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The Sagrantino Story
Sagrantino grapes have been used for the production of red wine for centuries. The wine began centuries ago as Sagrantino passito, a semisweet version in which the grapes are left to dry for a period after picking to intensify the sugar content. One theory traces the origin of Sagrantino back to ancient Rome in the works of Pliny the Elder, the author of the Natural History, who referred to the Itriola grape that some researchers think may be Sagrantino. Others believe that in medieval times Franciscan friars returned from Asia Minor with the grape. ("Sagrantino" perhaps derives from sacramenti, the religious ceremony in which the wine was used.)
The passito is still produced today, and is preferred by some. But the big change in Sagrantino wine production came in the past decades, when Sagrantino secco (dry) came onto the market. Both passito and secco have a deep ruby-red color that tends toward garnet highlights, with a full body and rich flavor.
For the dry wines, producers not to be missed are Terre di Capitani, Antonelli, Perticaia, and Caprai. Try those labels for the passito as well, in addition to Ruggeri and Scacciadiavoli. Terre di Capitani is complex, and has vegetable and mineral tones that join tastes of wild berries, cherries, and chocolate—this winemaker hand-pampers his grapes and it shows. Antonelli is elegant, refined, and rich. The Ruggeri passito is one of the best, so don't be put off by its homespun label. Caprai is bold and rich in taste, and has the largest market share, including a high percentage exported to the United States. Perticaia has a full taste with a surprising "up" finish that suggested some divine presence other than Sagrantino.
Some wineries are small and not equipped to receive visitors.
There you can pick up a map of the wine route and set up appointments, book accommodations, and then visit local enoteche. At the enoteche, ask the sommelier to guide you to some smaller producers you'll have difficulty finding elsewhere.
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