Your Red Wine Guide – Sangiovese

Style – From light and thin to full-bodied and powerful, always with a hint of bitter cherry and spice
Grown in – Tuscany and throughout Italy, California, Australia, Argentina


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This grape variety , ”The blood of Jove”, is grown all over Italy, but its origin and its most emphatic current expression is in Tuscany. Although few wines are actually labelled Sangiovese, it is the major ingredient in the region′s for DOCGs (Chianti, Carmignano, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano), and in many Super-Tuscans such as Cepparello, Fontalloro and Concerto.

The Tuscans have traditionally  blended Sangiovese with other grape varieties , both red and white, with Brunello di Montalcino and its sibling Rosso di Montalcino being the only wines for wich 100% Brunello (the local clone of Sangiovese) was obligatory. The requirements drawn up in 1967 that Chianti should include a proportion of 10-30% white grapes in its wines were that prompted manz producers to go outside DOC regulations to produce the Super-Tuscan vini da tavola. Even now Chianti Classico is the only Chianti for which 100% Sangiovese wines are allowed.

Outside Tuscany, Sangiovese is the main grape in Umbria′s Torgiano, and is grown in vast amounts in Emilia-Romagna, where it makes Sangiovese di Romagna. Headin southwards, it appears as a blending partner in several wines, especially in Apulia where it can be used in Castel del MonteCopertino and Squinzano.

Elsewhere in the world, Argentina has plenty of Sangiovese, althought so far there is nothing to challenge either the Tuscan  versions or the local Malbec. Caifornian plantings are less numerous but more than 50 wineries have a Sangiovese-based wine in their portofolios, some o which are extremely classy. The famous Antinori family of Tuscany is a partner in the Atlas Peak vineyard overlooking Napa Valley, where it makes  a fine varietal  as well as a Cabernet -Sangiovese blend called Consenso. Austalia also boasts a handful of versions, the best of which comes from Coriole in McLaren Vale.

Sangiovese vary considerable in style and quality from thin and undistinguished quaffing wines to some of the most exciting wines made anywhere in Italy. This variety of styles, compounded by an elastic yield that sometimes stretches to generalise about taste. The grape has good acidity, which makes it refreshing when young but also gives definition and edge to a more concentrated wine, enabling it to mature for decades.

Thick skins may produce considerable amounts of tannin (the tannin can contribute to long life), depending on how the wine is vinified, but not always a lot of colour since the skins are not heavily pigmented. Althought reaching only average alcohol levels, Sangiovese has an attractive winey quality about it rather than the specific fruitiness which we associate with grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon  or Merlot. It can develop a rustic, farmyard feel, sometimes reminiscent of St-Emilion, and in mature Brunello di Montalcino it can be very complex, showing tar, nuts, tobacco, woodsmoke and autumnal forest notes on top of the cherryish fruit.


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