Umbria; my idea of heaven. Saffron, Truffles and Sagrantino.

Umbria; my idea of heaven. Saffron, Truffles and Sagrantino.

Umbria; my idea of heaven. Saffron, Truffles and Sagrantino.

Umbria a region in Italy, is my idea of heaven with its exquisite offerings of Saffron, Truffles and Sagrantino wine. I have been fortunate to visit Umbria. I went because of my love of Sagrantino and wanted to learn more. My first winemaking experience with the variety was in 2013 and it was instantaneous love. Not like my love of dry red Pinot Noir which took many years to evolve from disdain to admiration, this love was love at first making. Coincidentally the fruit that I was working with was planted in 2010 by my incredibly talented and prescient viticulturist partner. What fascinates me about Sagrantino is the delightful disconnect between its aromatic elegance and its powerful, forceful, tannic palate. The nose is all pretty and perfumed giving no indication of the tannic, drying, savoury palate that is to come. It feels like the variety fluidly shifts between masculine and feminine, expressing itself in diverse ways in the same wine.

The art of making Sagrantino wine revolves around managing tannin extraction and expression. It is a high tannin grape variety boasting some of the highest polyphenol levels among red wines, some claim the highest. In Umbria, they achieve this by maturing the wine for extended periods, often releasing Sagrantino only after 5 years of maturation. I review two Australian examples here; the 2020 Fierce III from Lou Miranda Estate and 2018 Studium from Sons of Eden. Both are new vintage releases. The Sons of Eden going the traditional route and releasing after 5 years the Mirandas being brave and releasing after 3. I did try and source a 2020 from Sons of Eden but so little was made because of the severely restricted yields in the Barossa, which includes Eden Valley in 2020, that they won’t be releasing one. Giddy up, strap yourself in, hold on tight. Bring on the 2020 from Fierce III. A hugely tannic variety in a yield restricted vintage. This is going to be good.

2020 Fierce III Sagrantino

The Fierce III presents an inky impenetrable dark red brown colour accompanied by aromas of violets, glacéed cherries, potpourri displaying it’s pretty and perfumed nature. On the palate, it is dense and chewy with bold, rugged, and sinewy tannins that kick in almost immediately. The tannins are not unpleasant but pronounced and assertive. Fierce III has used American oak barrels to tame the natural abundant tannins not only through maturation, having been in oak for 3 years prior to release. In addition the American oak adds a perceived sweetness that coats the tannins making them more powdery than grippy. The result is an assertive, addictive experience reminiscent of fine Dutch dark chocolate.

2018 Studium Sagrantino.

Mushrooms and dare I say truffles. The Studium is more earth and moss, reminiscent of walking through a damp forest. It’s not as exuberantly floral and pretty as the Fierce III but more considered. It is highly fragrant and there is no suggestion of aromatics from oak only from the fruit. The tannins are less chewy, more taut, abundant yet coiled and unfolding in waves across the palate. The acidity is apparent giving the Studium a liveliness and brightness that flirts with the tannin.

Sagrantino is a rarity in Italy, only really found in the Umbria region let alone in Australia, making it a treasure to seek out. The Fierce III Sagrantino is from Lou Miranda Estate's vineyard in Barossa Valley, planted in 2009, making it the second planting of Sagrantino in Australia. On the other hand, the Studium originates from the higher altitudes of Eden Valley. "Studium," meaning study, zeal, and dedication in Latin, perfectly reflects my fascination with this captivating variety. I hope you, too, become a student of Sagrantino, discovering its charm and power. If you are looking to try the Italian styles look for Montefalco Sagrantino this is 100% Sagrantino. Be careful to distinguish between secco (dry) and passito (sweet). If you are easing into Sagrantino try Montefalco Rosso which is a blend predominately of Sangiovese with Sagrantino. The polyphenols of Sagrantino have been described as floss for your arteries but be prepared for your palate to be assaulted.

Both wines can be purchased online


Lou Miranda Estate 1876 Barossa Valley Way, Rowland Flat

Sons of Eden Artisans of Barossa 24 Vine Vale Road Tanunda




Image credit Saffron. Photo by Benyamin Bohlouli on Unsplash

Declaration of interest. I have a personal relationship with all three fierce women of Lou Miranda Estate. This is an independent review and my honest and genuine impressions of the wines.