A $300 Sagrantino?

arnaldo capraiW. Blake Gray reports that Arnaldo-Caprai, the winery largely responsible for putting the grape Sagrantino  and the Umbrian region of Montefalco on the wine map, plans to release a $300 wine, called Spinning Beauty, to compete on the global stage with other high end international wines.

Hmmm. If you have never heard of Montefalco Sagrantino you are not alone. I have dropped into several good wine shops looking for it and I usually get blank stares. It really isn’t on anyone’s radar here in the states. Which I think is the idea behind this wine. The price alone will turn heads as will the fact that it ages 10 years before release.

Spinning Beauty is not released until it is 10 years old. The current release is the 2009. Most of that time – eight years – was spent aging in new French oak barrels. This came after it was fermented inside DIFFERENT new French oak barrels.

Blake enjoyed the wine after letting it sit open for a day to calm the tannins.

I visited Montefalco last summer and tasted through the lineup at Arnaldo-Caprai, a tasting which did not include this new release. Their flagship Sagrantino, called Collepiano, 2011 vintage, was far and away the best Sagrantino I tasted on my visit to the region. My review is here.  It’s an excellent wine in its own right, dense, complex and lively, but also robustly tannic. It’s a good value at $50 if grippy is your thing.

My guess is this release is likely to succeed. Italy could use a hot, new grape and the region of Umbria surrounding Montefalco is gorgeous, what Tuscany used to be before it got too popular. My general objection to Sagrantino is that the fruit often tastes stewed and the wines can be over-oaked in an attempt to control the mouth-ripping tannins. But Arnaldo-Caprai avoided those pitfalls; they are probably the right winery to pull this off. It will be interesting to see what the critics say about it since it’s competing on price with established wines of reputation such as Ornellaia, Grange in some vintages, and Vega Sicilia.

The wine will be powerful and complex, and when the somms in the know lose their fascination with glou-glou and minerality (and they will because variation is what matters) I won’t be surprised to see this appearing on high priced wine lists in New York. The challenge will be creating a market for younger wines to take advantage of Spinning Beauty’s reputation—the tannins are an obstacle.

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