Posted by: tomciocco | November 24, 2013

WHEN IN ROMAGNA, SANGIOVESE DOES AS THE ROMAGNOLI DO

The Sangiovese grape is inextricably linked to Tuscany, and with good reason – appellations like Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (all of which feature if not exclusively utilize Sangiovese) are wine names that are readily emitted from the mouths of even casual wine drinkers. The notoriety of these wines advances the fame of the region from whence they come, and vice versa.

To many people’s surprise however, Sangiovese has a full life outside of Italy’s most visited region, and Emilia-Romagna is one of the other places where it lives that life. Sangiovese is a very ancient and genetically splintered vine that in a certain sense is a very close-knit family of distinct sub-varieties rather than a single entity with vague clonal “lobes”. Sangiovese di Romagna is one of the siblings in this family; with a distinctive genetic signature quite apart from the Tuscan side of the family like Sangiovese del Chianti,  Sangiovese Piccolo, Prugnolo, etc.

The differences that Sangiovese wines from Romagna exhibit in the glass begin with the phenotype, but what makes Sangiovese di Romagna so distinctive definitely doesn’t end with biology. Enter terroir. While most of Tuscany’s as well as Umbria’s Sangiovese zones are located inland on fairly steep and quite rocky soils, Romagna is located on Italy’s eastern, Adriatic side that has far more clay, sand, and marine-derived soil due to its proximity to the sea. And while much of the Sangiovese from Tuscany and Umbria and Marche is to be found growing at fairly high elevations, most of Romagna’s vineyards are planted on very gently rolling hills at moderately low elevations. The climate too diverges fairly dramatically, with locales in Tuscany and Umbria being more extreme, with higher daytime temperatures as well as lower night-time readings, while Romagna’s climate is more temperate overall with a more even and steady range across the day and the year as well. The combined biological and territorial distinctness of Romagna Sangiovese means that it is typically softer, darker and fruitier than the Sangiovese grown further west, and while the western half of the family is almost always blended with other grapes, Sangiovese di Romagna (also known as Romagna Sangiovese by the way) must be produced entirely unalloyed. Viva la differenza.

I wound up serving this very charming and velvety example of Sangiovese with a basic, homemade chicken soup with small cubes of leftover polenta simmered in the broth before serving, followed by a main course of  little fried (organic) beef meatballs that I  then I slowly smothered with green cabbage, tomatoes garlic and wine.

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Podere La Berta Romagna Sangiovese 2012

Very deep magenta/garnet color. Very elegant yet thoroughly affable nose of blackberry, pomegranate juice and plum butter with tidy notes of licorice, almond, bittersweet chocolate, fresh violet and sweet spices supporting. In the mouth the wine shows a supple, moderately rich and round medium-full body with a balanced tart acid/finely dry tannic structure that encloses clean flavors of crushed black raspberries, blood orange, and a hint of rosewater. Long black cherry cola finish. A suave and modern but still traditional wine.

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