Sangiovese is a red Italian wine grape variety, known as the main component of the Tuscany’s Chianti and Chianti Classico wines, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Noble di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano. Sangiovese originated in Tuscany around the 16th century. The ancestors of the Sangiovese are believed to be Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo grape varieties.
Sangiovese is the premier grape varietal in Italy, planted on 247,000 acres. It also has at least 14 distinct clones, with Brunello being the most highly appreciated of them. Sangiovese ripens late in the season and is rather slow to mature. As it has relatively thin skins, it is prone to rot in dampness. Sangiovese requires warm and dry climate, much sunlight, and well-drained soil, preferably a limestone clay.
Sangiovese name is derived from the Latin sanguis Jovis, which means “the blood of Jove.” Sangiovese grapes produce medium to full-bodied wines with moderate to high tannin content. The grapes are rather light in color, and moderate in sugar and alcohol. Wines made from Sangiovese have medium to high natural acidity level.
The Sangiovese’s aroma can have a strawberry, blueberry, floral, or violet character. Young Tuscan Sangiovese tends to have fresh fruity flavors and herbal component somewhat enhanced. When aged in barrels, it takes on oaky flavors. The flavors will much depend on the growing region and winemaking techniques. For instance, darker, more robust wines with raspberry and violet notes tend to originate from cooler regions. Blending Sangiovese can be tricky, as its unique flavors can be overwhelmed by other wine varieties or excessive oak extraction.
Sangiovese based wines age well, but the lighter styles of Sangiovese are best drunk within three years of their vintage. Other wines are intended to develop and improve for a decade before they drink well. The Super Tuscans and Brunello di Montalcino wines have the longest aging potential, up to 20 years in good vintages. The aging potential of Chianti depends on the producer, vintage and the Chianti region: Basic Chianti is meant to be consumed within 3-4 years after vintage while some good examples of Chianti Classico Riserva can last for over 15 years. New World Sangiovese wines are meant to be consumed early enough, within 3-4 years.
Sangiovese wines are food friendly, and pair well with red meat, chicken, lamb, fish pork, Italian sausage, pastas, and well-aged cheeses. Tomato-based pastas and pizza sauces will go exceptionally well with a Sangiovese-based Chianti. Aged Sangiovese wines will pair with grilled and smoked food. Sangioveses are best served at around 65 degrees. Decant the bottle an hour prior to serving to allow it to breathe and display its best characteristics.