Today, I’m publishing two sets of tasting notes featuring Sangiovese-based wines from both Chianti and the U.S.’s West Coast. In many ways it is an interesting juxtaposition of wines, showing that Sangiovese is ideally suited to adapt to the offered conditions of each region.
Surprising even to myself, these groups of wine, while stylistically very different, were qualitatively pretty equal. Yes you can get great Sangiovese in Italy, but you can get great Sangiovese in California as well.
In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that California Sangiovese is as good an imported grape as California is capable of producing!
Photo courtesy boo_licious via Flickr/CC
Okay, all of California’s grapes are imports, though we tend to think of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah as adopted indigenous varieties. My point here is that California makes Sangiovese wines that are pretty much as good as those made in Italy. They are different, but I don’t see the voids that separate Rhône Valley Syrah and domestic Syrah or domestic Pinot and Burgundy, for example.
The reason why is actually pretty simple. It’s a combination of the weather, vineyard selections and clones. Truth be told, clonal selection has only become a hot topic in Italy over the past two decades. Before that, most people selected Sangiovese clones for yield, volume and vigor. That made for some crappy wine, and actually a lot of it, literally.
With all those crappy clones out there, it’s not surprising that crappy wine was made. Thus the reputation for the thin, shrill Chianti was born. There is still an unfortunate amount of rather thin and shrill Chianti out there, but less and less each year. All those studies on clones have allowed wineries to produce every richer, denser and sometimes better wines, not only in Italy but around the world.