This black grape varietal is the most widely grown grape in Italy and is the main component of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti as well as being the sole permitted grape for the famed Brunello di Montalcino. It has also gained fame for its use as the major grape in the world famous Super Tuscan wines. This grape derives its name from the Latin Sanguis Jovis, which means “the blood of Jove. It is a high yielding, late ripening grape that performs best in Italy in well-drained calcareous soils on south-facing hillsides. For many years this grape was plauged by poor clonal selection and massive overcropping, but better selection and growing methods has seen a rise in the quality of Sangiovese wines and they have become some of the most sought after in the world.
Quality Sangiovese is prized for its high acid, firm tannins and balanced nature. Typically these wines display flavors of dark cherries and black stone fruit, which may be backed by secondary notes of dried herbs and tomato leaf. The use of oak has recently become popular, these oaked wines tend to have richer flavors, tending toward wild raspberry and plum.
Because it is named after the “blood of Jove(the Roman Jupiter), many believe this grape dates back to the time of the Romans. The first documented mention came in the writings of Giovanvettorio Soderini in 1590, when he mentioned the good wine producing potential of a grape he called “Sangiogheto”. While there is no conclusive proof that Sangiogheto is Sangiovese most wine historians consider this the first historical mention of the grape.
In 1738, Cosimo Trinci described wines made from Sangiovese as excellent when blended with other varieties but hard and acidic when made as a varietal wine. In 1883, the Italian writer Giovanni Cosimo Villifranchi wrote a similar description about the quality of Sangiovese being dependent on the grapes it was blended with. Politician and winemaker, Bettino Ricasoli formulated one of the early recipes for Chianti when he blended his Sangiovese with a sizable amount of Canaiolo. Sangiovese experienced a rise in popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century for its use in Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. In the 1970s, Tuscan winemakers started a period of innovation by introducing modern oak treatments and began blending Sangiovese with non-Italian varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon in the creation of wines that were given the collective name “Super Tuscans”. These wines became hugely popular.
The biggest plantings of Sangiovese in the world can be found in Italy, where it is the most widely planted red grape variety. It is an officially recommended variety in 53 provinces and an authorized planting in an additional 13. The grape accounts for approximately 10% of all vineyard plantings in the country, with more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 ac) planted. Throughout Italy it is known under a variety of names including Brunello, Nielluccio, Morellino and Prugnolo Gentile. It is the main grape used in the popular red wines of Tuscany, where it is the solitary grape of Brunello di Montalcino and the primary component of the wines of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti and many Super Tuscans. Outside of Tuscany, it can be found planted throughout central Italy where it plays an important role in the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines of Montefalco Sagrantino secco and Torgiano Rosso Riserva in Umbria, Conero in Marche and the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) wines of Rosso Piceno and Lazio in Marche. Significant Sangiovese plantings can also be found outside of central Italy in Emilia-Romagna, Lombardia, Valpolicella and Sicily and Campania in the south.
The next biggest plantings of the grape can be found in Argentina with 6928 acres (2804 ha), followed by Romania with 4,200 acres (1,700 ha), the Corsica region in France with 4,109 acres (1,663 ha), California with 3,387 acres (1,371 ha) and Australia with 1,087 acres (440 ha).
The taste of Sangiovese does vary depending on the area, and method of productions used. Generally they tend to be medium bodied wines with a fruity taste and aromas of plum, blueberry, strawberry and orange peel, many display earthy aromas of tar, toast and smoke, with vanilla, cinnamon and thyme often present. They usually contain a moderate to high level of acidity, and have a bitter finish, which mellows as the wine ages. This wine goes well with barbequed meats and Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, especially pastas.