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Five Takes on Sangiovese
By Rebecca Murphy
Jun 15, 2022
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The Italian wine grape Sangiovese grape is known by a laundry list of synonyms such as Brunello, Prugnolo, Grechetto Rosso, Morellino, Nielluccio, Puttanello.  Then there is the story that it came from Jupiter’s blood.  It is considered an ancient variety from Italy and it has been around enough to have had multiple theories developed regarding its origin and parentage.  According to Wine Grapes by Robinson, et al., DNA analysis by Vouillamoz, et al. showed that is a natural cross of Ciliegiolo of Tuscany and Calabrese di Montenovo of Calabria.  

I recently had the opportunity to taste five Sangiovese-based wines from Tuscany, which was a great opportunity to explore the different personalities of the grape grown in the regions of Carmignano, Chianti Classico, Chianti Rufina, Morellino di Scansano, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  Sangiovese is a bit like Pinot Noir, thin skinned and very particular about the place where it is grown, so it was interesting to taste these wines together.  

The first wine was Terre del Poliziano, Morellino di Scansano DOCG “Lohsa” 2019 ($14 Dalla Terra).  It comes from Maremma in southwestern Italy on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea of in where Sangiovese is called Morellino.  The elevation is 492 ft above sea level, and the soils are volcanic.  The wine is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Ciliegiolo , aged ten months in a combination of used French oak barriques and larger oak barrels called tonneaux, and aged an additional two to four months in bottle prior to release.  It is an easy drinking wine with a bright ruby color and aromas of red cherries and strawberries with a very light hint of rosemary.  It is light-bodied with bright flavors of red cherry and strawberry fruit that is tightly knit with lively acidity and fine, tight tannins and a mouthwatering finish.  

The next wine was Capezzana, Carmignano DOCG 2017, ($28, Dalla Terra). The Carmignano wine region is west of Florence in central Italy, where they have hot days and cool nights, and lime-rich, free-draining soils.  The region has gotten a lot of support from the Medici family.  In the mid-1500s, long before “Super Tuscan” became a thing, Catherine dè Medici brought Cabernet Sauvignon to Tuscany.  It was one of many wedding gifts from her marriage to Henri II of France.  According to The Untold Story of Chianti by Bill Nesto MW and Frances Di Savino, Cosimo III dè Medic created Italy’s first legally defined wine regions of Carmignano, Chianti, Pomino, and Val di Sopra in 1716.  Carmignano became a DOC in 1975 and a DOCG in 1990.  The Carmignano appellation has a minimum requirement of 50% of Sangiovese for reds, but Cappezana’s wine contains 80% blended with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is aged for 12 months in a combination of new and used French tonneaux and untoasted Allier or Slavonian oak barrels.  Its color is dark ruby with aromas of black cherry and blackberry with a whiff of fresh mint.  It is medium bodied with intense, flavors of black fruits, cherry, plum and currant supported by crisp acidity and chewy tannins.  

The third wine was a single vineyard 2018 Chianti Rufina DOCG from Fattoria Selvapiana’s, Vigneto Bucerchiale, ($29, Dalla Terra).  Chianti Rufina DOCG is the smallest of the seven subzones of the Chianti DOCG. It is located at the foot of the Apennines, the mountain range that is the backbone of Italy, where vineyards are grown at elevations as high as 1600 feet, which means cooler temperatures than at lower elevations.  The growing season is longer, and temperatures can be much cooler at night resulting in conditions that can provide more time for those finicky grapes to ripen while retaining acidity for balance.  The owner, Francesco Giuntini Antinori, considers this single variety Sangiovese their flagship wine made only in the best vintages.  It is an elegant wine with pure, focused, ripe fruit with light ruby, red cherry, strawberry aromas and flavors laced with notes of dried, woody herbs.  The integration of fruit, crisp acidity and fine grained tannins is seamless.  It has an elegant personality.

The fourth wine was a 2018 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano made by Poliziano, ($25 Dalla Terra) which has a dark ruby color, ripe, spicy black cherry strawberry aromas with a hint of vanilla, savory black cherry, strawberry fruit with a bit of dark chocolate, crisp mouthwatering acidity, and chalky tannins.  Prugnolo Gentile is Sangiovese’s name in Montepulciano. It is 85% of the blend with Colorino, Canaiolo, and Merlot providing 15%. It is aged for 18 to 20 months in various sizes of French oak containers, then 6-8 month in bottle.  Poliziano, which was created in 1961 by Dino Carletti, produces more than 83,000 cases from about 400 organically farmed acres.  The elevation of the vineyards and winery is 984 to 1378 ft.  

The final wine was Badia Coltibuono, Chianti Classico DOCG 2019 ($20, Dalla Terra).  The current generation of the Stucchi Prinetti family, Emanuela, Paolo and Roberto are running the winery which was created in 1846 and became commercial in 1957.  Roberto is the winemaker with consultant Maurizio Castelli.  Their goal is a natural expression of Sangiovese with lightness and balance complex, but also food friendly and readily enjoyable.  The 2019 vintage is made from 90% Sangiovese blended with 10% Colorino, Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo.  It was aged for 12 months in large (528-660 gal) French and Austrian oak casks, and three months in bottle.  The color is ruby.  Aromas are red cherry and strawberry layered with savory spices and vanilla.  It is light bodied and lively with tangy acidity and ripe, grainy tannins.  There is a touch of pleasant bitterness in the finish, which clears the palate.  

Five wines made primarily of one grape variety grown in five different areas of Tuscany.  Three share a similar ruby color.  Two were dark ruby, made with French grapes, one with Merlot, one Cabernet Sauvignon.  These are wines that are more than a string of adjectives.  The wine’s presentation depends on many elements like clone, soil, elevation, winemaking, and blend.  They do have two major elements in common: they are incredible values, and they are made to go with food.  In Italy wine is meant for the table, to share with family and friends and good food.  I highly recommend any one and all of these wines for your table.    

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