considerable amount of energy resources. At every stage of the production process a control system has been put in place:the entry of the crushed grapes into the fermenters, the first delicate step of fermentation and maceration and the subsequent draw off skins of the free run wine.
Let’s talk the wine now. The Winery is known for its signature wine Sagrantino, but they also produce Montefalco Rosso, a wine too often underestimated and mistakenly considered minor compared to Sagrantino di Montefalco. Montefalco Rosso, in fact, is not a secondary appellation of Sagrantino like Langhe Nebbiolo for Barolo or Barbaresco, or Rosso di Montalcino for Brunello. Montefalco Rosso is an autonomous appellation, with rules that indicate the use of several specific grapes. The Sagrantino grape is included in these rules and it certainly gives its territorial mark to the wine, but it is the minority of the blend, with the Sangiovese grape always being the majority. Montefalco Rosso Riserva go through a longer aging time.
In the storytelling of the tasting, some references on the climatic trend of each vintage are provided. Generally speaking, the grapes are manually harvested; the harvest begins in September with Sangiovese and finish in October with Sagrantino. The wine ages for at least 18 months mainly in large oak barrels after blending and then matures in concrete tanks and stay in the bottle for at least 6 months.
Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2018 (Sangiovese 80%, Sagrantino 20%)
The 2018 vintage was characterised by a rainy and cool late spring, which required intense work in the vineyards. The summer was normal with not particularly high temperatures. Harvest happened as planned and the grapes were perfectly ripe and healthy.
In the glass the wine is an intense ruby red colour. On the nose, it expresses complex aromas of red berries, ripe black cherries, soft hints of oriental spices, nuances of forest floor and subtle smoky sensations. On the palate, the wine has good structure with dense tannins that still have to be smoothed. It has a long lasting finish of fruity and spicy notes.
Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2015 (Sangiovese 70%, Montepulciano 15%, Sagrantino 15%)
It was a very balanced vintage throughout the production season: rainy winter, sunny and breezy spring, dry and hot summer. Some rain occurred between September and October that favored an optimal ripening of the grapes. Harvest took place late in the season.
The wine is dark ruby colour and expresses an interesting olfactory profile, characterised by delicate notes of plum and cherry, spices and slightly balsamic aromas. On the mouth it is elegant, dry, warm, with plenty of freshness and tannins. It has an enveloping persistence, long lasting finish with sweet spice flavours.
Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2008 (Sangiovese 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon 15%, Sagrantino 15%)
The vintage had a mild and dry winter and a cool and rainy spring that affected and slowed the vegetative growth cycle. The summer was dry with average temperatures that allowed a late ripening of the grapes. Autumn was cool, with low humidity. The harvest of Sagrantino took place in the second half of October when the grapes were perfectly healthy.
The wine is a compact garnet colour and still has ruby glows at the rim of the glass. On the nose there are hints of tobacco, dark spices, liquorice and plum jam. On the palate, the high tannin smoothed by time, the acidity is still well noticeable and they are balanced by a good softness. It has a long lasting finish with eucalyptus flavours.
Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2005 (Sangiovese 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon 15%, Sagrantino 15%)
This vintage was characterised by low yields dueto the cold weather in March and a summer that was very hot at the beginning, but at the end was cool and rainy. As a consequence, the grape ripening was very slow and the harvest was late in the season, especially for Sagrantino.
The wine is a thick garnet colour, without any fading. On the nose, there are spicy and tobacco notes, laurel,fruity hints of blueberry jam and dried violet, with a balsamic finish. On the mouth, it is perfectly balanced, with mineral notes and a beautiful freshness well balanced by alcohol and high glyceric softness. It has silky tannins, an elegant and long lasting finish, with a mint aftertaste.
This was a very interesting sensory experience, a real “time machine” of an important wine of the Montefalco area, that is not just Sagrantino di Montefalco.