Simply put, Sangiovese is one of the most popular Italian grape varieties in the world. It’s certainly the most popular red grape. In fact, a full tenth of Italy’s vine are used to grow Sangiovese.
And the grape goes into some of the best Italian red wines around.
Of course, Chianti is the heavy hitter when it comes to Sangiovese. But you also have the super Tuscans that emerged during the 1970s to consider. And there’s the likes of Brunello, which offers a completely different take on what a producer can do with this amazing grape.
And for all of their differences, there are also plenty of similarities between the Sangiovese wines that you need to keep in mind.
So…how do you make the most out of a wine that uses Sangiovese?
Start with these top tips.
Tip #1 – Serve at 18 Degrees Celsius
As a general rule of thumb, you should chill Italian white wines and allow Italian reds to sit at room temperature.
But what if you want to go deeper and unlock the true flavour potential of the wine that you’re drinking?
In that case, you need to change things up by a degree or two. And with Sangiovese, that means serving the wine at 18 degrees Celsius.
Now, this may be room temperature, if you’re really lucky. But the likelihood is that you may need to chill the wine just a little but to get it just right. And make no mistake…this is a balancing game. If you leave a Sangiovese in the fridge for an extended period of time, you end up chilling it too much!
But if you can hit the magic 18 degrees Celsius mark, you unlock a wine that has an amazing structure.
Tip #2 – Understand the Different Flavour Profiles
There’s a good reason why Sangiovese is the most widely-grown Italian red wine grape.
The grape seems capable of adapting to, and adopting the properties of, the land that it’s grown in. As a result, a Sangiovese made in one region of Italy will always have a different flavour profile to other wines made using the grape that come from different regions.
That makes it pretty difficult to nail down a consistent flavour profile for the grape. However, there are a few notes that tend to make regular appearances.
Most Sangiovese wines have notes of tomato and cherry. The latter may come out after a little bit of ageing. Strawberry is another common note, as is fig. And you’ll usually find that a Sangiovese wine falls on the dry side of the scale, rather than the sweet.
All of this is useful information when choosing what to pair the wine with (we’ll get to that in a moment). But what you really need to know about is the region that the grape was grown in.
While you’ll likely get one or two of these notes in the profile, the specific region will imbue the wine with other notes that you won’t find in other Sangiovese wines. Don’t make the assumption that Sangiovese wines are all the same. You may find yourself in for a rude awakening if you get a flavour profile that you didn’t expect.
Tip #3 – The Food Pairings
One of the great things about the savoury aspects of Sangiovese is that it makes the wine really easy to pair with a range of foods. And when you throw in the different notes that can come from different regions, you have an even more versatile grape.
That means the wine pairs pretty well with pasta dishes, especially any that make heavy use of tomatoes. It also pairs well with richer foods. Try having a sip of a Sangiovese with foods that make heavy use of sauces. We also find that it pairs well with roasted meats and vegetables.
It’s not so great when paired with fish though. And we’d argue that a Sangiovese should not go with a sweet dessert, such as chocolate. The savoury aspects of the wine work against you when the food is too rich.
Tip #4 – Ageing Potential Can Change
As you likely already know, ageing can change the entire complexion of a bottle of Italian wine. And in Sangiovese, you have a grape that again offers variety in this area.
For example, let’s say you have a bottle of Chianti. In this case, the ideal ageing is probably about four or six years. While you can age the wine further, it may lose a little something as it’s at its peak after four to six years.
But what about a bottle of Brunello?
Despite being made from the same grape, this type of wine tends to reach its peak anywhere between 10 and 18 years of ageing. That’s a much longer time and shows you just how vastly a Sangiovese wine can change based on the region and the way it’s made.
Tip #5 – Be Aware of the High Acidity
There’s another aspect of the Sangiovese wines that gets affected by its lack of sweetness. Generally speaking, you’ll find that these wines have a high acidity. And that will affect your enjoyment of the wine.
If you prefer a slightly duller sensation, it’s usually best to go for a sweeter wine. Sweetness tends to lower a wine’s acidity, which makes it more tolerable to those who don’t enjoy the slight sour taste that a Sangiovese can offer.
This isn’t to say that acidity is unpleasant, of course.
Just make sure that you know you’re not in for the mellowest of rides when you drink a Sangiovese.
The Final Word
Italy’s most popular grape has that title for a very good reason. There is simply not other Italian red wine grape that offers the versatility of a Sangiovese.
And despite this versatility, you’ll find that quality across the different types of Sangiovese wines remains consistent.
All that’s left is to get your hands on some. Check out the Xtrawine catalogue to find plenty of wines that make use of this amazing grape.