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By Ed's Fine Wines
Sangiovese is the grape varietal from Italy used to make Chianti and my namesake, Brunello! The name is derived from Latin meaning “the blood of Jove” the Roman God Jupiter- probably from the color. DNA testing dates the varietal back to ancient Tuscany, believed to have been named by the Etruscan Monks. The varietal grows well in climates of limestone and shale clay (like Tuscany and the Montalcino regions) its home base in Central Italy. Sangiovese requires a long growing season and relative warmth. In cooler vintages, the wine will show even higher amounts of acidity. The Sangiovese grape is known for acidity anyway- a great pairing for acidic tomato sauces! A thin-skinned, light bodied and light colored grape, often winemakers will blend the varietal, or age it in barrique (oak barrels) to give it more structure. Throughout Italy, Sangiovese is known by other names, including ME! Brunello, also Morellino, and Prugnolo Gentile. Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape varietal in Italy (over 250,000 acres) and authorized in over 60 regions. It is the lone grape of Brunello di Montalcino, and the primary grape used for Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montalcino, and many “Super Tuscans” blended with the Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet or Merlot. Significant plantings of Sangiovese can also be found outside Central Italy, in Emilia Romagna (next door to Tuscany) Valpolicella, and as far south as Compania and even the Isle of Sicily.
Italian wine laws made the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) add Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes to wines produced and labeled from the Chianti region. Prior to the 1970’s, some wineries were illegally bringing in blending grapes from Puglia and Sicily to add color, body, and fruit, but really did nothing to aid in quality or reputation of the varietal. Today the style of Sangiovese is diverse and there is plum and cherry notes and various subregions of Chianti produce more spice. The wine is adaptable and able to age for many years.
In the mid 19th Century, producer Clemente Santi produced a 100% Sangiovese wine that proved to age well. By 1888, grandson, Biondi Santi released the first modern version of Brunello di Montalcino. In recent years, the Maremma area of Tuscany, outside Chianti, has been able to develop the Sangiovese grape to great potential as well.
Sangiovese is a grape varietal that also produces sweet wines such as Passito, semi-sparkling frizzante, and the dessert wine known as Vin Santo.
Today, in the US, California, Washington and even parts of Texas are growing the Sangiovese varietal. Here are a few wines we carry- you may want to check out this truly amazing varietal that I am named for!
Alexander Valley Vineyards Dry Rose’ of Sangiovese Sonoma, California
We love dry Rose’ here at Ed’s, as an aperitif, by the pool, or to pair with a light chicken or fish dish. AVV makes a beautiful bone dry Sangiovese Rose’, strawberry fruit and lemon peel. I give it two bones!
Seghesio Family Sangiovese Sonoma, California
Eduardo Seghesio first worked with Sangiovese in the late 1800’s at Italian Swiss Colony. He planted a Chianti field blend around that time on his own property in Sonoma, now known as “Home Ranch”. This wine boasts flavors of dark cherry and red plum with hints of anise. I give it two bones!
Rocca di Montemassi Le Focai, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy
Le Focai means “flint”, the wine is named for the rich mineral deposits found in the area of Maremma where the 100% Sangiovese wine is made. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months before bottling. It is rich with intense cherry fruit, undertones of violets with a soft finish. An affordable price and gold medal awards, I give it three bones!
Castello di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG Tuscany, Italy
The “Castle” Albola lies on the western slopes of Tuscan hills in the town of Chianti Classico, one of the highest elevations in the region. Bursting with notes of strawberry, red berries and sage; light, elegant and easy to drink, I give it two bones!
Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany, Italy
This highly rated wine is produced from 100% Sangiovese grapes, hand -picked from 20-year-old vines. The Brunello is aged for three years in French oak barrels, redolent of dark berry, black cherry, red plum, cedar and spice. I give it three bones!
While there are myriad reasons why lamb is the traditional meat to eat on Easter, there’s also very sound reasoning behind the argument that it’s also counterintuitive: If this is a celebration of spring, why not lighten it up a bit? Let’s have ham, instead! And let’s drink wines that pivot toward the change in temperature, brighten our moods and make the ham taste even better, too. Here's what to drink with every kind of ham:
For ham slathered in spicy mayo or aioli
Anna de Codorniu Cava Brut Rosé ($13)
This Cava made in the “traditional” (read: Champagne) method is (like a lot of Champagne) composed of 70 percent Pinot Noir (Chardonnay, the remainder), and it shows, literally, in its salmon/pale-pink appearance. While there are lovely aromas of cherries and berries all over the place, it’s this bubbly’s bracing acidity that keeps coming through, straight into the finish.
For fruity, glazed ham
2015 Rocca Di Montemassi Calasole Vermentino ($15)
Behold: your first bouquet of white flowers this spring as you take in the heady nose of this Tuscan Vermentino. However, this is no delicate flower of a wine, as it quickly dives deep from delicate to minerally, even nutty (think hazelnuts, in particular), landing on a crunchy bite of Granny Smith apple in the finish.
For smoked ham with a sweet-tart glaze
2016 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé ($14)
Here’s the lightest Cabernet you may ever taste (or gulp, actually, which is inevitable after the first sip). While Mulderbosch earned its street cred with its racy Sauvignon Blanc, this dusty pink pleaser from the other side of the planet is selling fast since it debuted. Here’s why: it proffers waves of refreshing pink grapefruit acidity coupled with succulent, ripe watermelon—the kind you can’t stop eating.
For fresh ham that's been braised in booze
2015 Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Reserve Rouge ($13)
This is your go-to red for springtime quaffing (heck—straight through summer!), served preferably a tad chilled, featuring silky Grenache (with Syrah making up the rest, plus a slash of Mourvèdre) boasting berries of the red and black variety, plus a touch of dusty spice and sweet, juicy tannins in the finish.
For your leftovers: grilled ham and cheese sandwiches
2016 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Abruzzo Cerasuolo ($15)
The word “cerasuolo” means “cherry-like” in Italian, and describes this wine’s gorgeous, transparent garnet color, thanks to very brief grape skin contact during fermentation. The resulting red plays it both ways, with cherry, brambly, red wine fruit flavors wrapped around a tight beam of mouthwatering white wine acidity.