Sangiovese is the most popular red grape variety of Italy. It can be found everywhere in central Italy, all the way from Emilia-Romagna to Lazio, Campania and Sicily. The traditional home of Sangiovese is Tuscany, where it has been used to create blends like Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, as well as the famed “Super Tuscans.”
Sangiovese, while capable of aging well, is best enjoyed as a young wine, when it has fresh, fruit-forward flavors. If aged in oak barrels, it can acquire a more complex, oaky character. While Sangiovese is not as aromatic as other red grape varietals like Pinot Noir and Syrah, it typically will produce a very rich flavor profile that includes cherries and strawberries. Sangiovese wines are generally medium-bodied with high acidity. The classic examples of Sangiovese wines include Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino.
While the official historical record of Sangiovese dates back only to the 16th century, there is now speculation that Sangiovese cultivation may date all the way back to Roman winemaking times. The name Sangiovese derives from the Latin words “Sanguis Jovis,” which means “Blood of Jupiter.”
The Sangiovese grape was brought to North and South America by Italian immigrants. The two primary wine regions that have embraced Sangiovese include Argentina’s Mendoza wine region and California’s Napa Valley. However, due to the differences in terroir between California and Italy, the wines from California tend to be more fruit-driven with more floral notes than those from Tuscany. Other wine regions that have experimented with Sangiovese include Romania, Australia, and the French island of Corsica (which refers to it as “Niellucio”).
The classic food pairing with Sangiovese is any tomato-based pasta sauce. In addition, pizza pairs well with a bottle of Sangiovese-based Chianti.