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Sangiovese

by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | April 09, 2011

Sangiovese is one of Italy’s oldest red varieties. It was in the 1600s that Sangiovese got its name. The name comes from the Latin word sanguis Jovis “blood of Jove (Jupiter)”. Sangiovese grapes grow throughout Italy, but its home base is in Tuscany. Sangiovese grapes produce wines that are spicy, with good acid levels, smooth texture and a medium body. The flavor of Sangiovese Wine is fruity with a robust finish that tends to be bitter. The aroma is generally not as aggressive and easily identifiable as Cabernet Sauvignon. Sangiovese has flavors of strawberry, blueberry, plum, and floral. In well-suited climates and with controlled yields, Sangiovese can be made into very structured and full bodied wines, but it is traditionally blended with other grapes for the best results.

Sangiovese is the main component of Chianti and it has many sub-varieties. Wines made with Sangiovese grapes have distinct tannins and acidity, but not the great depth of color. In the 1960s Italian winemakers began producing 100% Sangiovese Wines and also blending the grape with Cabernet Sauvignon, which were wines that became known as “Super Tuscans”. The basic blend of Chianti was established in the 1890s. Then it averaged 70% Sangiovese as the varietal base (along with 15% Canaiolo [red], and 15% Trebbiano [white] and sometimes a little Colorino [red]). Many vineyards are traditionally planted with this varietal mix. Today the minimum amount of Sangiovese permitted in Chianti is 90%. Other grapes that may be used now include Malvasia Toscana, a white grape far superior to the original trebbiano. The total white grapes used must not exceed 5% of the blend.

More recently, Sangiovese grapes popularity has grown in the United States. Sangiovese has been showing increased interest in California because of the grapes ability to create smoother wines with good acid levels that pair well with many types of food. The best results have come from Napa, San Luis Obispo and the Sierra Foothills. There are several California producers making proprietary blends of cabernet sauvignon and Sangiovese, trying to follow the Super Tuscan model.

Sangiovese Grapes

The Sangiovese grapes are slow to mature and late-ripening. Sangiovese grapes are the number one varietal in Italy with 247,000, which is 10% of their entire wine grape crops. With relatively thin skins, they have a tendency to rot in dampness and do not mature well if planted above an elevation of 1500 feet. Sangiovese vineyards with limestone soil seem to produce wines with more forceful aromas. Tuscany’s hot and dry climate is where the Sangiovese grapes thrive. But the climate tends to enhance quantity rather than quantity so it takes careful vineyard cultivation and winemaking techniques to produce excellent wines from the Sangiovese grapes.

Food Pairings with Sangiovese Wine

To figure out what foods will go well with Sangiovese Wine, just consider any type of Tuscan food pairings. This is the regional food with regional wine pairing concept. Sangiovese Wine pairs well with hearty pasta, rich tomato sauces, duck, venison, pork, sausage and most dishes that include parmesan cheese. Sangiovese Wine also pairs well with rosemary chicken, red meat, fish, lamb, grilled and roasted meats, stews, Spanish tapas and paella.

Serve Sangiovese Wine between 64 to 68 degrees F. If you serve it too warm it may taste too acidic, and if it is served too cold then you may not get to taste the distinct varied fruit flavors.

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