Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso 2013

Dark ruby-garnet color with translucence; cherry, vanilla, some floral and cedar notes on rich nose; dark fruits, sour/black cherry, plum, coffee on the palate.

Blend of 70% sangiovese, 15% sagrantino, 15% merlot; dusty, medium tannin—the merlot tames down the typically torrid tannins of sagrantino and sangiovese. Good acidity. Extra dry; medium body. Rich, powerful dark fruits interplay with the persistent tannins and acidity. Best paired with food; decanting helps integrate the elements.

This wine is only made in Umbria, a mountainous region in central Italy, halfway between Rome and Florence. It is the only Italian region that has no coastline or border with another country; its most famous towns are Assisi (associated with St. Francis) and Norcia (associated with St. Benedict). It is especially noted for its rich red wines, including Rosso di Montefalco, and it is the only region in the world to grow sagrantino. Sagrantino delivers huge tannins (thanks to very thick skins), vivid fruit (thanks to very late ripening), along with structure and acidity. While the grape has a reputation going back centuries, sagrantino languished in obscurity during much of the last century. That changed in the 1980s when Marco Caprai of Arnaldo-Caprai partnered with the University of Milan to experiment and perfect the grape, raising it to the top ranks of Italian grape varietals. Sagrantino di Montefalco wines gained DOCG status in 1992.

Arnaldo-Caprai is one the premier wineries in the Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the top level of quality in Italian wine). Wine Enthusiast magazine named Arnaldo-Caprai the European Winery of the Year in 2012. They make a pure sagrantino play that costs significantly more and is even more exotic. Rosso, with its sangiovese and merlot blending grapes, is much more approachable and significantly lower in price.

Softening sagrantino with sangiovese—as is done in rosso—it is like tapping the brakes a couple of times when you are going 150 mph. If you are intimidated by big tannin and structure, Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso 2013 is not for you. On the other hand, if you like your wines with attitude, great fruit, and distinctive flavors, this is your bottle. And at a great price, too. $20-22

Arnaldo-Caprai website

Other photos: Arnaldo-Caprai vineyard in winter; Arnaldo-Caprai vinification-barrel room.