Here it is a brief Sangiovese’s map. The historic zones where Sangiovese grape has been cultivating for millennia. We are in the center of Italy: Tuscany, Romagna and Umbria. To tell the truth, we should speak also about Le Marche region, which has always been linked to this grape. In fact, you can add to a maximum of 15% of Sangiovese to the Montepulciano-based wines from Conero, even if the winegrowers tend to prefer, rightly, to produce monovarietal Montepulciano, to have a more rigorous wine. Nevertheless there are some incredible unblended Sangiovese, but are the fruit of the experimentation of few winemakers not a terroir statement. And of course in the DOC Rosso Piceno, there are again both Montepulciano and Sangiovese, from 35% to 50%.
Brunello di Montalcino
The king of Sangiovese, Sangiovese Grosso. From the clone called Brunello are produced full bodied wine, dense of dry extract and with a massive tannins, which five years of aging, six for Brunello Riserva, can turn into one of the most complex and finest wine that you can drink in your life. Obviously the fruit— plum and cherry— keeps ripening and getting more and more caramelized. The tertiary aromas—tea, coffee, earth and mushrooms—are intensified and nicely mixed together and will surround your plate with an ethereal mind blowing symphony. The saltiness is musky and vertical, it’s like a mountain emerging from a maelstrom, half rocky and half marine, emphasized by fern, chalk and flint, traces that only this unique soil—clay, galestro, alberese—can so deeply infuse into a wine. The best Brunello are the ones made the old fashioned way: just respect the grapes and let work the microclimates of Montalcino, which takes the heat and the breezes from the Maremma’s sea and is shielded to the south by mount Amiata. The recipe is easy: only the best, perfectly ripe, grapes, low yields and big cask aging. In recent vintages we have seen a new trend, also due to the global warning: the wines are less tannic and much more mature-jammy (using french barrels you have a very quick oxygenation). Maybe they are ready for the market, but at the expense of their potential of aging. Rosso di Montalcino, conversely, is an easy drinking wine that you should always keep in you cellar to solve quick food and wine matching problems, with plenty of earthy freshness, soft oaking and a nice round of fruity nuances.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
At least 70% of Sangiovese, in this bold, iconic wine from the village of Montepulciano, not to be confused with Montepulciano, the grape, which is totally different! The clone is called Prugnolo Gentile and, after the vinification, it has to go through two years of oaking, three for the Riserva. Let’s think about a less sophisticated and ethereal Brunello, but more aggressive and dark, flushed with a spurring tannin that envelop a disruptive body, warm and if you go a little deeper, under this river of red boiling jam there is a mouthwatering vein of iron and licorice woven together. A carnivorous wine with which it’s a joy sharing barbecue, stews, sumptuous game recipes and food requiring sweet spices like cloves, anise and cinnamon. He will fight by your side for a pair of decades.
Morellino di Scansano
A DOCG that has been spread in the south of Maremma, near the sea, all over the hills around Scansano, a land gifted with an acid, alkaline soil, rich in marine fossils. Where once used to blossom only marshes, luckily, today are springing up more and more vineyards. The sea breathes exposed vines over the top of the slopes give back excellent wines, highly intense, where the zesty flavors of the sea and the Mediterranean scrubland have been crushed and bottled. A first bunch of cherry gives you a frozen-salty welcome, it’s only the first sip of a riding among the waves, then you can feel the crispy elegance of the flowers that rise only in the wet backyard of the Sangiovese. The tannin are charmingly supported by a rift of aromatic herbs dried under the sun, incorporated in a smooth body glazed with pine resin: it keeps running through the palate releasing rhubarb and tamarind sprinkles, but it’s always the saltiness to dictate the tempo. No less than 85% of Sangiovese and two years of aging, one of which in the wood for Morellino Riserva.
A tiny DOCG of 170 hectares, involving only two municipalities, just east of Florence: Carmignano and Poggio a Caiano. Still a staple zone, already mentioned for its importance, in 1716 by Cosimo III of the Medici, in the ban that settled out the borders of the four most important wine zone: Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano e Val d’Arno di Sopra. Thanks to a favorable climate, the Apennines are near, here are produced some good unblended bottle, but the real deal is the blend between Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, which has been cultivated for centuries with amazing results. The combo is great, because can provides fine wines, highlighted by intense, smoked tannins: the sumptuous, floral elegance of the Sangiovese meets the brawny Cabernet and the mix is astonishingly good. They need some time to open up a little bit in the glass, but you will hardly forget such a roundness.
Originally, again the ban of the old Cosimo III, it was formed only by three areas around three tiny villages: Gaiole, Radda and Castellina. Nowadays Chianti Classico goes from Florence to Siena, with an altitude that starts from 250 meters to reach a peak of 800, in the est border near the Chianti mountains, with an unbelievable soil mix: tuff, limestone, clay, rocks and the famous Galestro. The wines are warm, but sharply balanced, evoking tart cherry, black currant, espresso and earth. The structure is suggestive, facets after facets it will be a pleasure to roll this wine all over your palate to taste every shades. Moreover it’s never too bold—roundness is the key word here—thing that makes them amazingly food friendly. If you like sweet spiced fruits, the creamy Poggio di Castello, from Monsanto, won’t disappoint you, instead if you prefer austerity and pure earth flavors, along with a heart pumping violet and sour cherries, you will fall in love with the Baron Ugo, from Monteraponi. Both, so different but so good, are two of the brightest sons of the same terroir and teach us once again how much important is the idea (tradition?) in processing a wine. 80% minimum of Sangiovese and one year of aging, two for Chianti Riserva.
Here is a very interesting zone, it’s the northern part of Chianti, although in reality it has little to do with it, the landscape is very different too: the weather is fresher, being so close to the Apennines, so humidity is not a great problem as in Chianti and the grapes can ripe calmly, taking advantage of a higher altitude soil. Unlike Chianti, where the palate is fruitily round, the wines of Rufina are neat, salty, with a punching acidity sharpened both by the sudden thermal excursion and a rocky body that tone down the exuberance of the cherry tendency, making the bouquet exquisite. Once again is the breathes coming from the sea, sneaking through the valleys, to make this place so special, exactly as Langhirano for the Ham: just a draft of wind.
Sangiovese di Romagna
From Rufina the road for Romagna is short and indeed the travel worth the candle. Many small cru are growing in confidence and making big strides. Winegrowers let speak the terroir and they are not so barrique-obsessed as in the past: they are coming back to more austere wine, not so pumped and muscular, even if the big fruit & jam bomb mania is always lurking. However we have to admit that the overall quality of Romagna Sangiovese is skyrocketing, so you won’t get disappointed. In the first hills of Faenza, we have two good cru, Marzeno and Oriolo dei Fichi: the wines from there are stylish, intensely balsamic and more floral and fruit driven than herby-mineral, kissed by a electrifying acid vein: mulberries, violet and pepper at will. Going east, we find Brisighella, a nice medieval village: great austerity and elegance for these wines, which can last for years and years, surrounded by delicious flavors of rock herbs, black currant, licorice and raspberry, thanks to the presence of different kinds of clay in these soils. Then Bertinoro, whose wines are full flavored, defined by a salty structure, with deep aromas and silky tannins that ends in a slightly burnt bush of forest herbs, due to a soil rich in marine fossil and the long barrel aging that these wine can bear. And as you get closer to the sea, the wine becomes beefier and perkier, the tannins is sunnier and more thundering, plugged into a strong fruity backbone that keep the wine warm, but is the iodine to give elegance and structure to these wines with capers, thyme and tomatoes’ nuances. 85% of Sangiovese minimum and two years of aging for the Riserva.
Rosso di Montefalco is a lovely wine, easy to drink, with a lot of roundness and a smooth personality that ends in a neat oaky finish. It’s a blend of Sangiovese (70%) and Sagrantino (15%) and often a 15% of Merlot to amalgamate them all with grace. The other Sangiovese based wine is Torgiano DOCG, mainly Sangiovese and Canaiolo. It’s supple and rich, with a mouth filling avalanche of plums and cherries that bounce on your tongue, tastily scented, intense and with a mighty body rounded by three years of aging.