As oenophilic exclamations go, it may sound a bit underwhelming, but nonetheless … there are times when I really do want my Sangiovese to drink like, well, Sangiovese.
Making a connection with the earthy, wild cherry impressions, supple textures and body of quintessential Sangiovese, however, is not as easy as one might think. In fact, that one might walk into a local wine shop asking for a bottle of Sangiovese and emerge with a wine expressing consummate Sangiovese character is likely to prove one of life’s little unpredictables 😉
Here are a few considerations that may help the hunt for wines with classic Sangiovese personality:
In the company of Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon – legal blending partners in several of Tuscany’s great Sangiovese wine denominations – Sangiovese produces wines that are seductive in their own way, no doubt. With respect to the archetypal Sangiovese experience, however, Bordeaux varietals can, at times, overwhelm the somewhat subtle Sangiovese varietal tastes and aromas that, more and more, I have come to seek out.
Within Tuscany’s aforementioned Sangiovese denominations, DOC law also allows uniting Sangiovese with more traditional varietal partners. Blended with small amounts of varietals such as Colorino, Canaiolo, or Mammolo, for example, Sangiovese seems more at home, less interrupted, and better able to communicate the subtleties of its unique message.
When crafted from 100% Sangiovese, Sangiovese in purezza, some wines can achieve a certain state of ethereal grace. While inspiring examples of 100% Sangiovese wines can be found electively produced within other of Tuscany’s important Sangiovese appellations, it is the most famous of these wines, Brunello di Montalcino and its sidekick Rosso di Montalcino, which are perhaps the surer bet: they are required by Italian law to be produced from 100% Sangiovese.
What happens in the cellar is vital to allowing Sangiovese to play the expressive leading role. Compatible techniques in the cellar include the carrying out of fermentation in steel or cement vat. Ideally, ageing is done in Slavonian oak, or at least in part, as it is a very neutral, Sangiovese-friendly maturation treatment. And please take note: easy on the French barrique (especially 1st passage) – heavy hands here can impart too much wood / spice influence so as to encrypt the Sangiovese message – it’s a fine line between state of grace and state of Bordeaux wanna-be 😉
On a final note, generally speaking, when looking to satisfy the craving for prototypic Sangiovese, one may fare better by sticking close to normale bottlings: riserva wines tend to be heavier on the oak influence which, as we’ve noted, can be interfering in this context. But, please remember that there are always notable exceptions (see below).
Producers / wines to investigate:
Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Felsina Chianti Classico & Chianti Classico Riserva
La Ciarliano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Le Gode Brunello di Montalcino
Lisini Brunello di Montalcino & Rosso di Montalcino
Monteraponi Chianti Classico
Pietramora Morellino di Scansano “Brumaio”
San Felice “Il Grigio” Chianti Classico Riserva
Santa Lucia Morellino di Scansano “Tore del Moro”
Val delle Corti Chianti Classico
Ventolaio Rosso di Montalcino