Sangiovese from Italy and California

Capitalizing on an adaptable grape variety


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!

Click here to see the Top 5 California Sangiovese

Click here to see the Top 5 Italian Sangiovese

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.

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  • My favorite Sangio comes from Pontin del Roza Winery in Prosser WA. It is a very addictive example of a peppery red wine with a light body and great finish. Red berry fruit and black pepper make an intriguing combination that is both savory on its own and pairs well with luncheon fare.

    Mar 06, 2012 at 3:21 PM

  • Snooth User: Judy Asman
    995557 31

    Thanks for the notes, Greg. I like them both but lately have been quite loyal to Chianti. Appreciate the Sangiovese suggestions though, not too shabby pricewise too. I'll check 'em out!

    Mar 06, 2012 at 5:48 PM

  • I agree that it would be interesting to see who didn't make the top 5 cut...maybe a list of the 20 or so that were considered? I am curious where Seghesio ranked. And how the rating was executed. I always like to compare these (if I can get them here) to my local Texas sangioveses.

    Mar 06, 2012 at 8:31 PM

  • Snooth User: Lucha Vino
    Hand of Snooth
    249612 132,927

    Wow, what a coincidence. I just did a Sangiovese v. Chianti matchup last weekend. I didn't know that the GTI was swtiching to Sangiovese or that the Castello di Bossi would be on your Top 5 Chianti list. Here is how the di Bossi matched up with the Covington Cellars Sangiovese from Washington

    Mar 08, 2012 at 12:47 AM

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