A Grape By Any Other Name: the many names of Sangiovese

sangio2*A Grape By Any Other Name posts are about exploring different grape varieties known by other names or nicknames, both inside and outside of Italy.

Sangiovese is ranked among one of the world’s NOBLE grape varieties, making it right up there in terms of respectability with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache!  Its homeland is Tuscany, though it can be found grown in many other Italian regions such as Umbria and Lazio and even as far as the other side of the planet in California.  Sangiovese wines vary considerably, in part due to the fact it is often used in a blend and also due to the differences in wines due to terroir (  =the combination of topography, soil, sun, climate, and weather of a particular area which makes each wine unique and gives it a sense of “place”).  Common descriptors include: tart or sour red cherry, strawberry, red plum, tomato, tea, cloves, coffee, cedar, tobacco, dried roses, toast and leather.

Sangiovese has several synonyms domestically: Prugnolo, Brunello*, Nielluccio/Niellucciu, Morellino, Corinto Nero, Nerello, Sangioveto, Sangiovese Grosso

*Brunello is technically a clone of Sangiovese rather than a different name in regional dialect

Internationally Sangiovese is known as:
Sangiovese!  Fortunately the confusion with alternate names is limited to Italy.
As mentioned before, Sangiovese is mostly found in wines in Italy.  However there are some small plantings of it abroad in California, France, South Africa, and Australia.

Why so many names?  Partly due to regional language differences and partly due to the fact that some grapes such as Brunello are technically clones of Sangiovese.  Outside of Italy people stick with “Sangiovese”, partly because that’s the associated grape name commonly known and partly because many wines with different names for Sangiovese like Brunello di Montelcino are also designated areas (hence why there are no “Chainti” wines from California or conversely “Napa Valley” wines made in Tuscany).

Wines with Sangiovese: There are lots of blends with Sangiovese as well as single varietal wines, the vast majority being Italian.  Here are just a few:

                Chianti DOC/DOCG/Classico:  Chianti is a wine region in Tuscany making Sangiovese-dominated blends.  Historically only local grape varieties (like Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo), including a white variety (Trebbiano or Malvasia), were permitted in the Chianti blend. Nowadays in a perpetually evolving industry, some wineries are embracing non-Italian varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon.  Chiantis vary quite a bit, both in quality and price due to both variation in Terroir and variation in Vintner practices.  The traditional blends tend to be simpler and easier to drink where the blends using non-traditional grapes are usually bigger and heavier.  “Classico” on a label tells you the wine and grapes come from the oldest (and usually best) part of the Chianti region.  “Riserva” on a label tells us that a particular wine underwent extended ageing, making a fuller more complex wine.

                Brunello di Montalcino:  Montalcino is town/area also in Tuscany, technically within the Chianti zone.   Brunellos are high to premium priced wines made from 100% Sangiovese.  They are dramatically different than their Chianti brethren due to differences in climate, soil composition, and the fact that Chiantis are blends where Brunellos are 100% Sangiovese.  Brunellos are as rich, elegant, and full-bodied as they are pricey!

                Vino Nobile di Montepulciano:  not to be confused with Montepulciano the grape variety.  This wine also comes from Tuscany and is also made from 100% Sangiovese, these are similar to their big brother Brunello but some say lack the finesse.  These are a great less expensive alternative to a more costly Brunello.

                Morellino di Scansano:  This is an easier and cheaper Sangiovese-based wine that unsurprisingly finds its home in Tuscany.  Morellinos are full bodied reds with notes of blueberry, strawberry, and sour cherry.

                Montefalco Rosso: from the non-Tuscan region of Umbria, these are inexpensive and excellent quality red wines made of at least 70% Sangiovese and blended typically with the local variety Sagrantino and sometimes Merlot.

Aubrie “no nicknames” Talarico

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One Response to A Grape By Any Other Name: the many names of Sangiovese

  1. Pingback: Italian Wine Regions: Friuli-Venezia Giulia | Veni Vidi Vino – Italian Wine and Wine Culture

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