Brunello’s Nose Knows… Sangiovese (San Gee Oh Vay Say)

rows of Sangiovese grapes with blue sky in Tuscany, Italy

By Ed's Fine Wines

Sangiovese is the grape varietal from Italy used to make Chianti and my namesake, Brunello! The name is derived from Latin meaning “the blood of Jove” the Roman God Jupiter- probably from the color. DNA testing dates the varietal back to ancient Tuscany, believed to have been named by the Etruscan Monks. The varietal grows well in climates of limestone and shale clay (like Tuscany and the Montalcino regions) its home base in Central Italy. Sangiovese requires a long growing season and relative warmth. In cooler vintages, the wine will show even higher amounts of acidity. The Sangiovese grape is known for acidity anyway- a great pairing for acidic tomato sauces! A thin-skinned, light bodied and light colored grape, often winemakers will blend the varietal, or age it in barrique (oak barrels) to give it more structure. Throughout Italy, Sangiovese is known by other names, including ME! Brunello, also Morellino, and Prugnolo Gentile. Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape varietal in Italy (over 250,000 acres) and authorized in over 60 regions. It is the lone grape of Brunello di Montalcino, and the primary grape used for Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montalcino, and many “Super Tuscans” blended with the Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet or Merlot. Significant plantings of Sangiovese can also be found outside Central Italy, in Emilia Romagna (next door to Tuscany) Valpolicella, and as far south as Compania and even the Isle of Sicily.

Italian wine laws made the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) add Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes to wines produced and labeled from the Chianti region. Prior to the 1970’s, some wineries were illegally bringing in blending grapes from Puglia and Sicily to add color, body, and fruit, but really did nothing to aid in quality or reputation of the varietal. Today the style of Sangiovese is diverse and there is plum and cherry notes and various subregions of Chianti produce more spice. The wine is adaptable and able to age for many years.

In the mid 19th Century, producer Clemente Santi produced a 100% Sangiovese wine that proved to age well. By 1888, grandson, Biondi Santi released the first modern version of Brunello di Montalcino. In recent years, the Maremma area of Tuscany, outside Chianti, has been able to develop the Sangiovese grape to great potential as well.

Sangiovese is a grape varietal that also produces sweet wines such as Passito, semi-sparkling frizzante, and the dessert wine known as Vin Santo.

Today, in the US, California, Washington and even parts of Texas are growing the Sangiovese varietal. Here are a few wines we carry- you may want to check out this truly amazing varietal that I am named for!

Alexander Valley Vineyards Dry Rose’ of Sangiovese Sonoma, California

We love dry Rose’ here at Ed’s, as an aperitif, by the pool, or to pair with a light chicken or fish dish. AVV makes a beautiful bone dry Sangiovese Rose’, strawberry fruit and lemon peel. I give it two bones!

Seghesio Family Sangiovese Sonoma, California

Eduardo Seghesio first worked with Sangiovese in the late 1800’s at Italian Swiss Colony. He planted a Chianti field blend around that time on his own property in Sonoma, now known as “Home Ranch”. This wine boasts flavors of dark cherry and red plum with hints of anise. I give it two bones!

Rocca di Montemassi Le Focai, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy

Le Focai means “flint”, the wine is named for the rich mineral deposits found in the area of Maremma where the 100% Sangiovese wine is made. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months before bottling. It is rich with intense cherry fruit, undertones of violets with a soft finish. An affordable price and gold medal awards, I give it three bones!

Castello di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG Tuscany, Italy

The “Castle” Albola lies on the western slopes of Tuscan hills in the town of Chianti Classico, one of the highest elevations in the region. Bursting with notes of strawberry, red berries and sage; light, elegant and easy to drink, I give it two bones!

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany, Italy

This highly rated wine is produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes, hand -picked from 20-year-old vines. The Brunello is aged for three years in French oak barrels, redolent of dark berry, black cherry, red plum, cedar and spice. I give it three bones!