Sagrantino is an Italian variety from Montefalco in Umbria and many of you may have heard of it, however very few have seen it in Australia. Sagrantino has great adaptability to wine regions with windy, dry zones, with a preference for clayey-flinty soils- a perfect match for McLaren Vale vineyards around Seaview subregion.
Don and Margaret Oliver (5th generation of Olivers Taranga) travelled to Montefalco in 2006, after planting Sagrantino a year or so earlier. Apprehensively, they asked the locals their opinion on this variety and like all good Italians they answered to give this vine ‘time’ and have ‘patience’, reassuring them that they wouldn’t be disappointed with the wait.
Sagrantino is well known for being a tannic wine, due to the rich anthocyanins in the berry skins. Generally it should come with a warning on the label. That warning should be; “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” your gums and cheeks shall never be the same.
So it was with trepidation that I started tasting the 2009 Oliver’s Taranga Sagrantino. It is a dark red ruby colour. On the nose it has a dark berry fruit, roast meat, almost soy /savoury character. With a delightful floral earthiness. The intensity of the aroma has you preparing your tastebuds. It has good acid, with dark morello cherries. And again that smoky chacuterie. I found it both herbal and spicy – a combination of dusty fennel seed, cardamom, sort of Indian spice. Both interesting and complex. This is definitely a full bodied wine, with quite a warm alcohol hit despite being 13.5%. While the tannins are abundant and grippy, they are fine and powdery in texture. What it lacks a little in length, it makes up for in upfront intensity.
I tasted this over several days to see how it would develop. The grippy mouthfeel does soften a little, and that spicy character becomes more meaty. During the tasting I was contemplating what to eat with this. It definitely requires food, a rich meaty ragu with smoky pancetta may be a good match. Or potentially even grilled venison marinated in red wine and juniper berries – if you’re game and love to play.