Did you know that the Latin name for Sangiovese, Sanguis Jovis (San Gioveto), translates to “blood of Jove or Jupiter”? The first written reference to the grape was in 1722.
You’ll find my Top 10 Sangiovese reviews and ratings here.
5 Surprising Facts about Sangiovese:
1. Sangiovese represents 10% of Italy’s entire vineyard acreage, the most-planted grape in the country, with 247,000 acres.
2. Until the 1980s, Chianti was bottled in squat oval straw-covered fiasci. It was viewed a modest bistro wine rather than one for collectors.
Then winemakers started experimenting with premium blends of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, creating what is now known as Supertuscans.
These wines were not permitted the D.O.C. quality designation because they used grapes not permitted by law.
However, the wines started commanding prices much higher than the traditional wines and eventually one of the most famous, Sassicaia, was granted its own D.O.C. status.
3. Sangiovese is indigenous to Tuscany, where is makes Chianti, the flagship wine of the region.
Sangiovese is also the primary grape in the wines Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano.
4. The quality ranges from ordinary table wine (vino di tavola) to the impressive classico superiore. However, even today, it can produce cheap, thin wines or remarkably complex and concentrated reds.
5. This grape matures and ripens slowly, and has a thin skin therefore it thrives in warm, dry climates.
Limestone soil tends to produce more robust aromas in the finished wine.
Chianti was traditionally a blend of about 70% Sangiovese, 15% of the red grape Canaiolo, 15% of the white grape Trebbiano and sometimes a dash of the red grape Colorino.
Today, producers must have a minimum of 90% Sangiovese in their Chianti with no more than 5% white grapes. The white grape Malvasia Toscana, better quality than the traditional Trebbiano, is now also permitted in the blend.
In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants planted Sangiovese in California. (I profile the Serghesio family, believed to have first planted these vines, in my book Red, White and Drunk All Over.)
Sangiovese-based wines have never succeeded in New World regions as well as have other transplanted European varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah/Shiraz.
Sangiovese’s signature aromas include black cherries, raspberries, blueberries, violets, black plums, prunes clove, thyme, anise and if oaked, smoke, tar and vanilla.
The wine has a medium- to full-body, a supple texture and a pleasant bitter-tinged finish. It also has pronounced acidity, which makes it especially companionable to many Italian dishes with tomato sauce.
Drink Sangiovese with cheese, turkey, pasta, salami Toscana, light-fleshed fish (sole), veal, spicy sausage, pizza and truffles.
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