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Exploring Sagrantino: The Wines of Arnaldo Caprai 1994 - 2007
2007 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso (89-91)
2006 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso 90
2005 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso 89
2003 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso 87
2001 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso 90
1998 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso 90
2006 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva (91-93)
2005 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva 91
1999 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva 90
1998 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva 88
1997 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva 92
1996 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva 91
1995 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva 92
1994 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Riserva 89
2006 Arnaldo Caprai Rosso Outsider (89-91)
2005 Arnaldo Caprai Rosso Outsider 91
2001 Arnaldo Caprai Rosso Outsider 91
2006 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano (91-93)
2005 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano 92
1999 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano 89
1998 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano 91
1997 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano 91
2006 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni (91-94)
2005 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 92+
1998 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 93
1997 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 90
1996 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 91
1994 Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni 91
visit with Marco Caprai a few months ago was one of the highlights of a day in
Montefalco. In recent years Montefalco has experienced a boom in interest and
new investments. Little of this success would have been possible without the
foresight of Caprai, a man who has dedicated considerable time and resources in
promoting the unique qualities of Sagrantino and Montefalco after taking over
his family’s estate in 1988. Never one to rest on his laurels, Caprai’s newest
project is Montefalco 2015: A New Green
Revolution, a collaborative effort involving a number of local wineries
which aims to examine and address issues of sustainability in the region.
expense has been spared at the winey, something that is plainly evident even to
the most casual observer. A well-appointed visitors’ center lies at the heart
of the property. All of the estate’s wines are available for tasting and
purchase in the beautifully appointed tasting room. By far the most impressive
part of the winery is the vineyards. Caprai has experimented endlessly with
clonal selection in his drive to understand all things Sagrantino. The
vineyards themselves are impeccably manicured. Here, too, Caprai has invested
significantly in discovering the optimal vine density for Sagrantino, as is
evidenced by the many different vine training systems in place throughout the
large, sprawling estate.
boasts a history that goes back at least several centuries. Up until fairly
recently, though, Sagrantino was most often vinified as a sweet dessert wine
meant to be enjoyed over the Easter holidays. Because of its intense color and
formidable tannins, when it was vinified as a dry wine, Sagrantino was
traditionally blended with Sangiovese and other varieties in Montefalco Rosso,
the standard red table wine of the region. It has only been over the last few
decades that producers have learned to tame some of Sagrantino’s wilder
elements, and the results have been extremely promising, as this tasting
Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, Sagrantino is a grape that gives its best results in
years where hot days are tempered by cool nights, conditions that allow for
full phenolic ripeness to be reached gradually. Caprai and consulting
oenologist Attilio Pagli favor fairly lengthy macerations, which they believe
help soften the tannins as much as possible, within the context of Sagrantino. Malolactic
fermentation takes place either in steel or French oak, depending on the
quality of the fruit itself, and all of the wines are subsequently aged in
French oak barrels.
Montefalco Rosso, the entry-level wine, is made of 70% Sangiovese and 30%
Sagrantino. Although the wine is clearly made to be enjoyed on the young side,
in exceptional vintages the Rosso is also capable of developing quite nicely in
bottle. The 2007 Montefalco Rosso
reveals lovely fragrance in its fruit and an expansive, caressing personality. Drinking
window: 2010-2014. The 2006 Montefalco
Rosso is a full-bodied, intense version of this wine with a firmer
personality than the 2007. Drinking window: 2010-2016. The 2005 Montefalco Rosso offers up sweet scents of tobacco and
earthiness intermingled with red fruit in a smaller scaled style than either
the 2006 or 2007. Drinking window: 2010-2013. At this stage the 2003 Montefalco Rosso is quite forward.
The presence of oxidative aromas and flavors suggests the wine is fully mature.
Drinking window: 2009-2010. The 2001 Montefalco
Rosso is in a gorgeous place right now where secondary and tertiary notes
have come together with notable grace. Floral red fruits, sweet spices,
menthol, licorice and new leather are some of the nuances that linger on the
long finish. Drinking window: 2009-2010. The 1998 Montefalco Rosso opens with a beguiling bouquet that could
easily be mistaken with that of a Pinot. The wine has acquired gorgeous
complexity and soft, caressing personality. The balance here is impeccable. Drinking
Caprai’s Montefalco Rosso Riserva, a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Merlot that spends two years in French oak, has come back into the estate’s lineup after a period of absence caused by the replanting of a number of older vineyards that took place between 1999 and 2005. The 2006 Montefalco Rosso Riserva is a highly promising wine bursting with fresh blueberries, blackberries, minerals and flowers. Medium to full in body, the 2006 Rosso Riserva offers superb balance, not to mention tons of style. Drinking window: 2011-2021. The 2005 Montefalco Rosso Riserva has softened up quite a bit since I last tasted it. The wine reveals lovely inner purity in its red fruit and sweet spices, all of which come together in a slightly slender style. Drinking window: 2010-2020. The 1999 Montefalco Rosso Riserva has developed considerable complexity in its leather, tobacco, spices, plums and prunes. There does not appear to be much, if any, upside in cellaring the wine further, although it may continue to hold for a few more years. Drinking window: 2009-2012.
1998 Montefalco Rosso Riserva lacks
the elegance of the best wines in this flight. Leather, game, worn-in leather
and barnyard dominate the wine’s aromatic and flavor profile. Drinking window: 2009-2011.
Caprai’s 1997 Montefalco Rosso Riserva
is a ripe, sexy wine loaded with ripe fruit. This gorgeous, expansive wine
coats the palate with tons of fruit and harmony. The 1997 is absolutely
irresistible in every way. Drinking window: 2009-2014.
The 1996 Montefalco Rosso Riserva is especially fresh and minty in this vintage. It is a delicate, medium-bodied wine imbued with notable finesse. In some ways, the wine comes across as Bordeaux-like. Drinking window: 2009-2016. The 1995 Montefalco Rosso Riserva combines elements of the richness found in the 1997 with some of the more advanced, gamey Sangiovese tones found in the 1996. This seamless, harmonious Montefalco Rosso Riserva should continue to drink well while its fleshy core of fruit remains intact. 2009-2012. The 1994 Montefalco Rosso Riserva offers up worn-in leather, spices and prunes in a soft and fully mature style. Drinking window: 2009-2010.
The estate’s Rosso Outsider is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The 2006 Rosso Outsider is a flashy, plump wine loaded with ripe fruit. The wine possesses excellent length, although today the tannins remain rather firm. Obviously, there is plenty of time for the wine to finds its inner balance. Drinking window: 2011-2016. The 2005 Rosso Outsider is classy and elegant. The wine’s soft, expansive texture is beautifully balanced by an attractive freshness and a long, lingering finish. Drinking window: 2009-2015. The 2001 Rosso Outsider has developed lovely tertiary notes that add gorgeous complexity to the dark red fruit. The tannins remain somewhat powerful in style, yet the wine has achieved exceptional balance. The 2001 should continue to drink at peak for at least another few years. It is a gorgeous effort from Marco Caprai. Drinking window: 2009-2013.
Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano, first produced in 1979, is Caprai’s more
accessible Sagrantino. In top vintages, it has proven to age very nicely. The Collepiano
is aged in French oak, roughly 1/3 of which is new. The 2006 Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano reveals remarkable purity
and grace. Jammy, ripe fruits burst from the glass with superb richness,
density and balance. This is a highly promising Sagrantino. Drinking window: 2011-2021.
The 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco
Collepiano is terrific today. Medium to full in body, the wine flows with
layers of intensely perfumed red fruits, sweet herbs, flowers and minerals.
Fruit, acidity and tannins are all impeccably balanced in this super-refined
Sagrantino. This is a jewel of a wine. Drinking window: 2010-2020. The estate’s
1999 Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano
is fully mature at age ten. Worn-in leather, spices and prunes are some of
the nuances that emerge from this full-bodied red. Here the aromas and flavors
have developed at a faster rate than the wine’s structural components, and a
measure of balance vis-à-vis the finest vintages is missing. Drinking window: 2009-2010.
1998 Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano
is a very complete and beautifully balanced wine that has matured
splendidly. Everything is simply in the right place, and the 1998 should
continue to drink well for another few years, although personally I wouldn’t
press my luck too far as the wine is in a gorgeous place right now. Drinking
window: 2009-2011. The 1997 Sagrantino
di Montefalco Collepiano reveals a gorgeous balance of tertiary aromas and
flavors married to a firm sense of structure. Sweet notes of menthol linger on
the long, refined finish. This is a wonderfully complete Collepiano. Drinking window: 2009-2012.
Caprai’s top wine, the Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni, was first released in 1993 to commemorate the estate’s 25th anniversary. It has since gone on to become one of Italy’s most recognized wines. The 25 Anni starts as a vineyard selection of the finest fruit at harvest, followed by a second selection in the cellar. Essentially the 25 Anni represents the finest barrels of Sagrantino the estate has produced in a given year. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in French oak and sees approximately 50-60% new barrels, depending on the vintage. The 2006 Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni is a big, brooding wine that needs time to come together. Today the tannins are imposing, yet there seems to be quite a bit of potential in the glass. This will be a fascinating 25 Anni to follow over the coming years. Drinking window: 2011-2021. The 2005 Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni is a rich, sweeping wine that caresses the palate with layers of dark raspberries, flowers, minerals and cherries. This expansive, generous Sagrantino offers tons of length and polish. Sweet notes of herbs, licorice and tar linger on the long, harmonious close. Drinking window: 2011-2021.
The 1998 Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni has developed pretty notes of menthol, tar and spices that add complexity to a rich core of fruit. The tannins remain on the firm side, and one day in the not too distant future they will likely win the battle for domination in the wine’s balance. For today, though, the 1998 is in a beautiful spot to deliver considerable pleasure. Drinking window: 2009-2012. The 1997 Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni is a powerful wine packed with generous fruit. This doesn’t appear to be a perfectly clean 25 Anni, as elements of brettiness detract from the wine’s overall balance. Ultimately the 1997 is a rather one-dimensional wine, despite its considerable richness. Drinking window: 2009-2011.
The estate’s 1996 Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni is a deeply spiced, balsamic wine loaded with iron, smoke and tar, all of which add complexity to the fruit. The 1996 is still quite dense and full-bodied, and at this stage it seems likely the wine will retain those qualities for some time. In many ways, the 1996 25 Anni reminds me of a Serralunga Barolo in its darkness. Drinking window: 2009-2011. The estate’s 1994 Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni is fully mature. The aromas and flavors have come together in a beautiful expression of Sagrantino. Although the wine is still alive, for my taste it is slightly past peak. Still, at 15 years of age, this is an impressive showing. Drinking window: 2009-2010.
-- Antonio Galloni