Maybe only a few know it, but when we talk about great red wines from central Italy, we often talk about the same grape variety: Sangiovese.
Some of the most renowned Italian wines, like Morellino di Scansano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Montefalco rosso and even the greatest ones, Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, are all made of Sangiovese.
The marriage of Sangiovese in the making of Chianti from Tuscany is surely the most famous, but a stronger bond connects Sangiovese to Brunello di Montalcino, as the latter must be made of 100% Sangiovese, while the former shall be made from at least 70% of it.
They share the round taste of mature dark-red fruits, like cherries and plums, spiced with delicate scents of pepper, tobacco and dried flowers, all typical of this grape variety.
The reason why this grape variety became so popular, in all likelihood, is its strength.
It is pretty easy to cultivate and it normally has high yields. Indeed, when they want to obtain high quality wine they prune the vine to reduce yields.
However, the strive for refined, precious wines is a typical attitude of modern times, as in the past the aim was to produce as much wine as possible, that’s why a vine that could produce a lot of grapes became so popular and has been so widely cultivated.
Regardless of it's the high adaptability the best soil for Sangiovese is reputed to be made of clay and limestone, and indeed the hills of Chianti region, in the Tuscan province of Siena, show this composition.
It's generally recognised that the best wines made from Sangiovese come from Central Italy. Only some know that there are a lot of quality wines made with this grape variety that come from elsewhere. One of my favourite regions for this style of wine is Emilia Romagna where they produce the superb Tauleto and Liano made with this grape variety. Sangiovere spreaded in Europe thanks to Italian merchants, mainly by Genoese, who brought it to Corsica and France.
In modern times, Italian emigrants brought Sangiovese to North and South America, too, particularly to California and Argentina, where, however, they produce wines very different from the ones made in Tuscany and Umbria, apparently because of the different climates and soils - and not, to name another possible reason, because of the skill of the winemakers.
However, tasting Sangiovese wines from the New World can be highly informative, because they tend to be less balanced than Italian ones, so some scents are easily detectable. Wines will probably be less pleasant, but the experience will be more instructive.