Thursday, March 17, 2011

Coriole Sagrantino 2007 (McLaren Vale)

The back label text for the 2007 Coriole sagrantino reads:

"Sagrantino is the most recent addition to Coriole's range of Italian varietals. It has a reputation for being one of the most tannic varieties in the world, but with great structure and longevity. This wine will reward patience with careful cellaring."

There's an admirable Australian directness about that reference to tannins, kind of "right, we've said it, that's out of the way now." The wine is not as tannic as the back label suggests, but it is about structure. It is also about deep fruits, purple-black but shot through with red fruits notes. Some Umbrian sagrantino (not just the blended ones) show a touch of dried herb in behind the dusty, bitter chocolate characteristic of the variety. This wine has some of that chocolate, and good persistence to go with the structure, but needs some time to fill out and add further complexity.

There is a fear among sagrantino makers and marketers from the few Australian vineyards and wineries who have it that consumers will think it too cabernet-like. Yes, it is a tannic variety, but these are not cabernet tannins. With the grip, there is a dusty, gritty, sandy, nut-skin character to the tannins that, combined with the bitter chocolate notes, make for something distinctly Italianate (and very good with braised or roast pork; Umbria is the porcine heart of Italy, after all).

If I had to try and describe good sagrantino through an Australian frame, I'd say it has the structure, length, fruit intensity, depth and persistence of a top cabernet-shiraz blend, with Italian notes throughout the nutty tannins and bitter chocolate finish. But I think I prefer the Coriole label approach - take it on its own terms, with directness and honesty.

$45, cork, winery sample, 14% alcohol.

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