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Culinary Arts

Learn About Sangiovese: Grapes, Region, and the Best Sangiovese Wines to Taste

Written by MasterClass

Feb 7, 2019 • 3 min read

Sangiovese is Italy’s best-known and most widely planted type of grape, accounting for about 10 percent of all grapes grown in the region. More subtle than other red wine varieties like pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese is nevertheless one of the most popular and beloved grapes used to make wine.

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What Is Sangiovese?

Sangiovese is a red grape varietal indigenous to Italy. The sangiovese grape is able to adapt to and flourish in many varied environments. Due to its versatility, sangiovese is one of the most diverse grape varieties used in winemaking; sangiovese wine can turn out tasting extremely different, based on climate, terroir, and process.

How Do You Pronounce Sangiovese?

An Italian word, sangiovese is pronounced ‘san-jo-vay-zee.’ Its name comes from the Latin for the ‘blood of Jove,’ after the ancient Roman God, Jupiter.

What Are Characteristics of the Sangiovese Grape?

Although sangiovese grapes can adopt the characteristics of their environments, they maintain commonalities across regions.

Sangiovese grapes have:

  • Thin skins
  • Light color
  • Fine tannins
  • Long growing seasons

While sangiovese grapes can successfully grow most places, they tend to grow best in hot, dry climates, and like limestone soils. The resulting wine ages well in barrels and generally has medium levels of alcohol, typically between 13-14% ABV.

Where Does Sangiovese Grow?

Although first discovered and produced in Italy, the sangiovese grape now grows on over 175,000 acres of land across the world.

The top sangiovese-producing regions include:

  • Italy. Sangiovese is famously native to Tuscany, but is grown throughout Italy. Outside of Tuscany, Italian regions growing sangiovese include Umbria, which borders Tuscany in Central Italy, and Campania, in Southern Italy.
  • Australia. Sangiovese is grown in Barossa Valley. McLaren Vale
  • United States. Sangiovese is grown in California and Washington.

What Is Sangiovese Used For?

Sangiovese grapes are used to create:

  • 100% sangiovese wine
  • Chianti
  • Super Tuscans
  • Rosé
  • Vin Santo

What Does Sangiovese Wine Taste Like?

When produced into wine, sangiovese is medium to full bodied, dry and highly acidic, and filled with fruity and savory flavors. These flavors include:

  • Plum
  • Cherry
  • Herbs
  • Violets
  • Licorice
  • Leather
  • Clay
  • Brick
  • Tobacco
  • Smoke

What’s the Difference Between Sangiovese and Chianti?

Sangiovese is a grape and chianti is a type of wine. All Chianti wines contain sangiovese grapes, but sangiovese grapes are used to make more than just Chianti wines. The distinction between the two includes:

The primary grape used to make Chianti wine is sangiovese.
Chianti wines blend sangiovese with cabernet, merlot, or syrah, which provides the wine with a silkier texture, fine finish, and even more fruity flavors than 100% sangiovese wine.

What’s the Difference Between Sangiovese and Super Tuscans?

Super Tuscan wines are blends made primarily with sangiovese. But unlike Chianti, which is made only with Italian grapes, Super Tuscans also use French Bordeaux grapes instead of, or in addition to, the traditional grapes of the region.

One of the historic winemaking families in the Tuscan region, the Antorini family, wanted to supplement sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, grapes that they thought would grow well on their site and bring distinction to their new blend. These “international varieties,” which were associated more with France than with Italy, gave the wine more depth and tannin. The Antinoris also aged the wine in Bordeaux-style barriques with the goal of proving that Chianti could make wines that appealed to consumers of the serious, age-worthy wines of Bordeaux.

The first and most famous of the Super Tuscan style is Sassicaia, created by Antinori in 1971. Tignanello was the second Super Tuscan. The “Super Tuscan” name was used instead of Chianti, since these wines did not comply with DOC(G) regulations, which stated that Chiantis must be made with region-specific grapes. Despite this declassification, the wine’s high quality became a hit in the global marketplace, and kicked off a decades-long craze for premium Super Tuscan wines.

What Are the Best Sangiovese Wine Pairings?

With its strong flavors and texture, sangiovese is a wine that lends itself well to savory carbohydrates, smoky meats, and firm cheeses like Parmesan or Provolone.

Try pairing a glass of sangiovese with one of the following recipes:

The Top Three Sangiovese Wines to Try Now

There’s a lot of a sangiovese to choose from. Here are a few notable winemakers:

  • Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo
  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
  • Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona