The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Chicagoist's October #ChiWineChat: Central Italy

By John Lenart in Food on Oct 10, 2014 6:00PM

(Image courtesy of Montefalco Consortium.)

Last month we chatted about Willamette Valley pinot noir in #ChiWineChat. Here are some of the tweets from people who tasted and chatted along.

Thanks to everyone who chatted along. I hope you enjoyed Willamette Valley pinot noir.

This month, I want to broaden the scope of #ChiWineChat. I've been tasting a lot of Italian wines lately and was given a sample of one from central Italy that had a really interesting story that's appropriate for this time of year. But more on that later. Let's chat about the wines from central Italy.

Specifically, I'm talking about wines from Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo, and Lazio. You could probably argue that Tuscany is part of central Italy too, but let's leave that one out of the equation this month.

The growing areas of Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo, and Lazio are quietly gaining momentum in popularity. They boast an exciting array of native varieties that hard working producers are using to make some very intriguing wines. Common grape varieties from central Italy include:

Grechetto - A white grape that is used to make dessert wine and is used in Orvieto white wines.

Pecorino - A white grape native to Marche which is low yielding and is sometimes used in sparkling wines.

Verdicchio - A white grape that produces wines packed with citrus, herbs and grass.

Montepulciano - The main red grape used in Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, not to be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Tuscany. This rustic red wine is often deeply colored with pepper and spicy notes.

Sagrantino - This tannic red grape was historically used to make sacramental wines. Indigenous to, and only found in Montefalco in Umbria, several producers are now using this grape in Bordeaux style blends.

So, let's taste some wine.

Today I'm tasting the 2010 Montefalco Rosso from Scacciadiavoli in Umbria. This is a blend of 60 percent sangiovese, 25 percent merlot and 15 percent sagrantino. It is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months.

Like I said earlier, this wine was a sample I received after reading a somewhat corny press release about “wines for Halloween.” While I have no idea what a wine for Halloween is, the story behind the vineyard was one that is appropriate for the ghoulish holiday.

The name sagrantino can be traced to the word sacrament. Wines made from this grape were historically drank during religious holidays including All Souls Day, the Catholic predecessor to Halloween.

The winery Scacciadiavolo, meaning “Cast out the devils,” was named for a 19th century exorcist who lived in a village near the vineyard. He was known for using the wine, made with sagrantino, during his exorcism rituals. Spooky! Eh kids? BOO!

OK, back to the wine. This 2010 Montefalco Rosso is ruby in color moving to a light violet rim. It has a bouquet of dried red berries and plum with notes of cigar box and spices like black pepper. Flavors of cherries and blackberry are balanced out by a good structure of tannin and acid.

You can buy this wine for about $18 at Binny's

So, that's what I'm drinking. Now it's your turn; get out there, and taste some wines from central Italy. They can be red, white or even sparkling wines from Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo, or Lazio. Then tweet about it or post about it on Facebook using the hash tag #ChiWineChat to let me know what you're drinking, and what you think about it.