Located in the central Italian region of Umbria, Montefalco has a rich history of winemaking which dates back to the middle ages, when monks from the Benedictine order first began cultivating the varieties for which Montefalco is still famed for today. Particularly special among these is Sagrantino, a red grape considered to be the most tannic in Italy - even more so than the infamously chewy Nebbiolo and Aglianico - and which is traditionally aged in large casks for many years before release to tame its uncompromising structure.
These wines, bottled as Sagrantino di Montefalco, are undoubtedly the crown of the appellation and can rival the illustrious Bs - Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello - in complexity and longevity, but we have found huge enjoyment in the Montefalco Rosso and Rosso Riserva wines which combine Sagrantino's heady and ethereal aromatics with the supple and fine boned structure of the Sangiovese and Montepulciano that also thrive in the Umbrian hills.
Enter Fongoli, an historic Montefalco estate dating from the early 1900s when Decio Fongoli began farming grapes and olives alongside the breeding of pigs and cattle at the top of a single hill in San Marco, a village at the heart of the current demarcated appellation. Since 1999 the estate has been run by Decio's great-grandson Angelo and his wife Letizia, who follow the traditional approach of ageing in large oak casks, vinifying with indigenous yeasts, and working with local Umbrian varieties including Sagrantino as well as the earthy, truffle scented Trebbiano Spoletino.
Today the property - managed entirely along biodynamics principles - extends for about 35 hectares, of which 23 are vineyards, with the rest made up of olive groves, woods, truffle grounds and meadows. Herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers have been banned for many years, and more recently all work with heavy machinery has been abandoned in favour of hand held ploughs and tools which reduce soil impaction and encourage the spontaneous growth of trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses between the vines. In the cellar there is no fining or filtration, and the wines are clarified naturally with racking and oxygenation according to the phases of the moon, before bottling in most cases entirely without sulphur.
This is a stunning estate producing memorable and enchanting natural wines in an ascendant appellation, and we are very proud to be able to offer them in the UK.
Biancofongoli (£22): 85% Trebbiano Spoletino - a rare variety found only in Umbria - and 15% Grechetto, macerated on skins for 48 hours to create a savoury and earthy orange wine with fruity, floral and spice aromas.
Vino Rosato (£25): Fragrant, thirst-quenching rosato in litre format made from 100% Sagrantino from which only the free-run juice was used. Savoury, vinous aromas of wet leaves, strawberry, pomegranate and exotic fruits. Sapid, mineral and mouth-watering on the palate with generous fruit and touches of white pepper and amaro.
Laetitia Bullarum Frizzante (£36): 100% Trebbiano Spoletino, hand-harvested and gently pressed into old barrels where it stays on the lees for 3 months. Once stable it is bottled with the addition of some frozen must to begin a second fermentation in bottle, where it is left undisgorged. An exotic nose of peach, passionfruit and honeysuckle with a soft, creamy mouthfeel elevated by fine bubbles and vigorous acidity.
Bullarum Rosato Frizzante (£36): A gorgeous frizzante rosato made from only the first pressing of hand-harvested Sagrantino grapes grown in fossil rich clay and silt soils. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged on the lees for 3 months before bottling without filtration or sulphur where it undergoes a second fermentation to produce a fine pétillance. Aromas of roses, pomegranates, strawberries and cherries with mouth-watering sapidity and a firm mineral backbone.
Rossofongoli (£22): Made from a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grown in calcareous clay soils. Crunchy and pure red fruit aromas with exotic spice and touches of wet leaves and horse blanket.
Montefalco Rosso (£26): Sagrantino, Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Merlot fermented and aged in large Slavonian oak casks for 18 months. An intense and savoury wine with concentrated aromas of blackberry, cherry, tar, roses, cocoa and liquorice.
Serpullo Montefalco Rosso Riserva (£37): A special cuvée made from 40 year old Sagrantino, Sangiovese and Montepulciano vines and aged for a minimum of 3 years in old Slavonian oak casks. Complex and expressive on the nose with rich, dark berries, coffee, liquorice, leather and wood aromas. Opulent and silky on the palate with memorable power and length.
Fracanton Montefalco Sagrantino (£74): Fracanton is Fongoli's top cuvée and a true tour de force of what Umbria's star variety Sagrantino is capable of. Made from the estate's oldest plots and fermented on skins for 90 days in open top clay amphora with daily punchdowns before pressing off to age in old slavonian oak casks for 6 years. Vivid and ethereal with abundant smoky red and black fruit and enticing notes of roses, violets, tar, tobacco and souk spices. Tremendously rich and full-bodied on the palate culminating in a tense, lightly bitter finish.