Monday, December 29, 2008

Sangiovese: Something for Everybody

Sangiovese is one of those grapes that may actually suffer because it's so versatile and mutable. Soil, climate, winemaking technique--each shapes the wine in the bottle. This is true of all grapes, of course, but it's somehow more evident in a cheerful, acidic grape like Sangiovese. (image © Cephas Picture Library)

To finish up with my exploration of Tuscan wines, I tasted three different bottles filled with the juice of Sangiovese grapes--and I was astonished at how distinctive each wine was.

The 2006 Cantine Da Vinci Chianti (available for $10-$13), for example, was a simple Sangiovese with shy aromas and flavors of cranberry and sour cherry. The wine wasn't terribly complex, but it would be terrific with pizza or pasta, and has good QPR.

The 2007 Rocca di Montemassi Le Focaie (available for just under $20) was very different. It was made from grapes grown outside the Chianti zone in Maremma, and had cherry and chalk aromas and flavors that turned sour on the finish. It will appeal to traditionalists, who like their wine focused and restrained. I liked it because it wasn't trying too hard to be a big wine. I'd try this with some rosemary-grilled chicken, or a piping hot bowl of minestrone. Very good QPR.

The 2007 Castello d'Albola Chianti (available for under $15) showed yet another side of Sangiovese. Its full, rich plum and sour cherry aromas gave way to a similar spectrum of flavors wrapped up in a gorgeously rich and velvety texture. This wine was supple, smooth--everything you are looking for in a Chianti and never find. Especially not in one that costs under $20. Try it with a juicy steak, some flavorful sausage, or roast pork. Excellent QPR.

There's a Sangiovese for everybody, no matter what your taste in wine. After my two month exploration of Tuscany, I think that what's true of the grape is true of the region, too. From simple everyday wines to opulent Super Tuscans, this is a region that I'm glad I got to know better.

Full disclosure: I received these bottles as samples.

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