As many of you know, I am in the process of writing segments of a new textbook for an international wine education program. Our first course is going through a test run in Madrid, Spain, as I write this blog. We hope to expand to the United States in the next few months. Right now, we are developing the level 1, or introductory course, which emphasizes grape growing, winemaking and explores the noble grape varieties. So, this week, I thought I'd share a very abbreviated version of my discussion on the Sangiovese grape (which runs about six pages in the textbook).
Sangiovese is like a Dickens novel that begins with, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Sangiovese is the source of some of the finest red wines in the world, but it is also the cheap red wine packaged in a straw-casked bottle (fiasco), which is more popular as a candle holder.
The origin of the Sangiovese name is pretty well debated, but general theory is that it derives from Sangue di Giove, or Sangius Jovus (“blood of Jove” or “blood of Jupiter”), and was given that name by monks in Emilia-Romagna.
Once believed to be a native and noble grape of central Italy, recent DNA evidence confirms that Sangiovese is the offspring of the north and south. The northern grape is Ciliegiolo (“little cherry”). The southern grape is Calabrese Di Montenuovo. It probably originated in the Calabria region before moving its way up to Campania, and eventually Tuscany.
Today, Sangiovese has different names in different regions. The best known are Prugnolo Gentile in Montepulciano, Brunello in Montalcino, and Morellino in Grosseto. All of these are said to be sub-varieties of Sangiovese, all of which fall into two basic categories: Sangiovese Grosso and Sangiovese Piccolo (or Sangioveto).
The primary growing region of Sangiovese is within central Italy, mainly the Tuscany region where the most famous wines are made. Some of the best known regions are found along the foothills of the Appennines mountain range. The Chianti region is probably the best known. Wines may be labeled Chianti or as one of the 8 sub-zones of Chianti. Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino produce some of the best known, and loved wines in the region.