Making a name for itself in Australia with its mid-weight wine style of firm, savoury tannins and elegant red fruit flavours.
Red and Italian. An apt description for a Ferrari, a pasta sauce, or sangiovese, Italy’s most widely planted grape. Found on the sloping terrain of Tuscany, sangiovese is a medium-bodied wine with medium-plus tannins and high acidity. This wine isn’t as aromatic as the likes of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and pinot noir, but its deep and complex flavour profile more than makes up for the lack of nose. It is the key ingredient in many of Italy’s most famous blends, including Chianti, Carmignano and Rosso di Montalcino
Sangiovese can be a chameleon of a red. Grapes that are picked early and aged lightly tend to create a fruity and playful wine with notes of strawberry and spice. But the more common version of sangiovese is one made with ripened fruit that spends time in the barrel, creating a deeper, earthier wine. Strawberry flavours are overpowered by plum, cherry, fig, leather, clay, potpourri and tea leaf. This type of sangiovese is herbaceous, oaky and distinctly savoury.
Sangiovese is a unique wine. Other drops with its levels of dryness, earthiness and depth of character are generally full-bodied, but sangiovese brings all this to the table as a medium-bodied wine. What does this mean? The experience of drinking light-, medium- and full-bodied wine can be thought of in much the same way as the experience of drinking skim milk, whole milk and cream; the amount of liquid might be the same, but they fill up your mouth in entirely different ways. Sangiovese sits right in the middle of the red wine body spectrum.
In a shock to absolutely no one, Italy’s best loved wine goes perfectly with Italy’s best loved foods. Tomato-based dishes pair particularly well with sangiovese, as they help to neutralise the wine’s natural acidity – think red pasta sauces, spaghetti and meatballs, and margarita pizza. Tomato aside, other perfectly paired dishes include grilled steak, roasted vegetables, goulash and hearty stews. If you want to keep it simple, barbecued sausages and summer salads with generous helpings of olive oil go as well with sangiovese as anything else. Whatever you choose, be liberal with the herbs, as they’ll match excellently with the earthiness of the wine.
Yes and no. One of Italy’s most famous – or perhaps infamous – blends (thanks Hannibal Lecter), Chianti must be at least 80% sangiovese to earn itself that title. While some Chiantis are blended with merlot, syrah or cabernet sauvignon to round some of the wine’s harder edges, most Chiantis are 100% sangiovese. Like Champagne, the name Chianti comes from the region in which the wine is made (an area in Tuscany), rather than the grape that it’s made from.