translation of Sangiovese's name sanguis Jovis,
"the blood of Jove", led to theories that the grape's
origins dated from Roman times.
theories on the origin of Sangiovese dated the grape to
the time of Roman winemaking.
This was due, in part, to the literal translation of the
grape's name as the "blood of Jove"-the Roman Jupiter.
It was even postulated that the grape was first cultivated
in Tuscany by the Etruscans. The first documented mention
of Sangiovese was in the 1590 writings of Giovanvettorio
Soderini (also known under the pen name of Ciriegiulo).
Identifying the grape as "Sangiogheto" Soderini
notes that in Tuscany the grape makes very good wine but
if the winemaker is not careful, it risks turning into
vinegar. While there is no conclusive proof that Sangiogheto
is Sangiovese, most wine historians generally consider
this to be the first historical mention of the grape.
Regardless, it would not be until the 18th century that
Sangiovese would gain wide spread attention throughout
Tuscany, being with Malvasia and Trebbiano the most widely
planted grapes in the region.
1738, Cosimo Trinci described wines made from Sangiovese
as excellent when blended with other varieties but hard
and acidic when made as a wine by itself. In 1883, the
Italian writer Giovanni Cosimo Villifranchi echoed a similar
description about the quality of Sangiovese being dependent
on the grapes it was blended with. The winemaker and politician,
Bettino Ricasoli formulated one of the early recipes for
Chianti when he blended his Sangiovese with a sizable
amount of Canaiolo. In the wines of Chianti, Brunello
di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Sangiovese
would experience a period of popularity in the late 19th
and early 20th century. In the 1970s, Tuscan winemakers
began a period of innovation by introducing modern oak
treatments and blending the grape with non-Italian varietals
such as Cabernet Sauvignon in the creation of wines that
were given the collective marketing sobriquet "Super Tuscans".
ampelographical research into Sangiovese begun in 1906
with the work of G. Molon. Molon discovered that the Italian
grape known as "Sangiovese" was actually several "varieties"
of clones which he broadly classified as Sangiovese
Grosso and Sangiovese Piccolo. The Sangiovese
Grosso family included the clones growing in the Brunello
region as well as the clones known as Prugnolo Gentile
and Sangiovese di Lamole that was grown in the
Greve in Chianti region. The Sangiovese Grosso, according
to Molon, produced the highest quality wine, while the
varieties in the Sangiovese Piccolo family, which included
the majority of clones, produced wine of a lesser degree
of quality. In 2004, DNA profiling done by researchers
at San Michele All'Adige revealed the grape to be the
product of a crossing between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese
Montenuovo. While Ciliegiolo has a long history tied to
the Tuscan region, Calabrese Montenuovo (which is not
related to the grape commonly known as Calabrese, or Nero
d'Avola) has its origins in southern Italy, where it probably
originated in the Calabria region before moving its way
up to Campania. This essentially means that the genetic
heritage of Sangiovese is half Tuscan and half southern
More recently, a genetic study on "Sangiovese" confirmed
the hypothesis of a South Italian origin for Sangiovese
(Sicily and Calabria), but clearly demonstrated that "Ciliegiolo"
is an offspring of "Sangiovese" (parent and grandparent
pairs of "Ciliegiolo" identified). Furthermore, historical
data supports these results since "Sangiovese" was cited
3 centuries earlier
study published in 2007 using DNA typing tentatively identified
the varieties Ciliegiolo and Calabrese di Montenuovo as
the parents of Sangiovese, but this was immediately disputed
by another study published the same year which claimed
Ciliegiolo was the offspring of Sangiovese rather than
the other way around.
(In some cases, it is easier to establish a close relationship
between grape varieties by DNA typing rather than to conclusively
establish the exact nature of the relationship.)
Italian study published in 2008 using DNA typing showed
a close genetic relationship between Sangiovese on the
one hand and ten other Italian grape varieties on the
other hand: Foglia Tonda, Frappato, Gaglioppo, Mantonicone,
Morellino del Casentino, Morellino del Valdarno, Nerello
Mascalese, Tuccanese di Turi, Susumaniello, and Vernaccia
Nera del Valdarno. It is possible, and even likely, that
Sangiovese is one of the parents of each of these grape
varieties. However, since the parentage of Sangiovese
is still disputed, the exact nature of the relationship
in each case could not be conclusively established. Since these grape
varieties are spread over different parts of Italy (Apulia,
Calabria, Sicily and Tuscany), this confirmed by genetic
methods that Sangiovese is a key variety in the pedigree
of red Italian grape varieties.
high acidity and light body characteristics of the Sangiovese
grape can present a problem for winemaking. The grape
also lacks some of the color-creating phenolic compounds
known as acylated anthocyanins.
Modern winemakers have devised many techniques trying
to find ways to add body and texture to Sangiovese â€”
ranging from using grapes that come from extremely low
yielding vines, to adjusting the temperature and length
of fermentation and employing extensive oak treatment.
One historical technique is the blending of other grape
varieties with Sangiovese, in order to complement its
attractive qualities and fill in the gaps of some of its
weaker points. The Sangiovese-based wines of Chianti have
a long tradition of liberally employed blending partnersâ€”such
as Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Mammolo, Colorino and even the
white wine grapes like Trebbiano and Malvasia. Since the
late 20th century, Bordeaux grapes, most notably Cabernet
Sauvignon, have been a favored blending partner though
in many Italian DOC/G there is often a restriction on
the amount of other varietals that can be blended with
Sangiovese: at Chianti the limit for Cabernet is 15%.
techniques used to improve the quality of Sangiovese include
extending the maceration period from 7-12 days to 3-4
weeks to give the must more time to leach vital phenols
out of the grape skins. Transferring the wine during fermentation
into new oak barrels for malolactic fermentation gives
greater polymerization of the tannins and contributes
to a softer, rounder mouthfeel. Additionally, Sangiovese
has shown itself to be a "sponge" for soaking up sweet
vanilla and other oak compounds from the barrel. For aging
the wine, some modern producers will utilize new French
oak barrels but there is a tradition of using large, used
oak botti barrels that hold five to six hectoliters
of wine. Some traditional producers still use the old
chestnut barrels in their cellars.
Sangiovese plantings are found worldwide, the grape's
homeland is central Italy. From there the grape was taken
to North and South America by Italian immigrants. It first
achieved some popularity in Argentina where in the Mendoza
region it produced wines that had few similarities to
its Tuscan counterparts. In California the grape found
a sudden surge of popularity in the late 1980s with the
"Cal-Ital" movement of winemakers seeking red wine alternatives
to the standard French varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon,
Merlot and Pinot noir.
the turn of the 21st century, Italy was still the leading
source for Sangiovese, with over 63,000 hectares (155,000
ac) planted, primarily in the Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna,
Sicily, Abruzzo and Marche regions. Argentina was next
with 6,928 acres (2,804 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).
Italy, Sangiovese 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. It accounts
for approximately 10% of all vineyard plantings in Italy with more
than 100,000 hectares (250,000 ac) planted to one of the
many clonal variation of the grape. Throughout Italy it
is known under a variety of names including Brunello,
Morellino, Nielluccio 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 Chianti,
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and many "Super Tuscans".
Outside of Tuscany, it is found throughout central Italy
where it places 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 Lazio and Rosso
Piceno in Marche. Significant Sangiovese plantings can
also be found outside of central Italy in Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna,
Valpolicella and as far south as Campania and Sicily.
intense fruit and deep color of Cabernet was shown to
be well suited for blending with Sangiovese but banned
in many Italian DOCs. In the 1970s, the rise of "Super
Tuscans"-wines that eschew DOC regulation in favor of
the lower classification of vino da tavola-increased
the demand for more flexibility in the DOC laws. While
the first DOC to be permitted to blend Cabernet Sauvignon
with Sangiovese was approved for Carmignano in 1975, most
of Tuscany's premier wine regions were not permitted to
blend Cabernet Sauvignon with Sangiovese till the late
glass of Brunello di Montalcino.
the early to mid 20th century, the quality of Chianti
was in low regard. DOC regulation that stipulate the relatively
bland Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes needed to account
for at least 10% of the finished blend, with consequent
higher acidity and diluted flavors. Some wineries trucked
in full bodied and jammy red wines from Sicily and Puglia
to add color and alcohol to the blendâ€”an illegal practice
that did little to improve the quality of Chianti. From
the 1970s through the 1980s, a revolution of sorts spread
through Tuscany as the quality of the Sangiovese grape
was rediscovered. Winemakers became more ambitious and
willing to step outside DOC regulations to make 100% varietal
Sangiovese or a "Super Tuscan" blend with Bordeaux varietals
like Cabernet and Merlot.
there is a broad range of style of Chianti reflecting
the Sangiovese influence and winemaker's touch. Traditional
Sangiovese emphasize herbal and bitter cherry notes, while
more modern, Bordeaux-influenced wines have more plum
and mulberry fruit with vanilla oak and spice. Stylistic
and terroir based differences also emerge among
the various sub-zones of the Chianti region. The ideal
vineyard locations are found on south and southwest-facing
slopes at altitudes between 490-1800 ft (150-550m). In
general, Sangiovese has a more difficult time fully ripening
in the Chianti region than it does in the Montalcino and
Maremma regions to the south. This is due to cooler nighttime
temperatures and high propensity for rainfall in September
and October that can affect harvest time.
the mid 19th century, a local farmer named Clemente Santi
isolated certain plantings of Sangiovese vines in order
to produce a 100% varietal wine that could be aged for
a considerable period of time. In 1888,
his grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi-a veteran soldier
who fought under Giuseppe Garibaldi during the Risorgimento-released
the first "modern version" of Brunello di Montalcino,
which was aged for over a decade in large wood barrels.
By the mid 20th century, this 100% varietal Sangiovese
was eagerly being sought out by critics and wine drinkers
The Montalcino region seems to have ideal conditions for
ripening Sangiovese with the potential for full ripeness
achievable even on north-facing slopes. These slopes tend
to produce lighter and more elegant wines that then those
made from vineyards on south and southwest facing slopes.
the late 20th and early 21st century, the Maremma region
located in the southwest corner of Tuscany has seen vast
expansion and a surge of investment from outside the region.
The area is reliably warm with a shorter growing season.
Sangiovese grown in the Maremma is capable of developing
broad character but does have the potential of developing
too much alcohol and not enough aroma compounds.
can be made in a variety of styles, including the
dessert wine Vin Santo.
is considered the "workhorse" grape of central Italy,
producing everything from everyday drinking to premium
wines in a variety of styles-from red still wines, to
rosato to sweet passito, semi-sparkling
frizzante and the dessert wine Vin Santo. In northern
Italy, the grape is a minor variety with it having difficulties
ripening north of Emilia-Romagna. In the south, it is
mainly used as a blending partner with the region's local
grapes such as Primitivo, Montepulciano and Nero d'Avola.
the Romagna region of Emilia-Romagna, the same grape is
called Sangiovese di Romagna and is widely planted
in all the Romagna region south and west of Bologna. Like
its neighbouring Tuscan brother, Sangiovese di Romagna
has shown itself to spring off a variety of clones that
can produce a wide range of quality from very poor to
very fine. Viticulturalists have worked with Romagna vines
to produce new clonal varieties of high quality (most
notably the clones R24 & T19.
di Romagna is very apt at adapting to different soil types
producing richer, more full bodied and tannic wines in
the central provinces of Forli and Ravenna and lighter,
fruitier wines in the western and eastern extremes of
the regions near the border with Bologna and Marche. The
grape seems to produce the highest quality wine in the
sandstone and clay rich hills south of the Via Emilia
near the Apennines which is covered by much of the Sangiovese
di Romagna DOC zone. The higher summer time temperatures
of this area gives more opportunity for Sangiovese to
The Sangiovese di Romagna DOC zone includes over 17,500
acres (6,900 ha) of Sangiovese that produces on average
3.4 million U.S. gallons (130,000 hl of wine a year.
immigrants brought Sangiovese to California in the late
possibly at the Segheshio Family's "Chianti Station,"
near Geyserville. But it was never considered very important
until the success of the Super Tuscans in the 1980s spurred
new interest in the grape. In 1991, there were nearly
200 acres (80 ha) planted with Sangiovese. By 2003, that
number rose to nearly 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) with plantings
across the state, most notably in Napa Valley, Sonoma
county, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and the Sierra
results in the late 20th century, were not very promising
for California wine makers. Poor site and clonal selection
had the grape planted in vineyards that gave it too much
exposure to the Sun, producing wines that had little in
common with the wines of Tuscany. The Antinori family,
which owns Atlas Peak Vineyards located in the AVA of
the same name in the foothills of Napa Valley found that
the greater intensity of sunlight in California may have
been one possible factor for the poorer quality.
Today the style of these Californian Sangiovese tend to
be more fruit-driven than their Tuscan counterparts with
some floral notes. Recent years have focused on improving
vineyard site and clonal selection as well as giving the
vines time to age and develop in quality.
Washington State, winemakers are seeking out locations
that can highlight the varietal character of Sangiovese.
These young plantings in areas such as Walla Walla and
Yakima Valley have so far produced wines with a spicy
and tart cherry flavors, anise, red currants, and tobacco
Other areas in the United States with sizable plantings
of Sangiovese include the Rogue Valley in Oregon, the
Monticello in Virginia and Texas Hill Country in Texas.
In Canada, there are some plantings of Sangiovese on the
is becoming increasingly popular as a red wine grape in
Australia, having been introduced by the CSIRO in the
late 1960s. This
is part of a growing trend in Australia to use a wider
range of grape varieties for winemaking. As in California,
Australian winemakers have begun seeking out the best
vineyard location for the grape and being more selective
in which clones are planted. Some regions that have shown
promise for the grape include the Karridale and Margaret
River areas of Western Australia; Langhorne Creek, Strathalbyn
and Port Lincoln in South Australia; Canberra and Young
in New South Wales; Stanthorpe in Queensland and the western
edge of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria.
wineries also use Sangiovese to make rose wines. 2006
was the first year that an Australian wine maker made
a dessert style Sangiovese. Called the "Dolce Nero" (sweet
black - not to be confused with the synonym for Dolcetto
or Douce Noir) this new style is made by Hamiltons Bluff
wines in Canowindra NSW.
and Central America
immigrants introduced the Sangiovese vine to Argentina
in the late 19th and early 20th century. Early site and
clonal selection was less than ideal and, like California
and Australia, recent endeavors have focused on finding
the best clones to use and the right vineyard locations.
The grape is not widely planted in Argentina and the focus
is mostly on the export market. Across the Andes range,
Chilean winemakers have been experimenting with plantings.
The growing Mexican wine industry has also recently begun
planting the vine.
small amount of Sangiovese is grown in South Africa. About
10 reputable wineries make Sangiovese 
with some "Super Tuscans", the 100% varietal Sangiovese
wine Brunello di Montalcino has long term aging potential.
This Brunello is from the 1961 vintage.
made from Sangiovese tend to exhibit the grape's naturally
high acidity as well as moderate to high tannin content
and light color. Blending can have a pronounced effect
on enhancing or tempering the wine's quality. The dominant
nature of Cabernet can sometimes have a disproportionate
influence on the wine, even overwhelming Sangiovese character
with black cherry, black currant, mulberry and plum fruit.
Even percentages as low as 4 to 5% of Cabernet Sauvignon
can overwhelm the Sangiovese if the fruit quality is not
high. As the
wine ages, some of these Cabernet dominant flavors can
soften and reveal more Sangiovese character. Different
regions will impart varietal character on the wine with
Tuscan Sangiovese having a distinctive bitter-sweet component
of cherry, violets and tea. In their youth, Tuscan Sangiovese
can have tomato-savoriness to it that enhances its herbal
component. Californian examples tend to have more bright,
red fruit flavors with some Zinfandel-like spice or darker
fruits depending on the proportion of Cabernet blended
in. Argentine examples showing a hybrid between the Tuscan
and California Sangiovese with juicy red fruit wines that
end on a bitter cherry note.
based wines have the potential to age but the vast majority
of Sangiovese wines are intended to be consumed relatively
early in its life. The wines with the longest aging potential
are the Super Tuscans and Brunello di Montalcino wines
that can age for upwards of 20 years in ideal vintages.
These premium examples may need 5 to 10 years to develop
before they drink well. The potentially lighter Vino Nobile
di Montepulciano, Carmignano and Rosso di Montalcino tend
to open earlier (around 5 years of age) but have a shorter
life span of 8 to 10 years. The aging potential of Chianti
is highly variable, depending on the producer, vintage
and sub-zone of the Chianti region it is produced in.
Basic Chianti is meant to be consumed within 3 to 4 years
after vintage while top examples of Chianti Classico Riserva
can last for upwards of 15 years. New World Sangiovese
has so far, shown a relatively short window of drinkability
with most examples best consume with 3 to 4 years after
harvest with some basic examples of Argentine Sangiovese
having the potential to only improve for a year after
high acidity and moderate alcohol makes it a very food-friendly
wine when it comes to food and wine pairings. One of the
classic pairings in Italian cuisine is tomato-based pasta
and pizza sauces with a Sangiovese-based Chianti. Varietal
Sangiovese or those with a smaller proportion of the powerful,
full-bodied Cabernet blended in, can accentuate the flavors
of relatively bland dishes like meatloaf and roast chicken.
Herb seasoning such as basil, thyme and sage play off
the herbal notes of the grapes. Sangiovese that has been
subject to more aggressive oak treatment pairs well with
grilled and smoked food. If Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah
plays a dominant role, the food pairing option should
treat the Sangiovese blend as one of those fuller-bodied
reds and pair with heavier dishes such as steak and thick
soups like ribollita and pureed bean soup.
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(Tannins) in Wine
The Basic Wine Pairing
Science of Food and
a Wine Sommelier
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