The Winning Wines of Castello di Montegiove


Castello di Montegiove:

One of the major advantages for a wine journalist in attending international wine conference, such as ProWein in Dusseldorf or VinItaly in Verona, is the ability to conveniently sample a panoply of wines that you might not otherwise be able to access on a timely basis. The same holds true for the ability to talk one-on-one with a number of owners or winemakers in one convenient location. While it’s not quite the same as an onsite interview with a winemaker it has the advantage of efficiency and reduced travel expenses.

A good example is Castello di Montegiove, an estate and winery located in the western part of Italy’s Umbria region. I’ve followed them for over a year but couldn’t find time in my travel schedule to pay them an actual visit. So I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Montegiove’s manager and winemaker Lorenzo Misciattelli and his charming wife, Rikki, at VinItaly recently to talk about the winery and its operations as well as taste its wines.

By way of background, the Castello di Montegiove winery is located in a magnificent castle after which the winery is named. Founded in the 13th century the castle is perched on the crest of a hill a little east of the hamlet of Montegabbione and has a commanding view of the Umbrian countryside. Despite its long and turbulent history the Castello and its surrounding walls are virtually intact, one of the best extant examples of medieval fortresses in central Italy. The Misciattelli family has owned the castle since the late 1700’s. As indicated, I haven’t yet visited the winery but photos of the estate look absolutely stunning.

The Castello di Montegiove winery is not a large-scale operation. Rather, it is a family-run enterprise, a “boutique” winery that produces a small number of red DOC and IGT wines from selected Umbrian and Tuscan varieties such as Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Canaiolo Nero and a few “international” varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. All the wines come from grapes grown on the estate’s vineyards. Large sections of Montegiove’s vineyards have been replanted in recent years with an emphasis on quality clones and the winery takes a progressive approach in its vineyard management practices.

I had the opportunity to sample the estate’s entire wine portfolio, five wines in all. The reviews below are listed in the order in which the wines were sampled.

The Wines:

“Ro.Sa.To.” Umbria Rosato IGT 2016

This unusual blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero and Sagrantino grapes results in a well-rounded rosé with a tantalizing combination of fruit and acidity. Ro.Sa.To.’s crisp acidity combined with its strawberry and ripe raspberry flavor profile make for a very elegant and refreshing rosé perfect for summer sipping.

“Gatto Gatto” Orvietano Rosso DOC 2012

Gatto Gatto is produced from a blend of traditional Umbrian varieties, Sangiovese and Canaiolo Nero, with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a smooth, polished medium-weight wine with enticing floral aromas, a lively freshness and a generous helping of appealing red fruit flavors. The wine will pair well with a variety of dishes ranging from pasta with ragu or a Pizza Margherita to most grilled pork, chicken or beef dishes.

“Mi.Mo.So.” Orvietano Rosso DOC 2010

The an intriguing blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Montepulciano. Each variety is vinified separately and spends 12 months ageing in a combination of barrique and oak casks. The wines are then blended, bottled and then aged an additional 12 months before release. The resulting wine has a deep garnet red color with a violet edge. It is round, clean and elegant. There are no rough edges here, just dark fruit and wild berry flavors supported by moderate acidity and soft tannins interlaced with a fine thread of sweetness due to the wood ageing. It has a long and persistent finish highlighted by some intriguing spice notes.

“Elicius” Umbria Rosso IGT 2010

This wine is a blend of 70 percent Montepulciano and 30 percent Sagrantino. The varieties are vinified and aged separately. After ageing in a combination of barriques and large casks for 18 months the wines are blended, then bottled and aged an additional 18 months prior to release. Montepulciano’s soft fruit flavors mingle well with the more assertive earthy and spicy flavors of Sagrantino. The wine’s black cherry and ripe blackberry flavors are interlaced with some appealing spicy, rustic notes and prominent but sweet tannins. It’s a winning match for those who love bold, generous wines.

“T.” Umbria Rosso, IGT 2009

 “T.” is the estate’s flagship wine and made exclusively of Sagrantino grapes from the estate’s best vineyards. The grapes are softly pressed, fermented and then aged in a combination of barriques and large casks for two years and spend another two years in the bottle prior to release. Sagrantino wines are all about intensity and energy and there’s no shortage of that here. “T.” is a dark, dense wine with a prominent personality. It is big and rich with dark plum and dried berry flavors complemented by hearty but not overpowering tannins. It is a truly outstanding wine that has the stuffing to age gracefully for another decade or more, that is if you can resist the temptation.



The Wines:

Antonelli, Grechetto dei Colli Martani 2014 (about $13)
This wine is comprised entirely of Grechetto which is Umbria’s most prominent native white variety. The Grechetto dei Colli Martani was the first certified organic wine produced by Antonelli.

The Grechetto grapes are hand-harvested in late September and fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged on the fermented skins for 3 months in stainless steel and then spends 3 months in the bottle prior to release for sale.

Ii has a straw-yellow color with a tinge of green and delicate fruity aromas with some floral notes. It is pleasantly fruity with honeysuckle and peach flavors. It is a dry, crisp wine and a perfect accompaniment to seafood appetizers, poultry dishes, soups salads and simple fish dishes.

Antonelli, Contrario 2010 (about $20)
The Contrario is made entirely of Sagrantino grapes but carries an IGT designation.  Unlike Sagrantino DOCG wines that require a long ageing regimen in order to soften the variety’s robust tannins, Contrario is vinified in a different way that makes the wine more accessible. Hence the wine's name “Contrario” which translates as “contrary” and is emphasized by the backward-facing “R” in the name on the label.

Rather than long ageing in wood, Contrario is aged for 18 months in a combination of stainless steel tanks and cement vats and an additional 6 months in the bottle. Hence, it is inviting and fresh upon release. Although it can be drunk immediately upon release, it will also continue to age in the bottle for several years.

The result is a wine that exhibits some of Sagrantino’s acclaimed intensity and flavor profile but is considerably more reserved in terms of tannins and rustic overtones than are Sagrantino DOCG wines. The Contrario is rich and structured but also graceful, supple and, well, downright charming.

With good acidity and well-developed red fruit aromas and flavors, this wine is a flavorful companion to a wide range of food dishes - from soups and salads to chicken and red meat dishes.

Antonelli, Montefalco Rosso 2011(about $19)
This is a classic Montefalco Rosso blend of 70 percent Sangiovese and small amounts (15 percent each) of Merlot and Sagrantino.

The Merlot is harvested in early September followed a few weeks later by the Sangiovese and the late-ripening Sagrantino in October. Each varietal is fermented separately on the skins for approximately 3 weeks. The three varietals are then blended and aged in large oak barrels for 12 months after which the wine is clarified and aged in cement vats for an additional 6 months. The wine spends a final 6 months in the bottle prior to release.

It is a ruby red in color and a gentle swishing of the glass releases rich and intense aromas of cherries and red berries with a hint of kitchen spices. It is a medium to full-bodied wine that is generous and mouth filling with opulent fruity flavors. The ‘11 Montefalco Rosso has great structure balanced with soft tannins and Sangiovese’s benchmark fresh acidity and lots of subtle and lingering dark fruit and plum jam flavors on the finish.

In sum, it is a very approachable, enjoyable and less-expensive alternative to the more serious Sagrantino DOCG wines.

Antonelli, Sagrantino di Montefalco 2009 (about $45)
Sagrantino di Montefalco wines are the pride and joy of Umbria and are praised and celebrated throughout Italy. Regulations require that the wines be made entirely of Sagrantino and, as of the 2009 vintage, must be aged at least 36 months of which no less than 12 months must be in oak.

Antonelli’s Sagrantino comes from vineyards located 1,000 to 1,300 feet above sea level with prime southern and southwestern exposure. The grapes are harvested in mid-October and fermented on the grape skins for approximately a month. The wine is then aged in lightly-toasted barrels for 6 months and then transferred to large oak vats for 18 months. The wine is further aged in cement vats for 12 months before being bottled, unfiltered, where it rests for an additional 12 months prior to release. Filippo Antonelli noted that this wine is aged a year longer than required.

This is a complex, elegant wine with dark cherry and blackberry flavors interlaced with a touch of kitchen spices. It is a plump, full-bodied and seductive wine with an intriguing complexity and a distinctive sense of place. While it has firm tannins and good depth it is not as big, brooding and gravitas-laden as some other Sagrantino wines with imposing tannins that can take years to tame. Antonelli’s ’09 Sagrantino, by contrast, is ready to drink now, preferably with savory meat dishes, hard cheeses or by itself for that matter. But if you can check the urge to consume it now and instead lay it away in your cellar it will continue to improve with time.

Not that I feel the need to name-drop but it is worth noting that this wine received Gambero Rosso’s coveted Tre Bicchiere (“Three Glasses”) award.

Antonelli, Montefalco Sagrantino Passito 2008 (about $41 for 500 ml bottle)
This is a sweet, dessert-style wine made from semi-dried grapes. In centuries past, the passito version was the traditional interpretation of Sagrantino wine and it wasn’t until the late 20th century that the first dry or non-sweet Sagrantino wine actually appeared on the market.

Today, the Montefalco Sagrantino Passito must be aged for at least 30 months before release and have a minimum alcohol content of 14.5 percent.

Antonelli’s Sagrantino Passito is made exclusively of hand-selected Sagrantino grapes with only the finest bunches selected for the appassimento process. The selected bunches are laid in single layers in special crates where they are left to dry. As the grapes dry they lose water, shrivel and become full of concentrated sugars and flavors.

Tasting of Antonelli's 2008 Sagrantino RipassoAfter two months the grapes undergo fermentation on the grape skins for about 10 days after which the wine is aged in large oak barrels for 12 months. The wine is further aged in glass-lined cement vats for 18 months, then bottled where it spends an additional 12 months resting prior to release for sale.

This sweet red dessert wine fairly bursts with cherry and jammy dark fruit aromas interlaced with notes of spices and citrus peel. It has prominent dried fruit flavors, especially fig and prune, accented with touch of balsamico and aromatic herbs. It has a pleasurable full and velvety mouth feel with the salient sweetness balanced by vibrant acidity and soft tannins. It adds a very pleasant and civilized touch at the end of a grand meal.

This wine should be enjoyed with simple and not-too-sweet desserts such as fruit tarts, biscotti or crumb cakes. Or it is a pleasure to drink by itself or perhaps share with a small group of appreciative friends. Filippo considers it “the ultimate meditation wine.”


©Richard Marcis
April 18, 2016

For other reviews of award-winning Italian wines and producers see Italian Wine Reviews.


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