Grape of the Week: Sangiovese
By: Jeff S Cameron
Posted: Dec. 14, 2012

[Photo: Ripe sangiovese grapes in Montalcino, Italy / Credit: mnix21]

Sangiovese literally translates as "the blood of Jove" (another name for Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods). This is often taken as an indicator that this wine reaches back to Roman times, but the first known definitive written mention of the grape was actually not until the early 18th century.   


Known as a vigorous vine, it is often managed with smaller yields than possible to maintain quality and reduce acidity. Considered the workhorse wine of Italy, it is the most widely produced grape and accounts for 10% of all wine produced in Italy. 

[Photo: Vineyard of Montepulciano D'Abruzzo DOC in Collecorvino (PE) Abruzzo Italy / Credit: Giuseppe Andrea Mosca]


The high acidity and light body and color of Sangiovese can be a challenge to winemakers, but make it an excellent blending grape. It is a major component in many famed Italian blends such as Chianti, where it is required by law to make up 80% of the finished wine. Other common blends are Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, and Super Tuscans of many sorts and styles. Better understanding of clone varieties and their reaction to varied climates and terrain, as well as modern winemaking techniques have enabled modern winemakers to develop some truly amazing 100% Sangiovese wines both in Italy and elsewhere in the world.

[Photo: Young Sangiovese grapes at Castello di Gabbiano, Tuscany, Italy / Credit: ObnoxJester] 


With so many different styles and regions, as well as blends, it is hard to define a typical Sangiovese wine. The most common denominators are high acid, thin body and a fruit tone that often ends with a touch of herbal bitterness. Premium blends can be meant to age for 15 to 20 years, but most Sangiovese focused wines are meant to be drunk young as they lack extensive tannins. In terms of flavor, younger wines tend to have fruitier flavors with herbal notes while older wines tend towards oak flavors, as they are often stored longer in barrels to develop the tannins and full flavors they need to age well. Unless blended and aged, don’t expect a full body, but you can almost always count on the flavors and aroma of a well-made Sangiovese wine. 


Name: Sangiovese


Species: vitis vinifera


Origin: Italy


Color:  Red wine (purple grape)


Other names: Sangiovese Grosso, Sangiovese Piccolo


Notable Regions: Italy, USA, Australia, South America


Common Food Pairings: Pastas, tomato based sauces, dishes with strong basil, thyme or sage flavors.  Blends with lighter concentrations of Sangiovese can pair with red meats.


Next Grape of the Week: Riesling >> 


Tags: sangiovese, Italy

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