Age: Drink within a couple of years of the vintage.
Sangiovese (san-joh-VAY-zeh) is an Italian grape variety with an ancient history that dates back to Roman times. It most likely originated in Tuscany and its name is thought to have derived from Sanguis Jovis meaning the “Blood of Jove”. DNA analysis has revealed that it is descended from two indigenous Italian grape varieties called Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo. A characteristic of Sangiovese is its ability to adapt to different conditions and consequently there are over a dozen clones of the grape in Italy, with Brunello being the most well known.
Today, Sangiovese is the most important red wine grape of central Italy and is famous as the main component of Chianti (which must be at least 70% Sangiovese) and for producing big, varietal wines like Brunello di Montalcino. However, the majority of Sangiovese is used to make unpretentious everyday wines, such as basic Chianti, which have their own charm and appeal. Perhaps their greatest attribute is their ability to pair so well with food, especially Italian cuisine, due to their refreshing quality and good structure.
These wines have high levels of tannin and acidity and traditionally a small amount of local white wine was added to soften them. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah are added instead, which gives the wines a fruitier taste profile and a little more body. They take well to oak, which can add richness, although this is less relevant for simpler wines designed for early drinking.
These everyday Chianti wines have a fragrance of cold tea, with red fruit flavors of cherry and plum that are accompanied by a refreshing bitter-sweet twist on the finish, which is typical of so many Italian red wines. Quality varies widely, but the better examples are medium bodied and all of these everyday wines are best drunk while they are young and fresh.
For details of more serious Sangiovese wines, such as Chianti Riserva, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Vino Nobile di Montpulciano and the famous Brunello di Montalcino, see Sangiovese (Classic) in the Powerful style.
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