Monday, June 22, 2009

Sagrantino Love at a Cookout

Ahhh, it's finally summer. For real. You'd think I'd bring a crisp white to a warm weather cookout but, ever the contrarian, I brought the 2006 Domenico Pennacchi Colle di Fontivecchie Umbria Rosso instead. It was a big hit. Noses dove into bowls, mine especially. "This is just stupid good," said my friend Erin, which sums it up if you're into the short version.

The longer version is that this somewhat mysterious wine — neither the producer nor the importer seems to have a web site, and the Chicago distributor has minimal details on theirs — is a damned spicy wine that's made of 30% sagrantino, 25% montepulciano, 25% merlot, and 20% ciliegiolo. The latter grape is a parent to sangiovese and my Oxford Companion says it's named for its cherry-like flavors and aromas. But it's the spicy sagrantino that really makes this wine.

This shows good red fruit, pleasingly brisk acidity, and most remarkably, a delicate red earthiness. Like I said, I had my nose stuck in the glass all night, and the notes of jalapeño, black pepper, earth, and cherry were complex, well-integrated, and lovely. It's medium-bodied — it's not at all light — but it's light on its feet, and it totally worked for a summer bbq. For one thing, the refreshing acidity never weighed me down despite the summer heat. For another, it went well with everything from grilled asparagus (really!) to grilled burgers to peppered halibut steak to earthy blue potato salad. Yes, I'm a pig polite, I ate a bit of all the above.

This drinks great right from pop and pour but has enough acidity and tannic structure to go for a few more years, or at least to go with the burgers you grill, like, tomorrow. (Meanwhile, if you know anything about this producer, give us the 411 in the comments section.)

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