Surely there is nothing wrong with a bit of alliteration if I get to use the word ‘sumptuous’ next to ‘Sangiovese’? The sultry grape variety of Sangiovese (and the wines produced from it) provides yet another example of how the Italians do everything–or many things–better.
The name Sangiovese comes from sanguis (Latin for ‘blood’) and Jove (blood of Jove), suggesting a long history of this grape and wine in Tuscany. Sangiovese is indeed important to the Tuscans. As Frances Mayes notes in Bella Tuscany, even though Sangiovese wines have “an essential grape taste” in common, “Tuscans can discuss endless shades of difference far into the night.” Perhaps this is something the Italians do do better into the night.
Sangiovese is one of my favourite wines to order in a restaurant. I like saying “Sangiovese” and fantasising briefly that I can actually speak Italian. But, more than that, I like drinking Sangiovese with pizza and pasta, two foods I could not live without.
Sangiovese is an earthy red wine with strong tannins and sour cherry and blueberry notes that I love. It’s also high in acidity and so it pairs well with Italian tomato sauces.
I think Chianti is an Italian wine most non-Italians know. Chianti is Sangiovese, and quite possibly I could also say Sangiovese is Chianti, although Sangiovese is also the grape variety used to make other wines in Tuscany and throughout central and southern Italy.
The Chianti area, which is outside Florence, is Sangiovese’s spiritual home. It is where Sangiovese perhaps belongs, where it has been enjoyed for centuries, and is one of the most recognisable landscapes in the world.
The hazy rolling hills of Chianti are unmistakable, warm, and welcoming. They lure you in to live like a Tuscan, even if only for a day. They entice you to smell the figs in the summer air, drive past rows of open sunflowers and listen to the hum of the bees.
Chianti is Italy’s most exported wine and I quite like it, but Chianti Classico, with the black rooster on the bottle neck, is a more prestigious wine produced from grapes grown in the area designated Chianti Classico, which is enveloped by Chianti.
Although Sangiovese is now grown in other parts of the world, including the U.S.A., Argentina, and Australia, the Italian’s really do have a way with this much-loved grape variety. Having said that, an international influence on Sangiovese production on the Tuscan coast has resulted in my favourite wines made from Sangiovese: the Super Tuscans.
Super Tuscans are made from Sangiovese blended with international, Bordeaux grape varieties (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah). I first tasted Super Tuscans in Tuscany and they were of such good quality that their finish still lingers in my mind.
The Super Tuscans made such an impression on me. They reminded me that life needs to be infused with pleasure as well as meaning. As I enjoyed Super Tuscans with cheese and new friends looking out to Florence, I thought the Italians really do do it better. And by ‘it’, I mean enjoying life.
Feature photo: View from Castello di Gabbiano