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Friday, May 10, 2013

Red Wine Basics: Sangiovese

Sangiovese grapes in a vineyard of Montalcino,...
Sangiovese grapes in a vineyard of Montalcino, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An Italian Grape Variety
Sangiovese is a red Italian grape variety most notably grown in Tuscany. It is perhaps best known as the main component of Chianti and is also a major component in many Super Tuscan blends. Super Tuscans allow vintners more flexibility in creating blends outside of the restrictive rules governing the production of Chianti. Sangiovese is often a primary component in these blends, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah.

Flavor Profile
Sangiovese varietals are also produced, exhibiting the flavors of strawberry, cherry, cinnamon and herbs with an elegant to bitter finish. Aged Sangiovese can take on oaky, tarry flavors with hints of vanilla and deeper darker fruit flavors of plum. The wine is high in acidity and tannins, with medium to full body.

Vinticulture
Sangiovese vines thrive in soils rich in limestone. They require a long growing season to develop richness and body. The grape also benefits from lower yields, with higher yields depleting some of the grape’s characteristic color and producing grapes with overly high acidity. Sangiovese is most strongly associated with Italy, but has moved to other countries including Argentina, France, Australia and the United States.

Weaknesses
The grape is naturally very light in color and high in acidity and tannins. To combat some of the grape’s weaknesses, vintners employ different techniques including longer maceration periods, extensive oak treatment, and adjusted temperature and duration of fermentation. The variety is often blended with other wines to fill in the gaps in the grape’s character. Texture and body are added by blending with more robust grape varieties.

Viento Sangiovese
Viento Sangiovese (Photo credit: 427)
Pairing
Lighter Sangiovese wines can be aged between 3 and 7 years. The heavier, more robust wines can be aged upwards of a decade or more, with the very best having a life closer to 20 years. Pair a Sangiovese with tomato-based pizza sauces and pastas, steak and stews. Stronger varietals and blends do well with blander dishes such as meatloaf or roast chicken. Herbaceous hints in the wine pair well with basil, sage and thyme. Wines that have taken on plenty of oaky character pair well with grilled and smoked foods.

This completes my exploration of Sangiovese. Join me next time for a look at Syrah, or perhaps Shiraz?
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