Sangiovese is a grape grown mostly in Central Italy, ranging from Romagna to Lazio, down to Campania, and also on the island of Sicily. It is most widespread in Tuscany. There are about 175,000 acres of the grape planted worldwide. of which 155,000 are in Italy, with no plantings over 5,000 acres anywhere else in the world.
Synonyms for Sangiovese include Sangioveto, Calabrese, Chiantino, Nielluccia, Prugnolo, and Brunello. The name Sangiovese is derived from the Latin “sanguis Jovis” meaning “the blood of Jupiter,” and from that it would be expected that the wines made from it would be bold and powerful, but that isn’t always the case.
The specific clone of Sangiovese, the soils where it is grown, climate, vineyard management, and winemaker will heavily influence what the wine becomes. A clone is a naturally occurring mutation of a vine that has a characteristic that is seen as desirable, and it is further propagated. For Sangiovese, there are many recognized clones, as it is a grape that easily mutates.
The Sangiovese grape needs a long growing season to ripen fully. It buds early, but it is slow to ripen, which in a warm climate, leads to richness and body in the resulting wines. Harvest usually occurs from very late September to the middle of October. If the temperatures are too cool, the wines produced will be higher in acidity, with harsh and unripe tannins.
Wines produced from Sangiovese can be thinner and lighter, showing more floral or strawberry notes, like Montefalco Rosso; or bold and tannic, like a Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and a Morellino di Scansano, again tying in with our clonal differences. Sangiovese wines always have aromas and flavors of cherries and tea leaves, along with a hint of tomato. As they age, the cherry notes take on more dried cherry characteristics, along with fig and roses.
Due to the high levels of acid and tannins, wines from Sangiovese can be aged. Lighter wines can be aged for at least four to seven years, and the bolder wines, like Brunello, can be aged 10 to 20 years.
The lighter versions of Sangiovese, like wines labelled as Rosso or Chianti, pair beautifully with dishes with tomatoes and herbs. The similar notes in the food and wine help accentuate the fruity flavors in the wine. For the bolder Sangiovese wines, like Brunello, pairing with roasted meats, cured sausages and hard cheeses is recommended.
This week at City Vino, one of our featured wines will be the Il Conte Villa Prandone Conterosso Ross Piceno D.O.P. It is a blend of Sangiovese, along with Montepulciano. This wine is more along the lines of the lighter versions of Sangiovese described here, so it is fresh, light, and approachable. It was just rated two stars “excellent,” and a great value in the Washington Post by Dave McIntyre, and City Vino has it available for you!