#Giro2021 Stage 10: Arriving in Umbria, the Heart of Central Italy

Before we delve into what awaits on Stage 10, here’s a quick recap of Saturday’s race, featuring Egan Bernal of Team Ineos Grenadiers:

Bernal and his team put their stamp firmly on this race, waiting until the final climb to take control of the peloton. If you’ve watched them in action, you know this takes the form of a powerful train, one that spits stragglers out the back with no hesitation. We watched as the maglia rosa slipped from Attila Valter’s shoulders: he and his team defended the leader’s jersey honorably but they were no match for the gladiators of Ineos.

Egan Bernal showed he means business at the Giro, stamping his way up a gravel path and taking the pink jersey. He now leads the race by a margin of 11 seconds over Remco Evenepoel of Deceuninck; Alexander Vlasov of Astana sits in third place. The top ten riders are all within a minute of one another.

And we witnessed another horrible crash. Slovenian rider Matej Mohoric of Team Bahrain Victorious hit a crack on a mountain descent, flying head-first onto the pavement. The force of impact was enough to break the front forks of his bike. Ugh. He was strapped to a back board and put in an ambulance. No word yet on his condition, but we’re certainly wishing him the best.

Preview of Stage 10

The riders get a break from the mountains on Monday. Stage 10 takes them on a rolling course north from L’Aquila in Abruzzo to the town of Foligno in Umbria, passing the town of Spoleto (famous for its art and music festival) along the way. It could be a day for the breakaway but, as it’s a rather short stage, I think the sprinters’ teams may take control. There aren’t many more juicy bits for them in this Giro, so expect them to rally to a bunch finish. With Caleb Ewan out of the picture, maybe Fernando Gaviria will finally get a victory. However it turns out, all the usual suspects will be in the mix, hoping for the perfect lead-out.

Stage 10 profile map (www.giroditalia.it.en)

The Wines of Umbria

Umbria is surrounded by the regions of Tuscany and Lazio to the west, and Le Marche and Abruzzo to the east, leaving it the only central Italian region with no coastline.  Its most distinguishing geographical features are the Apennine Mountains, which dominate the landscape, Lakes Corbara and Trasimeno, both former volcanoes, and the Tiber River, which slashes through the center on its way toward Rome. 

Castello di Magione, an historic winemaking property in Umbria. (photo: www.sagrivit.it)

The warm continental climate makes it a hospitable place to grow grapes intended for fine wine.  The most prominent red varieties are Sangiovese, Tuscany’s claim to fame, and Sagrantino, a lively but tannic specialty of the town of Montefalco.  International varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are interspersed in the plantings, allowing winemakers some flexibility in their recipes where DOC regulations permit.  Trebbiano is the most-planted white variety but it is Grechetto which makes the wines with most character.  Wines made here are intended as partners for the local cuisine, which includes dishes featuring wild game, river fish, pasta, olive oil, and black truffles.

Sagrantino: Umbria’s Red Wine

Sagrantino has a reputation as Italy’s biggest, most tannic red wine, relegating bruisers like Nebbiolo and Aglianico (no slouches in the big tannin department) to the also-ran category. Why is it so powerful? The grape is exceedingly rich in polyphenols such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, and tannins which come from the skin, seeds, pulp, and stems. Each grape is different with respect to the composition and concentration of these compounds. Sagrantino has copious amounts of all of them!

For the winemaker that means ensuring that the vines get plenty of sunshine: if the tannins are to ripen (and mellow a bit) the grapes need lots of hang time. And while those grapes continue to ripen, they continue to accumulate sugar, leading to a wine with potentially high levels of alcohol. The one I tasted for this post weighed in at 15% abv.

Historically Sagrantino was made into a passito-style sweet wine, made with grapes that have been allowed to dry out a bit, thus concentrating the sugars and other flavors. Dry table wines are a relatively new venture, with an initial DOC approval around 1980 followed by the designation of the Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG in 1992.

Are you a fan of tannic red wines? This one’s for you!

Tasting Notes: 2009 Antonelli San Marco Montefalco Sagrantino

15% abv; $52 retail

Color: Medium garnet, paler at the rim with a decidedly more orange tint.

Nose: Medium-minus intensity aromas of dried cherry, fresh porcini mushroom, and a hint of oregano-rosemary-thyme. Notes of damp earth. I decanted this wine and left it for several hours. That said, it was still evolving the next day. Slow to awaken.

Palate: Huge tannins! This wine was chewy and gritty on the tongue, with more concentrated flavors of sour cherry, licorice root, dried mushroom, and herbs. Much more lively than the nose would indicate, it had medium+ acidity and a full body. A lot of licorice and herbs on the finish, which lingered for several minutes. Again, the flavors took a long time to come to the forefront. But once the beast began to stir, it came on like a freight train!

Suggested Pairings: Go big! Salt, fat, flavor – Sagrantino can handle it all. Porchetta, roast lamb, seared duck breast, long-simmered beef ragu would be great partners.

Enjoy Monday’s race, making sure to take in the gorgeous scenery. Tuesday is the first rest day, but I’ll be back to give you some ideas on what to pair with Wednesday’s stage. Hint: we’re headed into Tuscany, so there will be tons of options!


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