The characteristics of Sangiovese: grapes, wine and pairings

  • 05/02/2021

Sangiovese is the king of Italian red wines. Also known as Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile, Guarnacciola (in Benevento), Niella (in Corsica) and Tuccanese (in Puglia), it is the most widespread and versatile red grape variety in Italy.

​History of Sangiovese and origin of the name

Giovanni Vettorio Soderini was the first person who mentioned Sangiovese. He was a Tuscan agronomist, who wrote a treatise on viticulture as early as 1600, citing Sangiovese with the name "Sangiogheto". However, the origin of the name "Sangiovese" is unknown.

One of the more widespread tale says that the name was given to it by the monks of a monastery on Mount Giove in Santarcangelo di Romagna, who poured the wine they produced - evidently from Sangiovese grapes - to an excellent guest. He was really impressed by the quality of the wine and the bright red color and he asked for its name. But the monks had never thought of giving it a name and so, with a little improvisation, they replied "blood of Jupiter".

Other people says that the name Sangiovese derives from “Sangiovannese", that means a native of San Giovanni Valdarno, in Tuscany. It's true that Sangiovese grape was already widespread in the Etruscan era and it is also true that its origins come from the south of Italy: a DNA analysis in fact determines that it was born from a spontaneous cross between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese di Montenuovo.

The characteristics of Sangiovese

It is a late variety grape with a good adaptability and a tendency to overproductions. It has medium-sized, three-lobed or five-lobed leaves, light green in color; the berry is medium-large, ovoid with a regular shape. The skin is purplish tending to black, very rich in bloom. Like many red grape varieties, it produces better if growned in clayey-calcareous soils rich in skeleton.

The versatility of this grape is remarkable: under the right environmental conditions Sangiovese gives extremely fine wines with great longevity, but it is also possible to make daily wine, less demanding. It can also be used for sparkling and passito wines.

Sangiovese wines are alcoholic, concentrated and able to aging over time. In less hot years acidity and tannin must be kept under control, which is why cutting is frequently used to mitigate some typical varietal impetus. The first typical smell of Sangiovese is a hints of plum, cherry and blackberry and then it can have a smell of vanilla, coffee and cocoa deriving from the barrel wood in which Sangiovese aged.

​How to pair Sangiovese

The ideal pairing of Sangiovese range from first courses to meat sauces, grilled and baked red meats. The “reserve" wines express the best in terms of structure and aromas, and can also be combined with game (baked wild boar).

Sangiovese wines

Sangiovese Grosso grape produces wines that are considered the best Italian and world red wines, together with Nebbiolo grape in Piedmont. Sangiovese is vinified pure 100% or blended often with Cabernet Sauvignon in Tuscany or with native southern grapes in the southern regions.

Brunello di Montalcino is produced with 100% Sangiovese Grosso, while it is the basis of Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in Tuscany, as well as it is the base of others excellent wines such as Morellino. In Umbria it is the base for Torgiano and Montefalco wines, while in the Marche it is an essential part of Rosso Piceno and Rosso Conero. Concerning Vino Nobile, Sangiovese is called Prugnolo Gentile, but it is the same grape variety.

Spreading of Sangiovese grape in Italy and abroad

Sangiovese is a very widespread grape variety in Italy, the most widespread along with Barbera, with 11 percent of the growned areas of all red vines. Sangiovese Grosso is growned in the best areas to produce Brunello, Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Sangiovese Piccolo, much more widespread, is growned almost everywhere in central-southern Italy: Campania, Puglia and Sicily. It is also growned in Umbria, Marche, Lazio. Abruzzo, Sardinia, Lombardy and Valpolicella.

Emilia Romagna is the second largest region with Sangiovese vines, even if this grape has quite substantial differences with that of Tuscany. Italian emigration has brought Sangiovese to almost every corner of the planet. California seems to have fallen in love with Sangiovese in the 90s of the twentieth century, especially in Napa Valley.

Sangiovese in Montalcino area

The style of the various d.o.c. produced with Sangiovese is determined both by the different traditions but also by the regulations, by the soils and by the climate conditions. The four years of aging foreseen by the production disciplinary of Brunello di Montalcino allow to obtain an elegant wine. But this elegance is also given by the climate conditions: during harvest period in Montalcino it generally rains much less than in other areas of Tuscany, this has favored longer ripening which led to the selection of a biotype, the so-called Sangiovese grosso, different from the bunches on which modern selection is working (which generally looks for small and sparse bunches to extract as much as possible from the skin and have less risk of botrytic attacks) but capable to offer a lot of color, intense aromas and a great tannic structure.

La Poderina production

La Poderina is located in Montalcino in the area of Castelnuovo dell'Abate well known for the particular “elegance and balance" of its wines.

In accordance with business philosophy, fully centered into respect of tradition supported by innovation, in the vineyard, highly qualitative farming systems are adopted with yields of 60 quintals per hectare, well below the 80 quintals permitted by the Regulations.

Brunello is produced in two versions: "Poggio Abate" Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. La Poderina also produces: Rosso di Montalcino DOC made with Sangiovese grape.

Those who visit the estate can deepen their knowledge of the Sangiovese grape variety booking an off-road vehicle visit to the vineyards of La Poderina with the guide of an agronomist.​



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