Sagrantino Triumphs in Texas and Beyond
by Paul Vincent Bonarrigo, Co-Founder of Messina Hof Wine Cellars, Inc.
Sagrantino, “the Sacred Wine” is indigenous to Montefalco in the central Italian region of Umbria. For centuries, it was produced as a passito, which is harvested and placed on straw mats until the grapes dehydrate. Then the grapes are crushed and fermented as a sweet dessert wine. The wine was used during communion in the Catholic Church. In the mid 1970s, Sagrantino was fermented and made as a dry red full‐bodied wine. It was unique to a small wine growing region around Montefalco, a small hillside village. Only Sagrantino grown near Montefalco can be called Sagrantino di Montefalco. They also make a Montefalco Rosso which is majority 60‐70% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot or other red ,and 15‐25% Sagrantino.
Merrill and I Taught Wine Marketing In Perugia, the capital city of Umbria, in 2012. That is when we fell in love with Sagrantino. We tasted many Sagrantinos and I was hooked. When I returned to America, I contacted every California and Washington State nursery. They explained that UC Davis had just released the varietal. We bought every Sagrantino vine in California and Washington State.
Messina Hof is the ﬁrst Texas winery to produce a Sagrantino, a varietal not widely known outside of Italy, but one that thrives in Texas conditions giving it a rich pigment and intense tannins. We are now the largest producer of Sagrantino in the U.S. If we were in Italy, we would be one of the largest producers in Umbria!
Messina Hof’s Paulo Sagrantino 2015 became one of the ﬁrst Texas wines to achieve a Gold Medal at AWC Vienna in 2017, the largest oﬃcially recognized wine competition in the world. We also beat out every Umbrian Sagrantino. Our Sagrantino Reserva won the Star of Texas Award at the Lone Star International Wine Competition. With the results just in, the Paolo Sagrantino took the Gold Medal in the classiﬁcation “New World Red Italian Varietals and Blends ($30 & Above)” at the 2020 Houston Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition.
We now have 3 acres of Sagrantino planted in our front yard estate vineyard. So, our love of Sagrantino has resulted in 3 varietals added to our Messina Hof Winery portfolio.