The first 50 years of the Arnaldo Caprai winery


11 August 2021
Montefalco (PG)

The Arnaldo Caprai winery is 50 years old, an important anniversary not only for the Umbrian agricultural enterprise led by Marco Caprai, but also for the entire territory and the Italian wine sector, because if the Montefalco territorial development model is a case history that has been studied even overseas, it is due to the farsightedness of this company in proposing a new way of doing business, to the point of creating around it, over the decades, a thriving economic fabric entirely centred on wine tourism.

It is the 1971 when Arnaldo Caprai, a successful textile entrepreneur, bought the Val di Maggio estate with 3 hectares of vineyards. Today there are 170 hectares.

"Fifty years ago,' Marco Caprai recounts, 'it was the time when sharecropping was coming to an end and we were witnessing the depopulation of the countryside: it was the time when we were about to witness the great agricultural crisis. In this sense, my father understood that this crisis could be resolved by transforming agriculture more and more into a business. Recovering Sagrantino by linking it to the territory and the ability to do business I think was an extraordinary intuitionWe had the vision of a path that today we can say has taken us even further than we dreamed.

To celebrate its first 50 years in October, the winery will present a limited edition of Montefalco Sagrantino Docg, with a precious commemorative collector's label, in pure gold, signed by an artist of international calibre.

Always Caprai's strategy for the relaunch of viticulture in the Montefalco area is centred on Sagrantino, and is based on three key words: tradition, innovation, territory. Tradition is understood as an increasingly accurate knowledge of local wine-growing history and techniques, analysed with a broad and solidly documented perspective; innovation is the result of research, both basic and applied, in the agronomic and oenological fields; the territory is seen as the primary and founding element of wine-growing quality.

"Sagrantino,' Caprai continues, '50 years ago, Sagrantino was little more than a family production, of very modest quantities. However, the memory of Montefalco as a wine-growing area of superior quality was still alive in people's minds, so much so that during the Fascist era Montefalco was considered the most important oenological centre in the region. The post-war period and the problem of the end of sharecropping and the depopulation of the countryside then plunged the wine business into a serious crisis. The perception of Sagrantino 50 years ago was already difficult to have in Perugia, let alone outside the regional borders...'.

While the cultivation of Sagrantino had a centuries-old tradition in the Montefalco area, by the early 1970s this indigenous grape variety, which has no counterpart in Italy or the world, had practically disappeared: less than ten hectares remained.

Its rebirth and affirmation at the top of Italian agri-food production had a powerful catalyst in Marco Capraison of Arnaldo, who took over the reins of the company in 1987. He is responsible, among other things, for the decisive orientation towards the production of Sagrantino in a dry rather than raisin versiondecisive factor for the success of this wine worldwide. The game was played primarily on research activities, which started in 1989year in which Arnaldo Caprai started the collaboration, which is still ongoing today, with Leonardo Valenti, a researcher at the University of Milan: the basic intuition driving the research is that the Sagrantino grape variety and its historical celebrity conceal potential that has been partly lost due to the impoverishment of the wine-growing heritage, and partly still largely unexpressed.

1973 saw the birth of the winery's first wine, Montefalco Rossoproduced with 70% of Sangiovese grapes, 15% of Sagrantino and 15% of Merlot, which will be marketed in 1975. In the same year (1973), Arnaldo Caprai started planting the largest Sagrantino vineyard in the area and 4 years later came the recognition of the DOC by the Ministry of Agriculture for Sagrantino di Montefalco, Rosso di Montefalco and Sagrantino Passito. 1979 is also the year that Collepiano was born, the first 100% Sagrantino wine produced by Arnaldo Caprai, a label that is iconic today. Ten years later, Arnaldo Caprai planted the first high-density Sagrantino vineyard and began exporting this wine to the United States. In 1992 came the recognition of the DOCG for Montefalco Sagrantino and the DOC for Montefalco Bianco and Montefalco Rosso Riserva.

In 1996, Sagrantino 25 Anni was releasedto celebrate 25 years of the company's existence, a wine that is an expression of the results of the first ten years of agronomic and oenological experimentation. Another iconic label so loved that in 2000 it was chosen by Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones for their wedding. Sagrantino thus came to international prominence.

And we arrive in the new Millennium. In 2001 Marco Caprai won the wine Oscar as best producerand is just one of many awards received during a career spanning more than 30 years: in the 2007 Legambiente's Friend of Innovation Award and Slow Food's Gambero Rosso Winery of the Year Award arrived, while Revue du Vin de France included Sagrantino among the 100 wines capable of competing with French wines. That same year saw the birth of what is now the crown jewel of Sagrantino: the Spinning Beauty, the first Sagrantino ever to be put on the market after 10 years of ageing. In 2012 Arnaldo Caprai is the European winery of the year for the prestigious American magazine Wine Enthusiastwhile in the cellar Cuvée Secrète is born Umbria Bianco Igt, a wine that aims to demonstrate the full potential of the vintage, the territory and the white grapes produced in Umbria.

It is of the 2013instead, the birth of another important project: #CAPRAI4LOVE, a fundraising campaign for the recovery of territorial works of art. The first edition saw the recovery of a letter written by Renaissance artist Benozzo Gozzoli through the sale of the Cruciani 'Montefalco nel cuore' bracelet. The initiative has continued over the years until the restoration of part of the frescoes in the apse of the Church Museum of San Francesco painted by Benozzo Gozzoli and in particular the part depicting the 'Great Franciscans': Francesco Petrarca, Dante Alighieri and Giotto di Bondone. #CAPRAI4LOVE2019is the latest project financed with the sale of three limited edition bottles of Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG sold with labels reproducing the images of the Great Franciscans Petrarch, Dante and Giotto reinterpreted by a contemporary artist, Canadian Rick Rojnic. The proceeds of the project will be used to finance the restoration of the wooden arch of the Museo di San Francesco, another fundamental step in the enhancement of this important cultural venue. "For us, sustainability," says Marco Caprai, "means exalting all our values, from nature to culture, from society to work, from business to the landscape, in a harmonious whole that is based on the utmost valorisation of the territory and the community in which we operate. After all, it is Montefalco and its community that give us Sagrantino, and we to Montefalco and the community must return a social dividend'.

Returning to the most significant moments in the history of Arnaldo Caprai, the 2015 is the year of EXPO2015 in Milan and Marco Caprai is chosen as testimonial of Umbria at the Italian Pavilionbut it doesn't end there because that year the winery receives the the Confindustria Innovation Award and the Ecomondo-Fiera di Rimini Sustainable Development Award. Also in 2015, the startup Leaf Srl was founded, a company spin-off for research and innovation, and the winery's journey with its historic winemaker, Attiglio Pagli, came to an end; at the same time begins a consulting relationship with the world's star wine maker, Michel Rolland. From the collaboration with Rolland, two more wines would be born in the following years to accompany the Sagrantino Spinning Beauty and make up, together with it, the Signature Line: the Merlot Belcompare and the Pinot Noir Malcompare.

In 2016 Arnaldo Caprai's Grecante, 100% Grechetto, won the Italian Sommelier Foundation's Wine Oscar as Italy's best white wine, while the wine world's most important magazine, Wine Spectator, listed it among the world's 100 best wines. In the same year, Arnaldo Caprai joined the Italian Signature Wines Academy, a strategic alliance of nine of Italy's top wine brands, wineries renowned for the excellence of their products and also well positioned abroad.

The 2017 is the year of birth of the classic method signed Arnaldo Caprai, anything but yet another exercise in style dictated by commercial objectives. The story of this new label encapsulates - and even goes beyond - the entire green philosophy that Marco Caprai has been pursuing for years in order to enhance and keep intact and vital the typical characteristics of the Montefalco territory, knowing how to compete over time in a condition of sustainability. That same environmental, economic and social sustainability has found full representation in the project 'Montefalco 2015: The New Green Revolution', the first territorial sustainability protocol in the wine sectorSo, the 2 hectares of vineyards dedicated to the production of the new Metodo Classico Brut Arnaldo Caprai are not just any two hectares. The project, in fact, stems from the idea of replanting an area located towards the Apennine ridge in the Marche region, a portion of land that benefits from the influence of the sea at an altitude of between 500 and 800 metres above sea level, and of enhancing the inland areas of the Apennines between Umbria and Marche where, following the earthquakes that hit them, there is a real depopulation that can only be fought with new enhancement projects. It was here that Marco Caprai, after careful study and analysis, decided to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and try to produce his first Metodo Classico (as well as the Belcompare and Malcompare signed by Rolland).

'In 50 years, everything has changed in the world of wine,' says Marco Caprai, 'starting with the fact that wine has gone from being a food to a pleasure: today it is a product rich in stories, meanings and even a status symbol of the table. Everyone is busy trying to produce better and better wines with more and more identity. The world of wine today certainly represents the most advanced tip of the agricultural system and this is what makes it gather so much interest from everyone'..

Those who, until a handful of years ago, knew Montefalco, a small Umbrian municipality in the immediate vicinity of Foligno, were enthusiasts of medieval villages in search of tranquillity and artistic beauty, while today this splendid village and the entire surrounding area is a destination for millions of wine and food tourists: today Sagrantino di Montefalco is a brand that encompasses a product and a territory in an almost inseparable identity, proposing to a leading sector of the made in Italy wine industry a lucid strategy to maintain and develop the excellent results achieved so far: tradition and innovation together that find their lowest common denominator in the territory. All this has two protagonists: Arnaldo and Marco Caprai, father and son, both entrepreneurs united by a great passion for their land, for wine and for their work.

Few other wineries in Italy and around the world are immediately identified just by mentioning the name of the denomination to which they belong, like Arnaldo Caprai, itself a symbol of Sagrantino di Montefalco. A unique reality, synonymous with Italian excellence, capable of creating wines that are out of the ordinary in terms of depth, elegance and longevity: not only reds, but also whites. The credit for this adventure that began in the late 1970s goes to Marco Caprai, Arnaldo's son. It was he, in fact, more than anyone else who believed in the richness of Sagrantino, reinterpreting it in a modern key, through the most innovative production and business management methods, which have enabled him to win the favour of the public and critics all over the world. Not to be outdone by the whites: Arnaldo Caprai's Grecante, 100% Grechetto, managed to conquer Wine Spectator's Top100.
A great company, Arnaldo Caprai, that guards a green soul, considering issues concerning sustainability, protection and safeguarding the environment as fundamental. The point of observation always remains the same: trying to behave in harmony with natural evolution cycles, preserving and enhancing the territory in which it operates. This is why the company decided to create an Environmental Management System that complies with international regulations, developing a voluntary territorial protocol of environmental, economic and social sustainability of the production process.
It is in this unparalleled context that wines of unforgettable substance are born, complex and elegant, capable of narrating the best of an entire region, Umbria.


#CAPRAI4LOVE NEW EDITION Sagrantino Re MigranteThe wine symbol of integration and social responsibility The #CAPRAI4LOVE project, in the wake of the Officer of Merit of the Italian Republic award conferred on [...].

UN 'Welcome. Working for refugee integration

Today, the Arnaldo Caprai farm in Montefalco (PG), was honoured by the UNHCR for Italy (the UN Refugee Agency), the Holy See and the [...]

Sagrantino in a work of art

Italian culture has a lot to do with wine. And if centuries of history told by wines and vineyards is not enough to confirm this, [...]