Posted by: tomciocco | September 29, 2013

THE MANY FACES OF SANGIOVESE

The Italian peninsula and its islands are absolutely rife with grape varieties that are all its own. Many if not most of the over 1,000 vine types are pretty obscure to most wine drinkers, but there are a few handfuls of grapes that even though they have never been exported to and planted in the soils of the four corners of the globe nonetheless are household names, and Sangiovese might be most renowned of the lot.

Sangiovese’s heartland is undoubtedly located in Tuscany, but it has been traditionally grown in the neighboring regions of Umbria, Lazio, Marche, and in the eastern portion of Emilia Romagna for centuries if not millennia. And with the exception of Sangiovese di Romagna and Brunello di Montalcino, almost all  of the wines that utilize Sangiovese are blends: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso Piceno, Rosso di Montefalco, etc. And though Chianti can now be made from exclusively Sangiovese, the overwhelming majority of them are still blended.

All the aforementioned wines however are classified as D.O.C. wines, but among the more loosely regulated I.G.T. wines, 100% Sangiovese wines abound, and tonight’s wine is one of them. This particular bottling comes from the clay-rich hills southeast of Pisa. And though Sangiovese is grown ubiquitously in Tuscany, this particular area of the region doesn’t immediately come to the lips of even the biggest Sangiovese mavens.

Like two other world class grapes like Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, Sangiovese is highly sensitive to its terroir, and the one from which this wine comes, as well as the approach to its production in the cellar, are quite particular. As I mentioned above, this region’s soils are very rich in alluvial clay whereas most Sangiovese vines are grown in lighter limestone and marly soils. And also unlike most other Sangiovese growing zones, this area is generally damper and highly influenced by maritime winds, both cold and hot. Further, the two sisters who produce this wine champion fermentation with exclusively native, wild yeasts carried out in cement vats rather than steel or oak vessels, and the wines are bottled completely unfiltered.

The upshot of all these divergent techniques and conditions ultimately makes for a deeper, chewier, and more rustically powerful expressions of Sangiovese than is seen in any of the more celebrated regions, be they in Tuscany or in any other region for that matter. Many of the styles and characteristics of these off-the-beaten-path I.G.T. Sangioveses are harder to predict, but ones like these, once identified, give even the most experienced students of the great Sangiovese grape a new view of what it can be.

I served this somewhat sinewy and homespun but still elegant wine with a first course of rigatoni with a sauce of red peppers, broccoli, garlic, anchovies, basil and a touch of mascarpone, followed by an Italian-style beef stew with potatoes, onions, mushrooms, carrots, peas, red wine, mixed herbs, etc.

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Sorelle Palazzi Toscana Sangiovese 2010

Brownish and slightly cloudy deep garnet color. Pungent, earthy nose of blackberry and dried cranberry and currant fruit with big aromas of wood smoke, barnyard, black truffles, bitter chocolate, violet and dried rose petals. In the mouth the wine is full-bodied, with a stubbly, dry tannic structure, and a cutting acidity with hearty and rustic flavors of sour plums, black cherry, wild strawberry, juniper, dried herbs, black coffee, and subtle mixed brown spices. Very long, complex, and powerful finish. Sangiovese in a different key.

 

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