Sangiovese

The grape that grows under the Tuscan sun

Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape in Italy, the pride of Tuscany and the soul of the famous Chianti wines.

Its name comes from the Latin “sanguis Jovis”, which means “the blood of Jupiter” and it grows mainly in central and southern Italy, from Romagna, passing through Tuscany and down towards Lazio and Campania. This grape produces flavoursome and versatile wines that are round and elegant with a surprising longevity.

History

In Tuscany, the Etruscans were the ones who presumably began to cultivate the Sangiovese grape around the 2nd century BC. People think that the Romans were already making wine using this red variety and, in fact, its Latin name refers to Jupiter, who was a Roman god.

The first written reference to this grape appeared in “The cultivation of vines”, a treatise written in the 16th century by Giovan Vettori Soderini, an Italian agronomist who stated: “Sangiocheto or Sangioveto is a remarkable vine for its steady productivity.”

Although the name refers to the god Jupiter, the origin of this name is not very clear. There are legends that state that Sangiovese is derived from “Sangiovannese” as it comes from San Giovanni Valdarno, a small Italian town in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany. Others have linked the name “san giovannina” to its early budding, which coincided with the feast of St. John the Baptist, at the end of June. Some others claim it derives from “sanguegiovese” which, as we said, means the blood of Jupiter.

The Sangiovese grape has not always enjoyed the spectacular fame it enjoys today. It was a difficult grape to find and seeing its name on a label was far from a guarantee of quality. Emilia-Romagna used to produce a red wine, Sangiovese di Romagna, which was sweet, light, pale and acidic, lacking in quality.

The first Chianti wines were no exception either, as they used to be made with a mixture of wines using the Trebbiano white variety which is sour and pale-skinned, adding in other wines imported from the south of Italy, so nobody knew the true value and characteristics of the Sangiovese grape.

It was only when serious studies began to be carried out on the Sangiovese grape and its clones that people could work out which were the best in order to protect this variety’s true value and its contribution to wine, especially to Chianti Classico.

The Sangiovese variety is a very sincere grape, which expresses itself depending on the area it grows in. In the past, the variety tended to be overproduced, which resulted in berries with thin skins and acidic tannins that were not good for its wines and which ran the risk of oxidising after a short time.

Between 1970 and 1980 Marquis Piero Antinori set the trend of making wines that minimised the presence of Sangiovese and adopted the classic Bordeaux coupage using varieties like Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is how the legendary Tignanello wine was born, the first Sangiovese aged in barrels and the first contemporary red wine to use a blend of non-traditional varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, offering a very Bordeaux-style coupage. It was also one of the first reds in the Chianti Classico region that did not include white varieties.

Nowadays, good winemakers control vine yields to avoid overproduction and therefore offer a real concentration of colour and flavour in the wines they make.

Blending still exists in Chianti wines, but it is increasingly regulated and controlled. Chianti wines are usually 100% Sangiovese. The authorities now only allow the addition of up to 25% of varieties other than Sangiovese and have banned the use of white grapes in the production of Chianti Classico.

Growing areas

When we talk about the Sangiovese variety, we are actually referring to a whole family of grapes that is defined by up to one hundred clones of this vine that have adapted to different areas over time.

Sangiovese is a slow ripening variety, which adapts very well, although it prefers clay or limestone soils. It tends to produce lots of grapes if not controlled. The grapes are harvested between the second week of September and the first half of October. The berries are oval-shaped, medium to large in size and have a purplish skin that leans towards black.

It is the Italian grape par excellence. It is cultivated especially in Tuscany but is also found in Emilia-Romagna and Umbria. It is the most widely planted grape on the French island of Corsica, where it is known as Nielluccio. It was very popular in Argentina and also grows in the United States (California and Washington) and even Australia.

As well as the famous Chianti wines, in Italy other wines with different names are made from Sangiovese, like Brunello di Montalcino, which is produced in the Italian municipality of Montalcino, in the Siena hills. There they have chosen a tannic and intensely coloured clone and called it Brunello, which produces one of Italy’s most noble and long-living wines. Brunello di Montalcino is made exclusively with Brunello and is a red wine with a garnet colour and an intense aroma. A wine with great aging potential, which improves with time (10 to 30 years) and could be kept for many more years.

The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vino Rosso di Montepulciano are made in Montepulciano, a town just east of Montalcino, using a local Sangiovese grape variety known as Prugnolo Gentile.

On the southern coast of Tuscany (Scansano) red wines are made from the Morellino variety, as Sangiovese is known there.

The Sangiovese grape is still the red grape of Romagna. Wines made here have not always enjoyed a good reputation in terms of quality. Fortunately, there are winemakers who have begun to bottle high quality Sangiovese.

In Umbria, the delicious Montefalco Rosso wine is made from the Sangiovese variety and on the French island of Corsica, Sangiovese is the most widely planted grape. Here it is known as Nielluccio.

Organoleptic properties of this variety’s wines

The Sangiovese variety is a sincere grape, which honestly showcases the characteristics of the places where it grows. This chameleon-like ability results in flavoursome wines, from the most earthy and rustic to the roundest and fruitiest. Its wines become softer and more velvety with age.

They reveal flavours of cherries accompanied by very subtle notes of roasted tomatoes, sweet balsamic, oregano or espresso. The wines, as they age, can offer nuances of roses and figs.

Aromas of violets, blackberries, prunes, spices, tobacco and leather accompanied by vanilla notes may also appear. If the wine is not very mature, it can have aromas of barnyard.

Pairings

Red wines made with the Sangiovese variety are usually medium-bodied. They are flavoursome wines that pair very well with tomato, red pepper and herbs. Those with more body are perfect for enjoying with grilled meats, cured sausages and hard cheeses.

Sangiovese wines tend to have noticeable acidity that makes them a versatile accompaniment to spicy foods and almost anything grilled or with fat, like butter or olive oil, because the richness of these fats helps to cut through the wine’s tannins.

They are a delight for vegetarians as they are a delicious accompaniment to vegetables.

Tuscan wines are perfect for pairing with regional food, like Ribollita, Bruschetta with tomato, Sienese Capocollo and Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

Filter and sort

  • --- ---

search

Fonterenza Rosso di Montalcino 2020

Italy DOC Rosso di Montalcino (Tuscany)

A powerful, rustic and pleasant Sangiovese from Montalcino
Fonterenza Rosso di...
Quick view
92

Decántalo

42.30
-5%
Price
40.15
VAT inc.
  • -5.08%

Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino 2017

Italy DOCG Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany)

An authentic, rich and long-lasting Brunello from a new generation
Conti Costanti Brunello di...
Quick view
92

Decántalo

93

Parker

94

Decanter

92

Wine spectator

Price
69.75
VAT inc.
  • New

Dievole Petrignano Chianti Classico 2019

Italy DOCG Chianti Classico (Tuscany)

The most mineral expression of the Sangiovese
Dievole Petrignano Chianti...
Quick view
92

Decántalo

90

Parker

91

Decanter

90

Suckling

Price
24.75
VAT inc.
  • New

Poggio Landi Brunello di Montalcino 2019

Italy DOCG Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany)

One of the wines most esteemed by the British Royal Family
Poggio Landi Brunello di...
Quick view
94

Parker

91

Suckling

Price
41.95
VAT inc.
  • New

Poggio Landi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2016

Italy DOCG Brunello Riserva (Tuscany)

A red wine with 48 months of maturation that is (almost) irresistible to...
Poggio Landi Brunello di...
Quick view
94

Parker

93

Wine spectator

94

Suckling

Price
75.60
VAT inc.
  • New

Podere Brizio Rosso di Montalcino 2021

Italy DOC Rosso di Montalcino (Tuscany)

The same character of Montalcino but with half the ageing
Podere Brizio Rosso di...
Quick view
91

Parker

90

Wine spectator

90

Suckling

Price
19.15
VAT inc.
  • New

Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino 2018

Italy DOCG Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany)

Opulence and elegance personified
Podere Brizio Brunello di...
Quick view
94

Decántalo

93

Parker

91

Decanter

93

Wine spectator

Price
54.75
VAT inc.
  • New

Poggio Antico Rosso di Montalcino 2020

Italy DOC Rosso di Montalcino (Tuscany)

The potent and tasty little brother of Brunello di Montalcino
Poggio Antico Rosso di...
Quick view
93

Decántalo

94

Decanter

91

Suckling

Price
29.50
VAT inc.
  • New