Sangiovese, A Refresher

And tuning up my palate before heading off to Tuscany


I’ve been in Tuscany for a few days now and have been thrilled with what I have tasted so far. 2006 really is a great vintage across much of Tuscany, and the range of vintages available at retail offers a great take on the terroir of Tuscany, in particular as expressed by Sangiovese. I can’t wait to share all my discoveries with you once I get back. 2007 looks to be almost as good, but the wines are all about rich, soft, wonderfully ripe fruit.

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: Sangiovese

Sangiovese'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

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: garneteyes
    Hand of Snooth
    39572 38

    If you get a chance you should taste Castello Romitorio Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2006 . It is really a remarkable Sangiovese and they have a super winery with lots of art (as the owner is world class artist Sandro Chia).

    Nov 17, 2009 at 10:27 AM

  • Snooth User: brincs
    38966 108

    Also try the Chianti from Querciabella. Excellent value for its quality

    Nov 17, 2009 at 10:30 AM

  • Snooth User: GregT
    Hand of Snooth
    89564 2,609

    Nice trip. So I suppose it was the Crognolo that was everyone's favorite? That's got about 10% merlot in it no? I think that's one of the best blending grapes for sangiovese. Rounds it out a little bit and gives it a little more depth. I've always liked that wine anyway, but also a number of others that have a touch of merlot. Have fun and drink some good wine.

    Nov 17, 2009 at 11:24 AM

  • Snooth User: brodyluv
    149235 40

    Fattoria Di Sammontana Maestro - Sangiovese and Merlot. A hidden gem at 283. a case. Greg T has got it. Merlot is the best blending grape for Sangiovese.

    Nov 17, 2009 at 12:42 PM

  • Snooth User: diablo58
    75866 298

    Nice, I love the region. The town of Castellina is one of favorite places and Gallopapa Restuurant was really nice. I just picked up some 2004 Brunellos for the cellar and found the Crognolo for $24.00 on deal.
    I'm looking forward to your recap. Enjoy!

    Nov 17, 2009 at 1:35 PM

  • Snooth User: fskipper
    223878 7

    2006 and 2001 (if you can find it) Brunellos di Montalcino (Capanna) are some of the best I've ever tasted. They're great with lamb but especially beef. While you're in Montepulciano don't miss Osteria Acquacheta for bistecca hacked off the loin by the chef-owner who looks like a "maniac with a cleaver".

    Nov 17, 2009 at 2:03 PM

  • Snooth User: microcows
    297892 21

    I'll have to lay hands on the Nozzole. Just had my next-to-last bottle of the 98 Toricano, we've been slowly working our way through a case at one or two bottles a year since '02, and it just gets better each time we drink it.

    Nov 17, 2009 at 4:01 PM

  • Snooth User: J Ph
    289240 1

    There are indeed many great Chianti! you must visit Fonterutoli also near Castellina; they have a wonderful cantina and their riserva and the Siepi are super. while in the area try Bottega del Trenta Restaurant at Villa Sesta. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

    Joseph Ph Farrugia

    Nov 18, 2009 at 6:36 AM

  • Snooth User: grellot
    120874 3

    Great comments everyone, and thanks for the recommendations for wineries, and restaurants! Now where did I put that plane ticket???

    Nov 18, 2009 at 9:04 PM

  • Snooth User: jhberger
    133570 8

    Paolo DiMarchi of Isole e Olena is one of the great artists of the region. The winery is worth a visit, It is near Castellina on the way to Monsanto.

    Nov 19, 2009 at 5:33 PM

  • Snooth User: cigarman168
    Hand of Snooth
    227923 332

    Wow! lots of great sharing for food place, wineries, need to spend more time there.

    Nov 20, 2009 at 10:55 PM

  • I loved the Castellina sign. We spent 3 weeks just outside Castellina in 1999. Now that and '97 were magnificent years. I didn't bring enough back. Boo hoo.

    Nov 22, 2009 at 9:33 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 233,912

    I'm back from my visits, sadly not enough in Tuscany but keep an eye out for my upcoming series of emails on my travels with some great photos!

    Nov 24, 2009 at 8:49 AM

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