CHIANTI'S FATHER: THE SANGIOVESE

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Early theories on the origin of Sangiovese dated the grape to the time of Roman winemaking. It was even postulated that the grape was first cultivated in Tuscany by the Etruscans from wild Vitis Vinifera vines. The literal translation of the grape's name, the "blood of Jove", refers to the Roman god Jupiter. According to legend, the name was coined by monks from the commune of Santarcangelo di Romagna in what is now the province of Rimini in the Emilia-Romagna region of east-central Italy.

The first documented mention of Sangiovese was in the 1590 writings of Giovanvettorio Soderini (also known under the pen name of Ciriegiulo). Identifying the grape as "Sangiogheto" Soderini notes that in Tuscany the grape makes very good wine but if the winemaker is not careful, it risks turning into vinegar. While there is no conclusive proof that Sangiogheto is Sangiovese, most wine historians generally consider this to be the first historical mention of the grape. Regardless, it would not be until the 18th century that Sangiovese would gain wide spread attention throughout Tuscany, being with Malvasia and Trebbiano the most widely planted grapes in the region.
In 1738, Cosimo Trinci described wines made from Sangiovese as excellent when blended with other varieties but hard and acidic when made as a wine by itself. In 1883, the Italian writer Giovanni Cosimo Villifranchi echoed a similar description about the quality of Sangiovese being dependent on the grapes it was blended with. The winemaker and politician, Bettino Ricasoli formulated one of the early recipes for Chianti when he blended his Sangiovese with a sizable amount of Canaiolo. In the wines of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Sangiovese would experience a period of popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century. 

Wines made from Sangiovese tend to exhibit the grape's naturally high acidity as well as moderate to high tannin content and light color. Blending can have a pronounced effect on enhancing or tempering the wine's quality. 
Different regions will impart varietal character on the wine with Tuscan Sangiovese having a distinctive bitter-sweet component of cherry, violets and tea. In their youth, Tuscan Sangiovese can have tomato-savoriness to it that enhances its herbal component. 
The aging potential of Chianti is highly variable, depending on the producer, vintage and sub-zone of the Chianti region it is produced in. Basic Chianti is meant to be consumed within 3 to 4 years after vintage while top examples of Chianti Classico Riserva can last for upwards of 15 years. 

 

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