Wine Historians: All About Sangiovese

Wine Historians: All About Sangiovese

Sangiovese grape variety and its wines
sangiovese grape variety
Sangiovese is the most widely grown black grape variety in Italy, accounting for 11 percent of the total national vineyard area. Sangiovese is grown from Romagna to Campania and is the most widely planted grape variety in Tuscany. Sangiovese is part of the composition of many wines, some of them very well known such as Carmignano, Rosso Piceno, Rosso Conero, Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano, Sangiovese di Romagna, and many others.Sangiovese has very ancient origins. As such it has been known since the 1500s, but its origin is most likely Etruscan, in particular appearing to come from the area north of the Tiber and south of the Arno, from which it would later spread beyond the Apennines to the hills of Romagna and Emilia.

The origin of the name Sangiovese is uncertain. Some argue that it derives from "sangiovannese," i.e., originating in San Giovanni Valdarno, while others claim it comes from "sanguegiovese," i.e., "blood of Jupiter," referring to Mount Jupiter near Santarcangelo di Romagna. The term Sangiovese defines a large number of varieties, or clones, into which the vine has differentiated over the centuries, adapting to different territories. In Tuscany, the traditional differentiation between Sangiovese Grosso, known as Brunello in Montalcino and Prugnolo Gentile in Montepulciano, and Sangiovese Piccolo, which is widespread in much of the region, has turned out to have no scientific basis and is being progressively abandoned. Even the specification for Brunello di Montalcino DOCG no longer mentions "Sangiovese Grosso," but only "Sangiovese." Sangiovese also plays an important role in Umbria, where some of the most representative reds, either pure or blended, include Torgiano, Rosso di Montefalco, Rosso dei Colli Amerini, Colli del Trasimeno and Colli Martani. In the Marche region, Sangiovese plays a leading role along with Montepulciano: for example in Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno. In Emilia-Romagna, Sangiovese is found as Sangiovese di Romagna and in the Colli di Faenza. We also find Sangiovese in Lazio and more marginally in many other regions. Outside Italy, Sangiovese is grown in modest quantities in California (Napa Valley, Sonoma and Sierra Foothills), Argentina (Mendoza) and Australia. Sangiovese is also grown in Corsica where it is known as Nielluccio. This spread makes it difficult to give an absolute description of the wine made from Sangiovese, the various expressions of which range from the cheapest red wine to the qualitative heights of Brunello di Montalcino. Generally we can say that wines made from pure Sangiovese have fairly high acidity and high tannin content, moderate color and medium structure. The high productivity of Sangiovese forces producers to use scrupulous cultivation practices to mitigate its impetuousness. Often to mitigate its natural "roughness," Sangiovese is blended with wines made from other grapes, such as Canaiolo Nero in Chianti and Torgiano Rosso in Umbria. Sangiovese is a late-ripening grape with an excellent ability to adapt to different types of soils. It prefers soils with a good percentage of calcareous sediment capable of bringing out its best and most elegant aromas as well as its best qualities. Sangiovese has a certain susceptibility to mold, especially in cold, wet years or in areas where the fall season is particularly rainy.

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