Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh) is a red Italian wine grape variety whose name derives from the Latin sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jove". Outside Italy it is most famous as the main component of the Chianti blend in Tuscany, as well as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano, although it can also be used to make varietal wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino or Sangiovese di Romagna, as well as modern "Super Tuscan" wines like Tignanello. Young Sangiovese has fresh fruity flavours of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavors when aged in barrels. Sangiovese was already well known by the 16th century.
Early theories on the origin of Sangiovese dated the grape to the time of Roman winemaking. This was due, in part, to the literal translation of the grape's name as the "blood of Jove"-the Roman Jupiter.
Today there is a broad range of style of Chianti reflecting the Sangiovese influence and winemaker's touch. Traditional Sangiovese emphasize herbal and bitter cherry notes, while more modern, Bordeaux-influenced wines have more plum and mulberry fruit with vanilla oak and spice. Stylistic and terroir based differences also emerge among the various sub-zones of the Chianti region.
In Italy, Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape variety. It is an officially recommended variety in 53 provinces and an authorized planting in an additional 13.
Very good Sangiovese wines are currently being produced in Umbria region.
From the early to mid 20th century, the quality of Chianti was in low regard. DOC regulation that stipulate the relatively bland Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes needed to account for at least 10% of the finished blend, with consequent higher acidity and diluted flavors. Some wineries trucked in full bodied and jammy red wines from Sicily and Puglia to add color and alcohol to the blend—an illegal practice that did little to improve the quality of Chianti. From the 1970s through the 1980s, a revolution of sorts spread through Tuscany as the quality of the Sangiovese grape was rediscovered. Winemakers became more ambitious and willing to step outside DOC regulations to make 100% varietal Sangiovese or a "Super Tuscan" blend with Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet and Merlot.
Viticulture and winemakingSangiovese has shown itself to be adaptable to many different types of vineyard soils but seems to thrive in soils with a high concentration of limestone, having the potential to produce elegant wines with forceful aromas. In the Chianti Classico region, Sangiovese thrives on the highly friable shale-clay soil known as galestro. In the Montalcino region, where there is a high proportion of limestone-based alberese soils alternating with deposits of galestro. The lesser zones of the generic Chianti appellation are predominately made of clay, which doesn't produce as high quality of wine as alberese and galestro do. The grape requires a long growing season, as it buds early and is slow to ripen. The grape requires sufficient warmth to ripen fully, but too much warmth and its flavours can become diluted.
Sangiovese based wines have the potential to age but the vast majority of Sangiovese wines are intended to be consumed relatively early in its life.