Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh) is a red Italian wine grape variety whose name derives from the Latin sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jove". Though it is the grape of most of central Italy from Romagna down to Lazio, Campania and Sicily, outside Italy it is most famous as the main component of the Chianti blend in Tuscany, as well as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano, although it can also be used to make varietal wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino or Sangiovese di Romagna, as well as modern "Super Tuscan" wines like Tignanello. Young Sangiovese has fresh fruity flavours of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavors when aged in barrels. Sangiovese was already well known by the 16th century. Recent DNA profiling by José Vouillamoz of the Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige suggests that Sangiovese's ancestors are Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo. The former is well known as an ancient variety in Tuscany, the latter is an almost-extinct relic from the Calabria, the toe of Italy. At least fourteen Sangiovese clones exist, of which Brunello is one of the best regarded. An attempt to classify the clones into Sangiovese grosso (including Brunello) and Sangiovese piccolo families has gained little evidential support
Early 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.
In 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".
Clones and parentage
Early 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 Italian. 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 (G. Soderini, 1590 ) than ‘Ciliegiolo’ (V. Racah, 1932).
Today 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.
In 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 alike. 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.
In 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.
While 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.
At 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).
In 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.
The 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 20th century.
A glass of Brunello di Montalcino.From 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 blend—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.
Outside of Tuscany
Sangiovese can be made in a variety of styles, including the dessert wine Vin Santo.Sangiovese 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.
In 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.
Sangiovese di Romagna is very apt at adapting to different soil types producing richer, more full bodied and tannic wines in the central provinces of Forlì 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 sufficiently ripen. 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.
Viticulture and winemaking
Sangiovese has shown itself to be adaptable to many different types of vineyard soils but seems to thrive in soils with a high concentration of limestone, having the potential to produce elegant wines with forceful aromas. In the Chianti Classico region, Sangiovese thrives on the highly friable shale-clay soil known as galestro. In the Montalcino region, where there is a high proportion of limestone-based alberese soils alternating with deposits of galestro. The lesser zones of the generic Chianti appellation are predominately clay, which doesn't produce as high quality of wine as alberese and galestro do. The grape requires a long growing season, as it buds early and is slow to ripen. The grape requires sufficient warmth to ripen fully, but too much warmth and its flavors can become diluted. Harvests in Italy have traditional begun after September 29, with modern harvest often taking place in mid-late October. A longer growing season gives the grapes time to develop richness and potential body. However, in cool vintages this can result in the grapes having high levels of acidity and harsh, unripened tannins. In regions (like some areas of Tuscany) that are prone to rainfall in October, there is a risk for rot due to the Sangiovese grape's thin skin. Fully developed grapes are typically 19 mm long x 17 mm wide, with an average weight of 3 grams.
For the best quality, yields need to be kept in check as the vine is notably vigorous and prone to overproduction. In Chianti, most quality conscious producers limit their yields to 3 pounds (1.5 kg) of fruit per vine. Wine made from high-yielding vines tend to produce wines with light color and high acidity, which are likely to oxidize ("brown") prematurely. Soils with low fertility are ideal and help control some of the vigor of the vine. Planting vines in high densities in order to curb vigor may have the adverse affect of increasing foliage and limiting the amount of direct sunlight that can reach the ripening grapes. Advances in understanding the quality and characteristics of the different clones of Sangiovese has led to the identification and propagation of superior clones. While high-yielding clones have been favored in the past, more attention is being paid to matching the clone to the vineyard site and controlling the vine's vigor.
While the Sangiovese grape has the potential, often fulfilled, to make wines of world renown, the high acidity and light body can present a problem for winemakers. It 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 more flesh, body and texture to Sangiovese—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 partners—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%.
Other 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.
Wines 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.
Sangiovese 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 bottling.
Brunello, Brunello Di Montalcino, Calabrese, Cardisco, Cordisio, Dolcetto Precoce, Ingannacane, Lambrusco Mendoza, Maglioppa, Montepulciano, Morellino, Morellone, Negretta, Nerino, Niella, Nielluccia, Nielluccio, Pigniuolo Rosso, Pignolo, Plant Romain, Primaticcio, Prugnolo, Prugnolo Di Montepulciano, Prugnolo Gentile, Prugnolo Gentile Di Montepulciano, Riminese, San Zoveto, Sancivetro, Sangineto, Sangiovese Dal Cannello Lungo, Sangiovese Di Lamole, Sangiovese Di Romagna, Sangiovese Dolce, Sangiovese Gentile, Sangiovese Grosso, Sangiovese Nostrano, Sangiovese Toscano, Sangioveto Dell'Elba, Sangioveto Dolce, Sangioveto Grosso, Sangioveto Montanino, Sanvincetro, Sanzoveto, Tignolo, Tipsa, Toustain, Uva Abruzzi, Uva Tosca, Uvetta, San Gioveto, Uva brunella and Uva Canina.