The hills undulating down from Montefalco are laced with vineyards of the Sagrantino, a prized grape indigenous to a very limited area of Umbria. During a late September weekend in Montefalco, these wines are feted during the town’s festival, Enologica Montefalco (“Wine-making Montefalco”). This year, the town celebrated the 40th edition of the Montefalco festival.
The Saturday morning parade of grape-festooned floats pulled by tractors arriving from the various villages and rural areas around Montefalco winded downhill outside of Montefalco’s medieval walls.
Ebullient groups of friends and families on the floats celebrated il buon vino, reenacting fondly remembered scenes of rural life: older gentlemen playing cards in the evenings, accordion players at the rural dances to celebrate a completed vendemmia (grape harvest) and other celebrated harvest moments. Young people in rural dress followed the floats, some carrying sweets and breads, others bearing barnyard animals.
In the centro storico of Montefalco, wine appassionati visitors gathered in the cloister flanking the medieval church dedicated to St. Augustine to purchase a wine glass for tastings. The wine glasses nestled in Sagrantino-colored cotton bags draped around the necks of the guests who then entered the vaulted 15th-century monastery halls for guided wine-tastings by vintners producing the prized Sagrantino wines. Prosciutto sandwiches and goats’ milk cheese bites were available to accompany their sips of vino.
The medieval hill town was adorned with grape and vino motif everywhere: in the restaurant facades and along restaurant railings and in the displays in shop windows. Sagrantino starred in flavors of gelati at Montefalco’s gelateria as the grapes paired with peaches and enhanced the white chocolate flavor.
Mamma mia, the Montefalchesi certainly know how to center-stage their prized Sagrantino!