Today I find myself in the beautiful hill town of Montepulciano, but before leaving for Italy I took part in a little palate refresher. By that I mean a small blind tasting of Sangiovese-based wines. It’s the kind of palate refreshing I think we can all use. I tasted a nice set of Italian Sangiovese, with one domestic “ringer” included in the line-up.
What can I say about the tasting? For starters, it just reaffirmed how much I love Sangiovese, how flexible the wines are, and how well it works with the foods that I eat. But those were the old lessons. I must admit that my favorite wine of the tasting, and nearly unanimous among all the participants, was a fairly modern wine that I had dismissed in earlier vintages.
What to expect: SangioveseSangiovese's claim to fame is its role as the heart and soul of Chianti, Brunello, and many Super Tuscan wines, though it is gaining ground as a varietal wine around the globe. When grown in a suitable location, the grape’s soft tannins, succulent acidity, and moderately intense cherry and herb flavors make Sangiovese very easy to drink, as well as supremely versatile at the dinner table.
An open mind can reward you with new experiences, and new lessons.2007 Sette Ponti Crognolo
In the mouth this is rich and powerful, with ripe, precise fruit that shows fine balance and good mineral cut. With air this gains a lovely black cherry tone and some youthful, chalky tannins that don’t detract from the wine, and add length to the finish.
2004 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva
This has wonderful structure, with great acids and fine tannins forming a very harmonious mouthfeel that supports the fresh, dark fruit on the mid-palate. While turning a bit leathery on the finish, this has irresistible black cherry and mineral notes presented with wonderful purity.
2007 Sette Ponti Crognolo
Reticent on the nose but obviously deep and layered with slow to emerge jammy, spicy fruit with a nuance of oaky cocoa and a touch of a tarry, very extracted tone. In the mouth this is rich and powerful with ripe, precise fruit that shows fine balance and good mineral cut. With air this gains a lovely black cherry tone with some youthfully chalky tannins that don’t detract from the wine and add length to the finish. 92pts
2004 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva
There’s a touch of VA on the nose here adding lift to the rich nose that combines elements of leather, tar, prosciutto and barnyard with jammy, candied cherry fruit tones. This has wonderful structure with great acids and fine tannins forming a very harmonious mouthfeel that supports the fresh, dark fruit on the mid-palate. While turning a bit leathery on the finish this has irresistible black cherry and mineral notes presented with wonderful purity. 91pts
2007 Silvio Nardi Rosso di Montalcino
Lovely light aromatics of herb, flowers, strawberry fruit, chalk and bitter almond are enticing and very varietal. While this is obviously very young it is also very round, fresh and clean with a soft, ripe edge to the very fine tannins. On the palate it is easy, but delicious with clear raspberry fruit, decent length and a finish full of dried herbs and slightly bitter cherry tones. 89pts
2006 TorCalvano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Shy at first with reticent notes of leather and funk emerging from the glass. With time this really integrates well with lovely notes of roses, white flowers and talc adding some detail to the dark, jammy, blackberry fruit. In the mouth this is chunky, dark and young with big tannins. The fruit is backed by a big clay tone, and the mouthfeel remains structured and precise, if not fruit driven with a nice spicy finish. 88pts
2004 La Fuga Brunello di Montalcino
Rich sweet, dried cherry fruit greets the nose but is quickly joined by asphalt, clay, leather, and lipstick in a complex and well-defined bouquet. This is pretty soft in the mouth but remains elegant with simple fruit that feels fairly closed but gives an impression of a ripe and balanced wine, if not particularly varietal. 88pts
2007 San Giusto a Rentenanno Chianti Classico
Not very expressive on the nose with small notes of vanilla tinged sweet raspberry fruit, earth, and daisies joined but suggestions of antiseptic and smoked ham. On the palate this starts with a rush of very ripe yet fresh fruit but then a wall of tough tannins drapes itself over the palate. The fruit, sweet, jammy raspberry peeks out again on the finish but ultimately looses the battle with the dry tannins. This is a nice wine, and perhaps the tannins will resolve, but it is quite aggressive at this early stage. 87pts
2004 Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
A little buttery on the nose with notes of sweet oak, spicy beef broth and extract and an assertive wildflower note that emerges with time. This had nice acids and really good cut in the mouth yet remained a bit raw feeling throughout the tasting. It’s young and a touch simple with attractive strawberry fruit that finishes with a zesty, mineral and herb edge. 87pts
2006 Unti Sangiovese Dry Creek Valley
Spicy with huge herb tones on the nose but at the same time lots of oak. With air this gains notes of dried beef and flowers but the oak continues to hold the advantage. In the mouth this offers up an unappealing combination of sweet fruit and drying tannins with huge acids. It is compressed on the palate and clipped on the finish. The intensity of the fruit is admirable, and I can even appreciate the astringency of the wine but as a package this doesn’t do it for me. 80pts