Italian Wines for Your Spring Holiday Table

With Christianity’s high holy days just weeks away, wine is on my mind. Wine, a part of Christian religious traditions since its earliest days, deserves a place at holiday tables. A wine made from grapes grown in and around an Italian monastery and used in religious feasts? Bingo!

Montefalco wines

I recently sampled two wines made near Montefalco in Umbria, Sagrantino de Montefalco and Montefalco Rosso, drinking them solo and pairing them with meals of meat, a typical choice for the Easter feast, and fish, a staple food for many during Lent, the preparatory six-week religious season that culminates at Easter.

One hundred percent Sagrantino is demanded of wines with the DOCG label and Antonelli’s Sagrantino 2007 has the full, round mouth feel characteristic of the varietal. Nearly opaque in the glass, Antonelli’s Sagrantino is highly aromatic, its pumped up tannins tamed by an expansive fruitiness. Believed to have been brought to Italy from Asia Minor by followers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Sagrantino, traced to the word ‘sacrament’ from the Latin sacer, was used by Umbrian monks as far back as 1088 to make wine used expressly for religious feasts and festivals.

A balance of Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Merlot, the Rosso is Sagrantino’s quiet cousin. The 2012 Montefalco Rosso DOC, a red table wine from Arnaldo Capri, is instantly approachable. Bright in the glass, it speaks in a whisper, gliding gently over your tongue before finishing with a soft floral note.

Side by side on the table, the wines could not be more different. The Rosso demands a Pinot Noir glass to concentrate its delicate aromas while the Sagrantino, its aromas apparent, benefits from a straight-sided Cabernet glass.

Paired with salmon teriyaki, the Rosso was a delight, the sweet fattiness of the fish working in harmony with the wine. I was surprised that the Sagrantino did not overpower the fish, its hearty character instead a pleasant foil. When served alongside a simply grilled steak, the Sagrantino was perfectly at ease, its fleshy juiciness a refreshing change from American Cabernet Sauvignon. The Rosso fared less favorably, the beef’s richness flattening the wine.

For your holiday table, Montefalco Rosso on Friday with fish and 100 percent Sagrantino on Sunday with whatever protein is at the center of your feast.


For more information and to purchase Antonelli Sagrantino, look here.

For more information and to purchase Montefalco Rosso, look here.