Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Sanguis Jovis, “blood of Jove” – an early name for the Roman god Jupiter -  is the Latin derivative of sangiovese. Believed to be indigenous to Tuscany, this grape has most likely has been growing there for nearly 2,000 years, though the first official records don’t appear until the 1700s. This is Italy’s most widely planted grape today.

The best sangiovese wines today still come from Tuscany, where they are known under the various DOCG’s (appellations) including Chianti, Chianti Classico, Carmignano Riserva, Vino  Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino, as well as in a few notable Super Tuscan wines (Tignanello is 80% Sangiovese). Several clones are used, including the Brunello clone also known as Sangiovese Grosso, Sangioveto for Chianti, and Prugnolo Gentile for Vino Nobile. Monsanto propogates its own “Sangioveto di Monsanto” clone as do other top properties.

Sangiovese is popular in the surrounding regions of Umbria, where it is blended with the local Sagrantino in Torgiano and Montefalco. It is the base of Rosso Piceno and Rosso Conero in the Marches, and is planted in great quantity for Sangiovese di Romagna in Emilia Romagna. With the exception of Umbrian examples these wines are straightforward. In CorsicaFrance, Nielluccio is the local name. In the AmericasMendozaArgentina, and NapaSonomaSan Luis Obispo, and the Sierra Foothills are the best places to look for quality Sangiovese. The rise of Sangiovese in the USA parallels the rise of the casual Italian eatery, though most styles have noticeable to overwhelming oak characters, higher alcohol, and much lower acidity.

Like Pinot Noir, the wines are light in color with noticeable tannins (from the grape skins) and acidity, and therefore are much better suited to drinking with a meal than to sipping at cocktail hour. A common marker of Sangiovese is cherry, specifically morello cherry, along with plum and even prune depending on where it was grown. In the better Chianti Classicos a savory, earthy quality along with tar, stewed tomatoes, and sometimes licorice and bark notes are found. The wines are well-described as being zesty, a factor of skin tannins and neutral oak combined with vivid acidity. Still they have a great deal of finesse, elegance, and intrigue. The Chianti Classico Riservas age quite well. Monsanto, for example, still releases their 1968 in very limited quantities.

Tenute Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico RiservaTuscany (Italy)
Dievole Novecento Chianti Classico RiservaTuscany (Italy)
Castello di Fonterutoli Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany (Italy)
Monsanto Il Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany (Italy)
Montecalvi Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany (Italy)
Villa di Cappezzana, Carmignano, Tuscany (Italy)
Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Tuscany (Italy)
Benessere Sangiovese, Napa ValleyCalifornia (USA)
La Sirena Sangiovese, Napa ValleyCalifornia (USA)

Best Value
Villa Antinori Toscana IGT, Tuscany (Italy)
Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico, Tuscany (Italy)
Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di MontalcinoTuscany (Italy)

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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