aka Brunello, Calabrese, Lambrusco Mendoza


The true origin of the Sangiovese grape is a bit tricky to pin down.  It is thought that the name of the grape was taken from the Latin phrase sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove”.  Early theories about the origin dated the grape to the time of Roman wine making.  It is thought that the grape was cultivated in Tuscany by Etruscans.

The first written documentation of the grape was in 1590.  The grape was identified as the Sangiogheto grape.  While there has been no conclusive evidence proving this identification as fact or fiction, historians are in general agreement that the Sangiogheto grape and Sangiovese grape are one in the same.

In 2004, DNA profiling conducted by researchers at San Michele All’Adige found that the Sangiovese grape is the result of a crossing between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo.  A study published in 2007 confirmed these findings.  However, both of those findings have been disputed by another study published in 2007 claiming that Ciliegiolo was the offspring of Sangiovese.  Historical data backs up the latter claim, listing the Sangiovese grape about 3 centuries before the Ciliegiolo grape.  What seems to be agreed upon is that the Sangiovese grape and the Ciliegiolo grape are related.  It is agreed that, in some cases, establishing a close relationship between grapes using DNA profiling rather than conclusively establishing the exact nature of the relationship is easier.

In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants from Tuscany most likely brought the Sangiovese grape with them to California.

Places It Is Grown

Sangiovese’s homeland is central Italy but plantings can be found around the world. The grape is increasing in popularity in Australia.  It was introduced in Australia by the country’s national government body for scientific research in the late 1960s.  Small amounts of Sangiovese are grown in South Africa.  It is estimated that about 10 wineries in South Africa produce Sangiovese.

The grape was introduced to North and South America by Italian immigrants.   In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sangiovese achieved some popularity in the Mendoza region in Argentina.  On the other side of the Andes Chilean winemakers experiment with plantings.  In Mexico experiments are also underway with regards to planting the vine.  Canada boasts plantings of the grape on the Niagara Peninsula.

In the late 1980s, Sangiovese found a sudden increase in popularity in California.  Tired of French varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir, winemakers in California went looking for a suitable alternative.  In Washington State, winemakers are experimenting with different terroir in order to better highlight the positive characteristics of the wine.  Other areas in the United States planting Sangiovese include the Rogue Valley and Umpqua AVA in Oregon, the Monticello in Virginia and Texas Hill Country in Texas.

Properties Of Grape

Sangiovese is a red wine grape.  There are over a dozen distinct clones.  The grape has a thin skin and tends to linger on the vine taking its time to mature.

Sangiovese is adaptable to many different types of vineyard soils but appears to thrive in soils with high concentrations of limestone.  Other soil types in which the grape can thrive include highly friable shale-clay soil known as galestro, high proportion of limestone-based alberese soils alternating with deposits of galestro and clay.

The grape buds early and is slow to ripen which requires a long growing season in order for the grape to develop richness and potential body.  Sangiovese needs sufficiently warm temperatures in order to ripen fully, but if there is too much warmth its flavors can become diluted.  In areas with cooler weather, Sangiovese grapes can have high levels of acidity and harsh, unripened tannins.  Because the grape has such a thin skin there is a risk for rot.

Like other grapes, the best quality Sangiovese wines come from smaller yields.  There is great vine vigor which can lead to overproduction.  Most producers, conscious of quality, will try to limit their yields to about 3 pounds of fruit per vine.  With the multiple clones available for use close attention has been paid to matching clones together for the best possible resulting wine.  This practice has allowed superior clones to rise to the top and to be identified for future plantings.

Sangiovese grapes are known for making wines that can range in quality from ordinary to superb.  With high acidity and light body, the Sangiovese grape can cause problems for wine makers.  Different techniques have been created to find ways of adding more body and texture to the wine.  Common techniques are extensive oak treatment and blending other grape varieties with Sangiovese, to compliment its inherent positive qualities.  Strongly affected by its terroir, more than other varieties, Sangiovese wines tend to exhibit the grape’s high levels of acidity, moderate to high tannin content and light color.

Sangiovese-based wines have the potential to age well but the vast majority of Sangiovese wines are made to be consumed relatively early after bottling. Depending upon the quality of the grape, some varietals of Sangiovese can age for anywhere between 1 and to 20 years.

Italian Chianti and Chianti Classico wines are prime examples of wines produced almost exclusively from the Sangiovese grape.  Flavors most associated with Sangiovese are: black cherry, currant, mulberry, plum, strawberry, cinnamon and vanilla. A herbaceous quality is often associated with Sangiovese as well.

Partnering With Food

Rule #1: Matching the alcohol level and body of the wine to the heaviness of the food should make for a proper pairing every time.

Sangiovese’s high acidity, moderate tannin levels and moderate alcohol makes it very food-friendly when looking for a dish to pair with it.  Below are a list of foods and dishes that should pair well with the different types of wine made from Sangiovese:

  • Meatloaf
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Thick Soups like ribollita and puréed bean soup
  • Steak prepared in a red wine sauce
  • Beef stew
  • Short Ribs
  • Hamburgers
  • Beef stroganoff
  • Grilled or roasted chicken with fresh herbs
  • Cornish game hens, quail, squab, and pheasant and duck with rich or hearty
  • sauces
  • Turkey with rich or heavy sauces.
  • Lamb or roasted pork.
  • Venison
  • Pasta Bolognese
  • Lasagna
  • Pizza with tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives and mozzarella
  • Roasted or stuffed red bell peppers
  • Parmigiano, Romano and other hard cheeses
  • Cheddar and other savory, firm cheeses

Restaurants With These Types of Dishes

To view restaurants that serve appetizers, entrees and other dishes that partner well with this grape type, click here….


About americanwinegrape

American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.

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