At its best it produces wine with a brightness that belies its aggressive acidity and slightly astringent tannins. In that regard it is much like the spring, friendly and inviting, with just a bit of a sneaky bite!
At its worst it is unrecognizable as Sangiovese. Fortunately many producers in both its pastoral Italian homeland as well as the rolling hills of California have learned to allow Sangiovese to make a wine that speaks in its own clear voice.
And what a voice that is. Whether it's the floral, earthy, leather tinged fruit one finds in Tuscany or the more overt strawberry and raspberry coming from California, those wonderfully seductive flavors married to that slightly stern structure produce wines that sing at the table. That extra bit of acid on the palate and those slightly raspy tannins on the finish may be off-putting to some, but serve Sangiovese with a great steak or Fettucine Bolognese and prepare to experience vinous magic.
Our recent tastings of Sangiovese opened our eyes to the best and the worst of both Italy and California. You can read all about the tastings here and find my personal notes on these wines here. Our standouts from the tastings are featured below.
A pair of remarkably fresh and fun wines from California2007 Flora Springs Sangiovese Napa Valley
An uncomplicated delight, redolent of strawberries, freshly picked on dew filled summer mornings. Simple yet playful, this is fun to drink!
2005 Martin & Weyrich Il Palio Sangiovese - Paso Robles
Beautiful ripe berry fruits are suspended from a high wire of acidity and surrounded by perfectly measured spice tones with a luxurious mouthfeel.
The quality of these offerings from California was surprising. I expect great things from the best producers of Chianti, and they rarely fail to deliver, but Sangiovese in California still has a lot to prove. These Californian Sangiovese certainly made a believer out of me. In styles that ranged from playful and pure to unabashedly oaky and deep I found convincing wines at very reasonable prices. I am thrilled to be sharing these discoveries with you and hope you take a chance and sample one or two of these wonderful wines.
Two distinctive offerings from California2006 Pope Valley Winery Eakle Ranch Sangiovese Napa Valley
This unabashedly modern interpretation marries sweet vanilla and oak spice notes to bold black cherry fruit. The result is compellingly complex yet round and velvety.
2006 Miner Gibson Ranch Sangiovese Mendocino
Big and powerful yet seamless on the palate, this wine packs deep, rich fruit and integrating oak notes and is poised to be a knockout.
The Chianti Classico Riservas recommended below are both winners that represent a small spectrum of what makes up traditional Chianti today. To me these represent everything I look for in Chianti and are among the most reasonably priced, age-worthy wines on the market today. These wines will evolve and improve for a decade or more and at these prices they deserve to be in every Italian aficionados' cellar. They are certainly in mine!
Classic Chianti Riserva from the exceptional 2004 vintage2004 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva
Still on the young side, yet the wonderfully ripe tannins and slightly funky character that give this a distinctive elegance that makes it hard to resist.
2004 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva
Intensely perfumed and complex with layered and evolving aromas all delivered in a pure, delicate, traditional package that seduces you with its subtle depth. A brilliant wine, and a stunning value.
Sangiovese is not only food friendly, it's wonderfully versatile so pick up a bottle or two of your favorites and share them over lunch or dinner. These are wines that may never amaze you with their endless depth or amazing complexity but they will leave you and your friends smiling, and as the ad goes, that is priceless! The wines on the other hand are $15 -$30 and worth every penny!
I just want to offer a big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in our Sangiovese Global Tasting initiative. We've just started our two-week look at Pinot Noir so it's a perfect time for you to try a bottle and come to the Snooth forum to share your experiences. Come traveling with us around the world in search of great Pinot Noir!