Wine 29: Sangiovese

Holy cow, time flies when you’re having fun I guess. Can’t believe it’s been over two months since my last post! I promise, I’m still alive….and drinking wine. 😉

It’s time to make a stop in Italy for a taste of sangiovese, its prized grape that many may be more familiar with than they think. Hint: if you’ve had Chianti, you’ve likely had sangiovese! According to Wine Folly’s newest publication, Italy has landed itself as the country producing the most wine in the entire world!

Now I’ve never been to Italy, but according to Karen MacNeil, grapevines are Italy’s version of the American lawn – they’re everywhere!! Italy has so many pockets of wine-making regions which all offer varied expressions of the 1,000+ grapes grown in the country. I know that seems like an underwhelming statement because varietals have different characteristics based on region already, but Italy has tiny mesoclimates, so vineyards not even a mile apart produce drastically different tasting wines. That’s something I can’t even begin to comprehend; I’m still trying to really understand the differences among the various climates in Napa!

What may be surprising to some is that this grape is the major grape of commonly known Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and also makes up a large percentage of Super Tuscans. It is also the only variety allowed in Brunello di Montalcino. You see many wines in Italy are actually named for the place in which the grapes were grown and the wine is made, not necessarily by the varietal. So it may take a bit more digging or research to figure out what you’re actually drinking. (This is also why I find Italian wine lists at restaurants particularly confusing/overwhelming. One day I’ll get there.)

Sangiovese, pronounced “san-joe-vay-say,” is the most widely planted red grape in Italy. Some believe this varietal dates back to the 16th century, as they think it’s the same grape referred to as “Sangiogheto,” but this has not been scientifically proven. However, it is a fact that sangiovese began its take-over of Italy’s vineyards in the 18th century. This grape is a cross between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo, the former being from Tuscany, the latter being from southern Italy – perhaps from Calabria region. Many believe the cross of these grapes – the genesis of sangiovese – happened in the southern parts of this country, although there are other theories.

The vines of this varietal are able to grow in a variety of climates, and require a longer growing season, even in light of their early blooming. The longer growing seasons allow the grapes to develop in a way that’d produce richer, fuller bodied wines. I read that cooler climate wines from this grape tend to have higher acidity levels and be lighter in color – and body! The vines can overproduce, which spreads the nutrients among more fruit, and lessens the intensity. Many vineyards will limit the crop to avoid this, but vineyards planted in low-fertile soils don’t necessarily have to worry about that. The vines still do just fine in these conditions.

Sangiovese grapes produce wines that are light to medium bodied, with high tannins and acidity levels. Some winemakers will incorporate longer maceration processes – aka, letting the juice sit on the skins – of nearly a month to create more body and color. Its aromas and flavors lean towards cherries, herbs and even forest floor. These wines beg to be drunk with food, pairing especially well with tomato-based dishes, while also being a great partner to spiced dishes, which are cut by the acidity in the wine. One of my most favorite sentiments from Italians for those who’ve had a bit too much to drink is that it’s not that he’s drunk too much, it just means he hasn’t eaten enough food yet.

While sangiovese is grown throughout the old and new world territories, I felt it’d be most appropriate to taste one from this grape’s mother country. So I popped open a 2015 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese from Molise, Italy:


While we received this as a gift, I did find it listed online for around $10-15. This beauty clocks in at 13% ABV, which equates to medium alcohol levels.

IMG_1006Appearance: Medium garnet (my birthstone!) in color, this wine is closer to a brick-red than many of the red wines I’ve previously tasted. Quite a beautiful color, coordinating perfectly with the changing leaves.

Nose: I picked up notes of dates, balsamic, and oregano or thyme. It had this beautiful cherry aroma, which, combined with the other aromas, smelled like a caprese salad.

Taste: In the mouth, it was almost like a melted bomb-pop’s cherry top! The wine was absolutely savory, and perfect to accompany my pizza. Those same balsamic notes I picked up on the nose were perfectly delectable on the palate as well.

Overall: Easy drinker and a great complement to food. I’d love to pair this with a hearty spaghetti or bolognese pasta dish. While I don’t think I’d necessarily drink this on a rainy day by itself, it’s definitely one to stock up on for dinner with friends.

Stay tuned for some more wines before the end of the year. Until then, Saluti!

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