What is Sangiovese?
Sangiovese is pronounced San-jo-vay-zee (the ‘i’ is hardly pronounced).
Sangiovese is an Italian red wine grape varietal. It derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, meaning ‘the blood of Jove’ (Jupiter) - King of the Gods in Ancient Roman mythology and religion.
It’s Italy’s most popular grape, and is most well known as the primary varietal used in Chianti.
Because of Sangiovese’s chameleon-like ability to take on characteristics of region, climate and those imparted by the winemaker, wines made from this grape vary widely in taste. Blending can have a dramatic effect on enhancing flavour or softening the wine's character. Very good examples have excellent aging ability.
Sangiovese is savoury. Sangiovese wines don’t have the aromatic impact of Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. Common descriptors include plum, cherry and sour cherry. Young Sangiovese shows strawberry and mild spiciness. Other descriptors include tomatoes, roast pepper, oregano, thyme, potpourri, leather, tobacco and brick. Tannins and acidity are high. Oak use is typically light, in neutral barrels. Traditional Sangiovese generally shows grippy tannins, dark chocolate and smoky notes. Fruit-forward Sangiovese displays notes of cherries and cloves.
Pairing with food
Sangiovese’s medium-weight and savoury character means it pairs well with a wide range of food and it follows the ‘red with red’ rule quite happily.
Try it with rich roast meats such as beef, lamb and pork. Rare steaks, rich chicken dishes and game birds match well. Anything with tomato is usually a winner, such as tomato-based pasta dishes and pizza.
Try a platter with Prosciutto and salami. Grilled vegetables also work well. For cheeses, look for blue cheese, mozzarella, parmesan and gorgonzola.
Notable regions for Sangiovese wines
New Zealand - limited plantings of Sangiovese exist in New Zealand, restricted to the warmer regions. Most are in the Auckland region, though there are some in Hawke’s Bay. Releases are limited and rare. It’s fair to say Sangiovese is still in the experimental stages in New Zealand.
Australia - Sangiovese was first planted in Australia in the early 70s with great hope. Penfold’s trialled it in the Barossa Valley, but as an ‘alternative’ red variety it didn’t really take off. More than forty years later Sangiovese is finally finding its place in Australian vineyards and on dining tables. The Australian Sangiovese pioneers at Coriole Vineyards in McLaren Vale began planting in 1985 and they produce some of the finest examples.
The grape is now widely grown. Regions include The Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Rutherglen, Hunter Valley. Many Australian winemakers have also realised Sangiovese makes good Rose wines.
Italy - In Italy, Sangiovese is the most commonly planted red varietal. Grown throughout the country, it accounts for around 10% of grapes planted in Italian vineyards. Across Italy it is known under a variety of names including Brunello, Morellino, Nielluccio and Prugnolo Gentile. It is the primary grape used in the wines from Tuscany. ‘Super Tuscan’ wines are red wines from Tuscany, such as Sangiovese, that are blended with non-indigenous grapes, such as Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Chianti wines must come from the Chianti region and must be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. Most Chiantis are 100% Sangiovese, though some winemakers like to blend in a little Cabernet, Syrah or Merlot to soften the finished wine.
International: Corsica, Romania, North America (California, Washington State), Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile.