We often hear that the wine has too much tannins. The term has more negative indication when it is mentioned. But wine connoisseurs know that tannins are not necessary bad element in wine. In fact, tannins are the building block for a fine wine that can age for long time. Not to say that every tannic wine can always keep for a long time, it is the other way round. A powerful wine that has a potential aging life of more than 10 years, will almost always begin with aggressive tannins and usually not approachable at all in youth. The initial strong tannins will hold the wine and gradually resolve to beautiful grace upon maturity.
Sagrantino – a native Italian that speaks tannins
The region is Umbria of Central Italy. This little area called Montefalco, which produces Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG wine, makes one of the most unique red wines. Sagrantino is a local varietal that is known to make the most tannic wine in the world. However, it is the robustness due to aggressive tannins, with taste profile of both sweet and savory that make Sagrantino wine such a fascination.
My first encounter with Sagrantino was about two years ago. It was Fidenzio Sagrantino Montefalco DOCG. I don’t remember the vintage, but the unusual strong tannins and the spicy dark fruits taste profile lingered until I had my hands on personal order a few months ago. From BBR, I ordered 2008 Fattoria Milziade Antano and the 2009 Fattoria Colleallodole Milziade Antano, both Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG.
Fattoria Milziade Antano Sagrantino di Montefalco
From a share-cropper until producing its own label in the 1980’s, the Fattoria Milziade family is now in its 4th generation in Montefalco, Umbria. It’s a family owned business, a small producer which is what I like about. However, the bottle of the 2008 Fattoria wasn’t properly decanted during my first tasting. As a result, my palate was bombarded solely by aggressive tannins. They seemed stubborn and were never going to resolve. I tried leaving it over night but it didn’t work. The wine became dull and dead the next day.
With this awful experience, my second attempt was more prepared. The 2008 Fattoria was opened two hours before tasting. This time, I paired it with some hefty dish from my home country.
Paring with Bak Kut Teh
Logically, this paring should work. Using the aggressive tannins of Sagrantino to “counter” the robust and heavy Bak Kut Teh from Klang was convincing, at least in my mind. So I put my theory into test.
The wine color was deep dark ruby, with aroma of dark fruits after two hours. Lots of ripe blackberry and strawberry with some spices. Tannins were gripping and firm, but approachable as if being inside a beautiful town guarded by solid walls.
Having the wine with Bak Kut Teh was extraordinary experience. The fatty pork, main ingredient of the dish, was cooked in dark colored soy soup with strong herbs (Klang version). With that kind of strong flavor, Bak Kut Teh would outshine all kind of wines, making them dull and overpowered. Yet, our Umbira native sagrantino possessed enough power, in the forms of full wine body, alcohol level of 15% and most importantly, the characteristically strong tannins for the match. The strongest taste from Bak Kut Teh came from a kind of Chinese herb called 當歸 (Dong Quai, Angelica sinensis). I could feel, in my palate, that the aggressive tannins were complementing the intense taste of Dong Quai! 2008 Fattoria‘s full wine body, high alcohol content and the strong sweet and savory taste also worked well with the thick soup and fatty pork.
With the successful cross-border match, I might be even more adventurous in the future. So, Sagrantino tannins, you will be my “weapon” in slitting some of the most unbreakable Southeast Asian dishes when it comes to wine paring.