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Sangiovese

Where does Sangiovese come from? The Sangiovese grape is a hugely versatile red wine grape which is indigenous to Italy, and widely found in the region of Tuscany. Indeed, it is probably Italy’s best known and most planted grape varietal and comes with the particular advantage of a lengthy growing season. Not only can it be cultivated in an ample range of conditions, it is also used – either exclusively or as part of a blend – in a great many wines, testament to the chameleon-like nature of its flavor profile. Perhaps owing to its relatively light red color, which also lends itself well to the production of a rosé variety, its name derives from the Latin sanguis Jovis, or ‘blood of Jove’. In the US, it found fame as part of the trend for ‘Super Tuscan’ wines in the 1980s, and is now grown in Napa Valley and Sonoma County (California), and in Washington State.

What do Sangiovese wines taste like? Whilst, as we shall see, it is hard to generalize about such an adaptable grape, Sangiovese generally produces well-rounded wines with good depth and robust structure, typically featuring notes of forest fruits such as blackberry and cherry, alongside more complex notes such as leather and tobacco. They have high acidity and relatively fine tannins, making them an easy companion for a variety of savory dishes – in particular tomato-based pasta sauces, smoked meats and aged cheeses.

Which are the best Sangiovese wines? Unsurprisingly, a number of top Sangiovese wines come out of Italy’s prime growing region for this grape, Tuscany. This part of the country is home to the world-famous Chianti and Chianti Classico DOCGs, where some 90 million bottles of Chianti are produced annually, testament to the drinkability of this flavorsome and popular wine. Chianti wines tend to have a relatively savory, earthy profile, which is rounded out by notes of forest fruits. The Tuscan region also comprises the lesser-known and immensely prestigious Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. This wine undergoes a two-year aging process in small barriques, resulting in highly refined, silky wines with notes of vanilla and spice thanks to its time spent in contact with the wood. The Sangiovese grape is also used as a component of various blends: the world-famous Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is a wine made from 85-90% Montepulciano grapes, with the remainder commonly being made up of Sangiovese grapes. It is even occasionally found in the very highly regarded and atypical Bolgheri wines, inspired by the French Bordeaux tradition of winemaking.

What are the characteristics of Sangiovese rosé wines? Sangiovese rosés are simply bursting with big red-fruit flavors – from sweet cherry, pomegranate and wild strawberry to full-on raspberry, acidic cranberry and juicy watermelon. Despite the fruit-forward profile, these rosés are not generally sweet or heavy, but tend to display pleasant light and refreshing characteristics. For this reason, they make the perfect partner for summer salads and zesty Asian flavors.

In other words, whether as the star of the show, or in a more supporting role, the Sangiovese grape is synonymous with tasty, satisfying wines that are guaranteed to please.

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