When we are talking about Tuscany wineries in the Chianti Classico regions and wines of those areas, or many other denominations such as Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, etc., the Sangiovese grape is the main grape variety, in most cases.
Sangiovese grape produces wines that are considered the best Italian and world red wines, together with Nebbiolo grape in Piedmont. Sangiovese is vinified pure 100% or blended often with Cabernet Sauvignon in Tuscany or with native southern grapes in the southern regions.
Brunello di Montalcino is produced with 100% Sangiovese, while it is the basis of Chianti in Tuscany, as well as it is the base of others excellent wines such as Morellino. In Umbria it is the base for Montefalco wines, while in the Marche it is an essential part of Rosso Piceno.
Where does the name Sangiovese come from? According to an ancient myth, the name Sangiovese derives from the Sanctus Giove, the god of the Romans. Maybe it’s only a legend but is certain that the Sangiovese grape was already widespread in the Etruscan era.
Sangiovese wine has a ruby color characterized by a slight transparency that tends to garnet with aging. Depending on the soil, the climate where it is grown or the possible aging in wood, the color of Sangiovese can be more or less intense.
Sangiovese wines offer a wide range of tastes from very earthy and rustic - as is the case with many Chianti Classico - to round and fruit-forward. Regardless of where it’s grown, it always exhibits cherry flavors with more subtle notes of tomato. The most sought after Sangiovese based wines have a balance between their fruit and earth components.
At nose the Sangiovese wine has very recognizable characteristics: floral notes of violet and iris that mix with juicy red fruit (cherry, black cherry, raspberries) and tomato, but also blood orange, for the recognizable staggering acidity, spicy scents of black pepper, or hints of undergrowth, reminiscent of humus, fern, musk and thyme. If aged in wood, more or less marked tertiary notes of vanilla, coffee, tobacco, chocolate or leather will be added, depending on the wood used.
On the palate the Sangiovese wine is enveloping, warm and full bodied, with a marked acidity and an important tannic structure, which sometimes if unripe can be astringent. It has a rich and greedy drink and a long and intense persistence.
The moderate acidity and good tannic structure make Sangiovese a wine with an extraordinary aging power, particularly suitable for aging in large oak barrels (the use of barriques, especially if used for the first time, flattens its peculiarities). Ageing potential is between 4-7 years (normal) or 10-18 years for some particular wines (like Brunello di Montalcino).
Sometimes the varietal impetuousness of tannin and acidity can lead to gustatory imbalances, which is why it is often resorted to blending Sangiovese wine with other varieties capable of softening its character. Sangiovese can be blended with Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah or with native varieties such as Canaiolo.
Thanks to its savory character, high acidity and medium body, Sangiovese pairs well with a wide range of dishes. The classic Sangiovese food pairing is tomato. Sangiovese and tomato are simply one of those great flavor combinations. The rustic profile of the wine pairs perfectly with anything with tomatoes. By pairing it with savory dishes with tomato and herbs, the more fruity flavors in the wine will be brought out.
When paring Sangiovese with food you should think about the following characteristics of the wine:
- Rustic, savory & fruity profile - makes Sangiovese an excellent pairing for dishes with tomato and herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, sage, garlic, parsley, thyme).
- High acidity - pairs well with fatty and/or acid foods.
- Medium body - possible to pair it with both rich and lighter dishes.
A medium bodied Sangiovese will pair well with meat dishes (Grilled or roasted pork, Pork belly, Pork chops, Meat stew with tomatoes, Meatballs, Roasted lamb, Steak and Grilled sausages), charcuterie (Prosciutto, Salami, Saucisson, Salsiccia, Pancetta, Bresaola, Grilled sausages with herbs and/or garlic) or with Pizza.
Enjoy Italian wine Sangiovese with your food!