Sangiovese Grape Characteristics & Wine Profile

Sangiovese is a blue-black grape variety that is primarily used to produce red wine. It’s always been synonymous with Italy, and most notably, Tuscany, where the grape is believed to have originated from.

Sangiovese Grape Characteristics & Wine Profile | Winetraveler.com
Sangiovese grapes grow on the vine in Tuscany. Image credit: Cecchi WInery

Sangiovese is a perplexing grape variety, in that there are many clones and sub-types that are sometimes mistakenly referred to by its general denomination. It is the dominant varietal in a number of Italian wines, usually named after their DOCG. In terms of wine styles, this variety is used in numerous red wine blends, especially Chianti.

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The Sangiovese grape adds gorgeous acidic structure and backbone when blended with a multitude of grapes, but it takes a skilled wine maker to master its use as the sole variety in a wine. Sangiovese vines tend to adapt to both hot and cold climates, and these various terroir related adaptations can have a substantial impact on the aromatic and flavor profile of Sangiovese wine.

New World Sangiovese

Sangiovese Wine Grapes Growing in the Vineyard | Winetraveler.com
Sangiovese vines planted in California. Image credit: Vino Noceto

While Sangiovese is grown extensively in Italy, other old world countries within Europe grow a much smaller percentage of the vine.

On the other hand, Sangiovese has been found to grow very well in some new world environments, particularly in Argentina, Texas and California, where it responds well to the climate and limestone makeup of their respective terroirs. Limestone in particular seems to enhance the wines unique mineral and earthy kick.

Important Sangiovese Clones and Sub-types to Know:

There are at least 14 Sangiovese clones that we know of. The most important one worth knowing is Brunello di Montalcino, which is one of Italy’s most famous wines.

For a time, Brunello was considered a separate grape variety. A deeper look at the grape’s genetics revealed it too was Sangiovese. In 1980 Brunello di Montalcino was granted controlled designation of origin guaranteed (DOCG), where this particular Tuscan region is known to produce Italy’s finest wines.

Notable Sangiovese Clones and Sub-Types

  • Brunello of Montalcino (Clone)
  • Sangiovese Grosso (also called Dolce, or Gentile)
  • Sangiovese Piccolo
Sangiovese Wine Grapes Growing in Tuscany | Winetraveler.com
Sangiovese grapes growing in Siena, Tuscany. Image credit: Vigneti Ferlaino

Sangiovese Wine Making

Sangiovese wine comes from high-yielding grape vines that thrive in porous, well drained soil. Vines are often planted in shallow soil. Because the grape is usually high-yield, its quality can vary starkly. Sangiovese can grow vigorously, and in hot climates it’s not uncommon for over 15 tons per acre of Sangiovese grapes to be produced.

These intense yields can sometimes lead to late-ripening and vitiate the quality of the end product. An imbalance in crop load will almost always delay ripening and result in a poor acidic and sugar balance. If you come across a good quality Sangiovese or Sangiovese blend, you can be fairly sure the wine maker is highly skilled.

Sources: Dipartimento di Colture Arboree, Cattedra di Viticoltura, Sezione Viticola del Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerche Viticole ed Enologiche, Università di Bologna, Bologna, ItalyUS National Library of MedicineUniversity of California, DavisSnoothWine Enthusiast

Fruit

Red (Red Currant, Ripe Cherry, Cranberry, Tomato, Strawberry)

Earth & Mineral Notes

Limestone, Tea Leaf, Forest Floor

Additional Complexities

Tobacco, Mushroom, Thyme, Cracked Red Pepper, Leather Saddle, Smoke, Herbs

Sangiovese Grape Characteristics

Structure & Body

Body Medium

Sugar Dry

Tannins High

Acid High

Alcohol Medium-High (12.5%-14.5% ABV)

Finish Medium-Long, Spicy, Acidic

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