name of the
Sangiovese red grape
is thought to be derived from "sanguis Jovis" meaning "the blood of Jove (Jupiter)." Its beginnings
probably predate Roman times. Sangiovese is one of the two
predominant red grapes (the other being nebbiolo) in Italy, where it is extensively
planted, particularly in the central and southern regions. It is believed to have originated in
Tuscany, where it dominates today. Sangiovese wines vary immensely depending on where the grapes are grown, how they're grown (the yield allowed), and which of the many subvarieties
they are made from. Generally, Sangiovese wines are high in acid, with moderate to high tannins, and medium levels of alcohol. The
flavours have a hint of earthiness and are usually not boldly fruity. Sangiovese wines are not deeply
coloured and often have a slightly orange tint around the edges. Most are not long-lived and will last for less than 10 years.
Of the numerous strains of this grape, Sangiovese Grosso and Sangiovese Piccolo have taken the lead. Compared to Sangiovese Piccolo's smaller grape clusters, Sangiovese Grosso has larger, more loosely bunched grapes.
It is also more widely cultivated and yields a larger crop. One strain of Sangiovese Grosso is Brunello ("little dark one"), so named for the brown hue of its skin.
It is the grape responsible for the potent and long-lived Brunello di Montalcino wines, which are made totally from this variety. Prugnolo is
Montepulciano's local name for the Sangiovese Grosso grape, which produces the
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines. Though Sangiovese is the dominant grape in Italy's well-known
Chianti wines, for DOC qualification it must be blended with other varieties, including a percentage of white grapes. Fortunately, the maximum allowable Sangiovese (also known as Sangioveto in
Chianti) went from 80 to 90 percent in 1984, which allows Chianti wines to have a more robust character. Some producers, particularly in Tuscany, are now making non-DOC wines either using only Sangiovese grapes or blending them with small amounts of
Cabernet Sauvignon or the stronger-flavoured Cabernet Franc (Podere
San Cresci). Cabernet is a particularly complimentary partner that lends bouquet, structure, and longevity. The
Carmignano DOCG officially allows 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon to be blended with their elegant Sangiovese-based wines.