Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)

The name Perticaia is familiar to lovers of big Italian reds, but its meaning – “plow” in the local dialect – likely isn’t as well-known. It is, however, an apt description of how Azienda Agraria Perticaia has forced its way through to the top of the critical food chain when it comes to Montefalco Sagrantino wines.

For that, Perticaia can thank both timing and focus. The brand was founded by Guido Guardigli towards the end 1990s, when Montefalco began a quality boon and a production boom, during which the number of wineries in the region nearly quadrupled. They now farm some sixteen hectares of vines, with not an International grape variety to be found among them, and more or less focus on yields that take produce about one 750ml bottle of wine per plant. Of their 125,000 bottle annual production, a whopping seventy percent gets exported, which means that their oenologist Alessandro Meniconi (working with consultant Emiliano Falsin) is a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, handling (among other things) some export management duties, as well.

Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)

Among Montefalco Sagrantino producers, Perticaia is one of the more fastidious when it comes to production techniques, and understanding those is key to getting a full grasp of why their Sagrantino releases are so appealing at such young ages. Only about fifteen percent new French oak is used, with the remainder in some cases being as old as six years, which is kind of like the dotage period in French oak barrel terms (they’re making a push to move towards higher use of older, larger barriques, too).

The big key, however, might be in their seemingly non-intuitive, ass-backwards decision to let their Sagrantino undergo longer than normal maceration. One would think that this would make those reds tougher-than-nails when it comes to Sagrantino’s already rough tannins, but one would be wrong, because Chemistry. The longer maceration actually polymerizes the tannins, making them more approachable at the expense of color (which, as Meniconi emphasized to me during a media visit, “Sagrantino has plenty of, anyway)…

True to form for me, after talking about red wine maceration, I’m going to kick things off by reviewing some of Perticaia’s interesting indigenous white wines, because yeah, I am that guy:

Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)

Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)2016 Azienda Agraria Perticaia Trebbiano Spoletino (Umbria, $17)

Not to be confused with, well, every other rendition of Trebbiano in Italy (with which it shares little genetic history), Spoletino is one of the most exciting vinous things happening in the Montefalco region. Being one of the first producers to work with Spoletino more seriously, Perticaia has crafted a lively, lovely, and complex rendition; tropical, floral, mineral, creamy, and textural, with hints of saline, citrus pith, and all-around loveliness.


Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)2015 Azienda Agraria Perticaia “del Posto” (Spoleto, $NA)

I suppose that when one names a wine “local,” the message is about as blunt as it can be. Heady, floral,  and honeyed, “del Posto” is a bigger take on Spoletino. Tropical fruits combine with cream, citrus, lees, and late-harvest style richness, all underpinned by ample structure and nice freshness. But it’s that perfume on the nose that will put impure thoughts in your head, and make you think of alternative meanings of their namesake’s translation.

Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)

Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)2014 Azienda Agraria Perticaia Montefalco Rosso (Umbria, $20)

Peticaia use the standard Sangovese/Sagrantino blend for their Montefalco Rosso, but instead of the more popular choice of Merlot, they employ the wily (and oft-underrated) Colorino. This red sees no wood, and the result is spicy, fresh, chewy, and approachable, with cherry flavors, orange peel notes, and floral hints.


Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)2011 Azienda Agraria Perticaia Montefalco Rosso Riserva (Umbria, $NA)

The wood-aged version of their Montefalco red blend is so similar in flavor profile to the Rosso that they could be mistaken for twins rather than the bigger-younger brother pair that they really are; only in this case, the blend is decidedly more “manly” (think meatiness, game, and wood spices). It’s silkier, too, with more grip and richness. Lacking in character, this is not.

Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)

Pert, Plus (Perticaia Recent – And Not-So-Recent! – Releases)2014 Azienda Agraria Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino (Umbria, $NA)

And now for the long-overdue moment… you already know that I’m going to say that this is good. Plummy, with ample dried herb notes, along with smoked game meats and leather, this is a complex, juicy nose that ultimately finds its foundation in black cherry fruits. The mouthfeel is superb; silky to start, grippy in the center, and spicy/herbal on the way out, with a long exit and sweet, ripe fruit and cocoa throughout.

If you’ve any doubt about Perticaia’s maceration techniques, I can attest to the viability of their not-so-recent Sagrantino releases, which we also tasted during my visit. Specifically, the 2013 is dense, plummy, velvety, and full of that telltale cocoa spice, but is noticeably bigger/richer in fruit and power than its 2014 counterpart, maybe a bit more textured, and just as poised, lengthy and complex.

Going back a bit further, the 2009 incarnation is savory, spicy, and harmonious, exerting its tension through a pleasant battle of fruity chewiness and a grippy, lifted palate. It’s still a baby, too. Finally, there’s the 2004, which was essentially crafted using brand-spanking new Sagrantino vines. The quality here is striking for such young bucks; cigar, graphite, smoke, game meat, earth, and wood are present, along with stewed plums and an almost aged-Bordeaux-like presentation. It’s still quite powerful (hello… Sagrantino!), but that won’t stop you from drinking more than your fair share of it, if you an find it.


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First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)

Filipo Antonelli

It’s a wet, chilly, grey Winter morning in San Marco, a locality that sits just outside of Italy’s Montefalco and the ridiculously-well-named town of Bastardo. And I’ve had to wait in the damp cold for a short bit, because Filippo Antonelli is a bit late for our appointment at his family’s winery (hey, welcome to Umbria, right?). And that’s pretty much the only slightly-negative thing that you’ll read about Antonelli over the next few minutes… but let’s set the stage with a little bit more detail before we get into the effusive wine recommendation stuff…

Filippo opens up the Antonelli tasting room, which sits on a hill across from the old family house/cellar/former winery, and starts to bring the charmingly imposing place to life, switching on the lights, and asking me “would you like a coffee?”

I tell him no, grazie, I just had plenty of java at my hotel, so I’m good.

First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)After a bit of a pause, he turns towards the espresso machine longingly, then back to me. “Do you mind if I have one, then, before we get started?” And that’s one of those moments where you just love Italy.

Anyway, Filipo then gives me the lowdown on the Antonelli biz. He co-owns (since 1986) the family company along with his cousins, with the Umbria property being from his father’s side (and formerly, for about six centuries, being the Summer residence of bishops – part of the fact that Umbria was a portion of the Vatican state until the Eighteenth Century). His great grandfather Francesco was a lawyer, who purchased the estate in 1881. At that time, it was typical Umbrian farming fare; a mix of vines, olive trees, pig farms, and wheat, with the wine being sold in bulk and crop-sharing being the norm. After the advent of the DOC in 1979, they began bottling their own wine, and now release about 300,000 bottles a year from 50 hectares of vines (and still farm olives, wheat, spelt, chick peas, and host agritourism (that is an actualy word, by the way) on roughly 170 hectares of land).

A new subterranean winery was built in 2001. And from it comes perhaps some of the most elegantly-crafted Sagrantino available on the planet…

The current winemaking at Antonelli is a team effort between consulting winemaker Paolo Salvi, resident Oenologist Massimiliano Caburazzi, vineyard consultant and Ruggero Mazzilli, and vineyard manager Alessio Moretti. What’s in their bottles suggests that they are doing just about everything right.

First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)

First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)2016 Antonelli San Marco ‘Trebium’ Trebbiano Spoletino Spoleto (Umbria, $20)

The whites of Monteflaco are often overshadowed by their much more, uhm, robust red brethren. But it’s one of the regional white DOCs – Spoleto – that is among the area’s most vinously exciting. italy’s maddening penchant for naming every other genetically-unrelated white grape trebbiano aside, the Spoletino version can be fascinating stuff. Here, we get friendly citric and herbal/floral notes, with more serious hints of brioche and pith. It’s tight and young, revealing little (and even that after several minutes in the glass), but the structure and aging potential is apparent right off the bat.

First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)

First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)2012 Antonelli San Marco Montefalco Rosso Riserva (Umbria, $33)

The Montefalco middle-child brother, this classification sits between the more instantly-appealing Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino designations. Antonelli only produces their Riserva line in better vintages, and it sees longer wood aging than their Rosso (about 1.5 years). The blend is about 70% Sangiovese (in this case, selected from their oldest vines), 15% Sagrantino, and 15% Montepulciano. Sangio arrived in the area ’round about 1800, and despite the continental climate does well in the region’s ample sunshine. Interestingly, and thankfully unlike its Trebbiano, there’s no specific sangiovese variant that defines Montefalco’s plantings. Anyway, this red combines freshness and earthiness in a classy, spicy, plummy presentation. The mouthfeel is, at turns, full of tart cherry flavors and fleshier, riper plums, and finishes with hints of citrus peel and even clay (and I mean this in a very good, pair-it-with-flank-steak kind of way).

First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)

First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)2012 Antonelli San Marco Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $43)

Now we get to the meat of the meal. Sagrantino isn’t a easy grape to get your head (or tongue, or gums) around, particularly when it’s young and full of burly tannins, burly acids, and burly alcohol. Antonelli has managed to set a standard on how elegant a Sagrantino can be upon release, without going overboard trying to completely tame its youthful unruliness. This is immediately complex stuff, with ample black cherry, tobacco, leather, and mineral aromas. In the mouth, all of the requisite structure for aging is there, along with power, but it never gets overbearing. Give it ten years, and thank me later.

First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases)2010 Antonelli San Marco “Chiusa di Pannone” Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, $NA)

I’ve been trying, since tasting this wine, to come up with reasons for not considering it one of the best young Sagrantinos that I’ve ever tasted, and despite the effort of trying to prove the negative corollary, I keep coming up short so I’m going to give up and just call this release the real deal. The wine is sourced from 1990s plantings that sit at about 400 meters elevation, helping to tame the sun-ripening and heat during the growing season. The result is about as gorgeously kick-ass (think Michelle Yeoh) as Sagrantino gets; graphite, leather, earth, tobacco spices, red plums, black cherries, and a long, fleshy, grippy, stunning palate expression. I took a bottle home, which, given how ridiculously behind on sample tastings (and storage space) I am, is about as high a praise as I can offer a wine these days, I suppose.


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Copyright © 2016. Originally at First Coffee, Then Tannins (Antonelli Montefalco Recent Releases) from - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!