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“Sangiovese is among the noblest autochthonous grape varieties in Italy…the spectrum of aromas it may develop depending on terroir is spectacular and it usually has great potential for ageing.”

By Mariusz Rybak

“Bevete il Sangiovese, quello scuro
d’anni ne camperete centomila
fa bene alla salute, e v’assicuro
fa far l’amore dieci volte in fila.”

“Drink Sangiovese, the dark one / you’ll live a hundred thousand years / it’s good for health, and I assure you / you’ll be able to make love ten times in a row.” This is how Roberto Benigni finishes his poem “To Sangiovese.” He goes even further, claiming in his humorous poetry that, compared to Sangiovese, even Champagne becomes a vulgar chamomile tea. Without doubt, Tuscans are famous for their ironic sense of humor.

Sangiovese is among the noblest autochthonous grape varieties in Italy and most probably does not require such promotion.  The variety is widely associated with Tuscany, and us the main component of Chianti. Indeed, the geographical origins of the variety are Central Italy; in the regions of Tuscany, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, where its vines continue to flourish.

Sangiovese is the most cultivated red variety in Italy, accounting for 11% of all vineyards. There are 90,000 ha of DOC vineyards planted with it – of which 40,000 ha are in Tuscany, and 6,000 ha in Romagna. More than 100 DOCs allow this variety – including famous DOCGs, such as ChiantiBrunello di MontalcinoCarmignano, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.


Chianti in the typical ‘fiasco’ bottle

Some authors claim Sangiovese to be known already to the Etruscan winegrowers, way before the Romans even started to think of an empire. Maybe ‘l’Ombra della sera’ (Shadow of the Evening) – one of the most beautiful artefacts preserved from the antiquity – was a votive statue buried in a vineyard with Sangiovese plants? The Etruscan name got however lost, the current one being derived from Latin ‘sanguis Jovis’ – the blood of Jupiter.

It might be the richness of synonyms which sometimes lead to the role of Sangiovese in the Italian wine production being underestimated. There are more than thirty names for this grape; some being exact synonyms, others denominating sub-varieties – particularly  Morellino di Scansano (Maremma), Brunello (Montalcino), Prugnolo Gentile (Montepulciano), Sangiovese Romagnolo (called also Nostrano or Sangiovese del Cannello Lungo), Nieluccio (Corsica), and many more.

Shadow of the Evening (247x380)

The spectrum of aromas it may develop depending on terroir is spectacular, and it usually has great potential for ageing. As for pairings, Tonino Guerra, an Italian poet and screenwriter, said that “Sangiovese is good with everything, just like high-class prostitutes.” Have I mentioned yet, that Romagnoli (people from the region of Romagna) are also famous for their humour?

Mariusz Rybak is currently researching Serbian wine culture and the notion of wine as a cultural good. His musings on such topics can be read on his blog, Kawa and Vino.

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