Sangiovese, (derived from the Latin sanguis Jovis “the blood of Jove”) is a red Italian wine grape variety. It can also be called the chameleon as it will easily alter its genetics to fit the environment. Sangiovese is a very scares grape outside of Italy, maybe even less abundant than the little-known Mourvèdre.
The genetic heritage of Sangiovese is a blend of Tuscan and Southern Italian origin, a cross between Calabrese Montenuovo and Ciliegiolo. The former with its roots in Southern Italy and the latter in Tuscany.
Sangiovese is adaptable to many different types of soil, but seems to thrive in high concentration limestone soils. The grapes require a long growing season as it is slow to ripen. Too much heat will dilute the flavors. Long growing seasons give the grapes a chance to develop richness and body, but in colder climates this can result in high levels of acidity and harsh tannins.
The grape has good resistance to drought and often needs little irrigation. Sangiovese is prone to overproduction, so yields needs to be kept in check for the best quality berry.
The Wine
Some winemakers will blend their Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon to add color to the wine. The high acidity can present a problem for winemaking, but it is also known for being light bodied. Some of the techniques to improve the wine is to extend the maceration, blending with other grapes and using grapes from low yielding vines. Ageing is done in either new French oak barrels, large used oak barrels or even old chestnut barrels.
Sangiovese is normally made to drink early in their lives, but it does have the potential to age. Most New World Sangiovese is consumed within 3 to 4 years.
Food Pairing
Sangiovese is a food friendly wine because of its moderate alcohol content and high acidity. It pairs well with tomato-based sauces in pastas and herbs like sage, basil and thyme. It will add flavor to bland dishes like meatloaf or roast chicken. Should the wine be a blend between Sangiovese and Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah, you can pair it with heavier dishes like steak and thick soups. If subjected to an aggressive oak treatment, Sangiovese pairs well with smoked and grilled foods. It also pairs well with hard cheeses and starches.