Umbria was always on my list of places to visit while living in Italy, as the hidden gem nestled between Tuscany and Marche is producing some hot wines these days. I was glad to finally get the chance to see how the region has built a reputation in wine, and tourism. Thanks to the Caprai family, I gained a much broader insight to how the Sagrantino grape helped transform the land. “Strada del Sagrantino” as it is aptly called, is the work of a visionary, Arnaldo Caprai, and his family of ‘institutional entrepreneurs’. It’s no surprise that they were Wine Enthusiast’s Best European Winery of the Year in 2013. In 1971, Arnaldo Caprai bought his estate and set out to discover the potential of local varieties found in Montefalco; in particular, the Sagrantino grape – which was indigenous to Umbria and typically used for sweet wines . The area is rich in history and winemaking, but not as known as its neighbors Tuscany and Piedmont.
The name Caprai does not only represent the region of Montefalco, but now also the varietal Sagrantino. There are 104 Sagrantino producers registered in the Montefalco DOC, and Caprai is one of the largest and oldest. Once known as a sweet wine, Sagrantino is now a major player in the wine market, thanks to the efforts of the Caprai family and their commitment to research in partnership with the University of Milano for the past 35 years. Located onsite and in collaborating with the University, there is a training system of experimental fields for Sagrantino that has been reproduced using systems similar to Champagne and Bordeaux. Caprai remains committed to the same goal through the years—careful and constant work focused on excellence, research and innovation in the agronomics and enology, as well as communication of the culture and identity of the booming Montefalco region.
In addition to a wonderful day spent touring through vineyards and production facility, I was fortunate to enjoy a lunch with typical Umbrian fare from Caprai’s Chef Salvatore Denaro. Amidst a table full of antipasti of salumi, fava bean & percorino salad, frittata with artichokes – I made it to the secondi course with a few breaths left to savor the ultimate delicacy, Chef Denaro’s Porchetta; laced perfectly with fennel and garlic. A simple yet rustic lunch, paired perfectly with Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anniversario Riserva 2008.
But perhaps you recognize the name Caprai for other reasons. In addition to world-class winemaking, the Caprai family is also known for their passion in home textiles and lace. Their “Braccieletti Cruciani” was created in 1992 in an effort to convey the values and family culture through a precise craftsmanship and superior quality. Symbolizing heritage and tradition of the Umbrian family, each Cruciani bracelet is made from yarns of silk, wool, cashmere and cotton that the Caprai family is most notably known to produce. These fashionable symbols of “made in Italy” are making a statement all over the world.