Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Red, Red Wine: The many ways, flavors of the classic sangiovese grape.

In the world of wine, there are but seven grapes that are designated “noble,” and only one comes from Italy.

Sangiovese is an aromatic and fruity red with unique acidity that often matches well with food and is also capable of long aging and amazing complexity. This well-known fruit develops into its finest variations in the region of Tuscany. Its name is derived from the Latin sangue di Giove, or “blood of Jove,” and has been written about since 1590.

Chianti is arguably the best-known sangiovese-based wine. With modern interpretations set down by Italian law, Chianti can be 100-percent sangiovese or even blended with French grapes. The prime grape-growing region is called Chianti Classico, and the best wines are those labeled “riserva.” In these bottles, we find the true idea of grace come to fruition.

Of all the Tuscan hill towns, Montalcino is one of the most famous. Here, Italy’s best red wine from sangiovese vineyards is bottled. And, of those, the Brunello clone produces the wine with the greatest stature. Never blended and aged for a minimum of four years, it has a reputation for power and longevity. Brunello—“the little brown one”—was isolated by the Santi family in the 1840s and has become unrivaled in reputation and price.

For those who wish to experience great wine without the great cost, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a reasonable alternative. Bottled either singly or blended, these wines are not aged as are other Tuscan quaffs and make for delightful drinking.

The region along Tuscany’s coast is known as the “wild west” as much for its isolation as for the independence of the winemakers and their philosophies. The central city is Scansano, where the clone known as Morellino—“the little black one”—takes root. As the “wild west” moniker implies, convention is mostly out the window with vintners blending and bottling as they see fit. The wines are unique and exciting with a dark richness that deserves a good look.

Between the beauty of Montalcino and the quaintness of Scansano lies the DOC of Montecucco, where the sangiovese may be best. The wines there have a richness and balance between deep fruit and nuance. The relative obscurity of this area makes the wine hard to find and also pricey. This all pales with your first sip. Of all the wine made in Tuscany, this is my favorite.

Tuscany is a region rich with types and styles of wine. It is well worth exploring, sampling the wonderful things done with the sangiovese grape.

Keep sipping, Steve

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