Il vino. Una passione di famiglia.
The growing of the grapevine, especially of the Sangiovese wine, in the Montefalco area, dates back to the pre-Roman Age. The writer Plinio il Vecchio, in the xiv book of “ Naturalis Historia”, refers to a variety of grapes, called Itriola, that grows in Mevania, the present-day Bevagna, inside the area of the production of the Montefalco wines. Later on some Franciscan friars seem to have brought the vine of the Sagrantino wine from Asia Minor and have planted it in the place of the Sangiovese. The name would refer to the Sacraments, since the grapes were cultivated by the friars who got a “ passito” for religious rites. Nevertheless modern archaeological studies rule out a link with Asiatic vines , and many scholars believe that Sagrantino is a vine of local origin.
Many and important documents are preserved in the Historical Archives in Montefalco and they show that already in 1088 some vineyards were in the area of Montefalco, that is one of the very few Italian towns where the grapes grew inside the town walls, a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.
Some basso-relievos with vine-shoots and bunches are painted on the outer wall of the apse of the Medieval Church of Saint Bartholomew. Since the first half of the fourteenth century the municipal laws had started to safeguard the grapevine and wine, in entire chapters of municipal statutes.
In 1451 the well-known Florentine painter Benozzo Gozzoli, called by the Franciscan friars to fresco the apse of their church, today one of the most important museums in central Italy, might hint at Sagrantino by painting the bottle of red wine on the table of the knight from Celano in the frescos dedicated to the life of Saint Francis ( the cycle of the Life of Saint Francis). The specifications for growing and producing Sagrantino are very old, actually documents to protect and guide the growing, the harvesting and the production of the Sagrantino grapes date back to the xiv century. Starting from 1540 a communal injunction stated officially the beginning of the grape harvest in Montefalco. This tradition continues also nowadays, thanks to the Confraternity of Sagrantino that every year, in September, gathers citizens and onlookers in the main square to read the ancient document.
The frost in 1586 was a disaster and the vines started producing wine only after some decades.
In the Renaissance the wine of Montefalco is well known and appreciated and in 1565 the Director of the Perugia Fortress, Cipriano Piccolpasso, mentions it in the report of the Papal State for the Pope.
Therefore Sagrantino is older than four hundred years , since the first quotation of the Sagrantino grapes is found in a hand-written document dated 1598 and preserved in the Notorial Archives in Assisi. In 1662 the Cardinal Boncompagni, the Legate of Perugia, increases the penalties of the Communal Statute and declares that the probable cutters of the grapevine will be sent to the gallows.
In the nineteenth century the writer Calindri, in his “ Geographical, Historical, Statistical Essay of the Papal territory” mentions Montefalco at the top of the State for its wines. The first appreciations for the Sagrantino date back to these years.
In 1925 at the Oenological Exhibition of Umbria, Montefalco is defined as the most important wine centre in the region. On 30th October 1979 the Sagrantino is recognized as D.O.C. and on 5th November 1992 as D.O.C.G. The ancient oenological tradition and the technique to dry the Sagrantino have made this area successful and have allowed the establishment, in Montefalco, of a National Centre of Studies for the Passiti Wines in Italy. It is interesting to point out that the Sagrantino grapes do not produce the same valuable wine if they are planted somewhere else. The high concentration of poliphenols and tannins requires a long period of ageing in oak barrels to get the perfect maturation : over 30 months for both varieties and at least 18 months for the Sagrantino Secco.