Who’s Your Daddy?: Sangiovese

Happy Monday to you all!  Since I am finishing up writing a rather research- and labor-intensive guest post on another site (I’ll post the link once it’s live!), I’m going to start the week off lightly on The Academic Wino.  A new edition of “Who’s Your Daddy” is overdue, so today we’ll be exploring the origins of another grape:  Sangiovese.

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Sangiovese (pronounced san-jo-veh-zeh), is one of the most widely planted grapes in Italy (more specifically, Tuscany).  The word ‘Sangiovese’ is derived from the Latin phrase, ‘Sanguis Jovis’, meaning “blood of Jove (Jupiter)”.  There are two different families of Sangiovese grapes; a large-berried variety, and a small-berried variety.  The large-berried variety is often called “dolce” or “gentile”/”well-bread”, and also goes by the synonyms, Sangiovese Grosso, Prugnolo Gentile, and Brunello di Montalchino.  The small-berried variety is also called “forte” or “montanino”/”from the mountain/rough”, and also goes by the synonyms, Cordisco, Morellino, Uva Tosca, Primutico, San Vicetro, Sangiovese dal Cannello, and Corto di Predappio.  It is the latter, small-berried, family that is the grape used in Chianti wines.  Sangiovese is the primary grape used in Chianti, with canaiolo and trebbiano making up the rest of the blend.  In 1890, the blend was on average, 70%, 15%, and 15%, respectively, with current requirements according to law indicating that a Chianti must contain a minimum of 90% Sangiovese.

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Sangiovese grapes are slow to mature and late ripening.  As a result of having very thin skins, Sangiovese grapes are extremely susceptible to mold and other diseases, particularly in wet years.  The most successful vineyards for growing Sangiovese are in limestone soils, with hot and dry weather throughout the growing season.  It is one of the most common grapes in Italy (specifically, Tuscany), though is also found in California, Argentina, Corse, and Australia.  Sangiovese can grow in other climates (i.e.,Virginia), however, it will likely not ripen to its’ full potential, and the style of wine most likely much lighter.

Wines made with Sangiovese grapes tend to be high in acidity and high in tannin, with moderate color and an average structure.  Due to this high acidity, Sangiovese should only be made in oak barrels/casks, instead of steel or concrete, with the latter only further increasing the acidity level to a more unpalatable level.  In addition to being high in acidity and medium-bodied, Sangiovese wines exhibit a bright and fruity character, with a finish that sometimes borderlines on bitter.  On the nose and the palate, one may get hints of vanilla and sweet wood from the oak barrel, while exhibiting fruit qualities such as blueberry, strawberry, orange peel, and plum.  Sangiovese often shows floral and spice character as well, including hints of violet, thyme, and rosemary.

In more recent years, Tuscan winemakers have been producing Sangiovese blends with Bordeaux varietals (particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), which have become known as “Super Tuscans”.  Super Tuscans exhibit much more complexity, as well as increased body weight and longer aging capabilities. 

So, where does Sangiovese come from?

Sangiovese is thought to have been cultivated in Tuscany by the Etruscans.  It is thought to have been mentioned as early as 1590 by Giovanvettorio Soderini (a.k.a., Ciriegiulo), referring to it as “Sangiogheto”, which according to some historians, is the first account of the Sangiovese grape.  It wasn’t until 1772 that the word “Sangiovese” was first found to be written, though it is widely believed that the Sangiovese grape is at least 2000 years older than that.

As a result of DNA profiling by José Vouillamoz, a scientist at the Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige, we are now relatively confident in the parentage of the Sangiovese grape.  So, without further ado; Sangiovese:  Who’s Your Daddy?

Sangiovese is an ancestral cross between…..

 

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    Ciliegiolo…..

                                                                          …..and…..

 

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….Calabrese Montenuovo

I hope you enjoyed this short foray into the origins of the Sangiovese grape!  If you have any comments or any requests for future “Who’s Your Daddy” posts, I’d love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below!
I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!

4 comments for “Who’s Your Daddy?: Sangiovese

  1. Peter Bell
    July 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Great article. I'm just curious where you get the idea that aging wine in stainless steel or concrete tanks increases the acid. Malolactic fermentation (the main way to decrease acid in a wine) can happen in any old vessel.

  2. July 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you for reading, Peter! I'm happy you enjoyed the article!

    Thank you also for the clarification on malolactic fermentation. My mistake was assuming that most winemakers try to prevent malolactic fermentation from occurring in stainless steel tanks, when in fact, it is completely up to them and what style of wine they are looking to make. In my tasting experience, a lot of the stainless steel fermented wines were not allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, so I erred in assuming the same would be true for a Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel tanks. This decision is completely up to the winemaker!

    I suppose my sentence would have been better if I'd specified that acidity levels would be higher in stainless steel fermented Sangiovese wines that were not allowed to go through malolactic fermentation, or something along those lines.

    Thank you again for reading and clarifying the error!

  3. Kevin C.
    August 12, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Another good article with lots of good information. Two points though.

    Chianti only has to have a minimum of 80% Sangiovese, not 90%.

    And with regards to Malolactic Fermentation. Almost all red wines go through malo, particularly high acidity wines like Sangiovese based wines. This is usually done in oak casks or barrels after fermentation is complete but it can be done in stainless. Often a producer will conduct the fermentation in stainless or concrete and then transfer to oak for ageing and this is where malo would occur. Red wines that would be prevented from going through malo would be something like Beaujolais or Dolcetto as these are very light in acidity. Also, red wines from very hot regions where the acidity would already be low and the producer wants to maintain what he/she has.

  4. August 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks again for commenting! I appreciate the correction when I have made an error. Not being an expert, I am certain to make some mistakes here and there, and I'm happy that you were able to clarify and help us all learn a little bit more!

    Cheers, and thanks again!

Comments are closed.