Like Tempranillo in Spain, Sangiovese is Italy’s most widely grown grape variety. Cultivated mainly across central Italy, it is the grape behind Tuscany’s finest wines. There are many different styles of Sangiovese wines but they all have delicious Morello cherry fruit, a Mediterranean, herbal savouriness, refreshing acidity and generally powerful if somewhat powdery tannins.
Sangiovese is frequently blended with other varieties to obtain a wider spectrum of flavours and to tame the sometimes-uncompromising tannins and skinny structure. Winemaking varies greatly. To soften the structured tannins, traditional wines mature for up to five years in large, old Slavonian oak barrels. These wines are appreciated for their ethereal scent and lighter colour. More modern Sangiovese is harvested very ripe and matured in new French oak barrels. The wines are generally more concentrated, powerful and darker in colour.
Sangiovese is the basis for Chianti, made and sold in a range of levels from simple reds to complex, aromatic and dense wines. Chianti has more refreshing acidity, fruit and marked tannin than other Tuscan wines. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, grown on clay soils in a warmer climate, has expressive notes of ethereal, earthy truffle, riper and juicier fruit as well as more alcoholic strength. Brunello di Montalcino is made exclusively from Sangiovese Grosso and is elegant, complex and long lived. Morellino di Scansano comes from the Tuscan coast and is fruitier, juicier and less tannic than Sangiovese from other regions.
Today more and more top wines are being made using just Sangiovese grapes as producers have learnt to carefully vinify this grape. However the advent of Super-Tuscan wines about 25 years ago meant that Sangiovese is now blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, to make top class wines such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia that are reminiscent of top Bordeaux wines.