Sangiovese Saturday

When it comes to Italian red varietals, there is probably none more significant than Sangiovese. Not only is it at the heart of some of Central Italy’s greatest wines like Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and of course now countless high quality 100% Super Tuscans, it is also one of the most widely planted varieties across all of Italy. So on both quality and quantity fronts this is as significant as it gets!

However, it wasn’t always so…well at least it wasn’t always the case that quality and sangiovese were synonymous. For the better part of the history of the variety it has often been the great under performer and in all but isolated instances like Brunello the variety has failed to meet its quality potential. The reasons for this are many and varied but chief among them has been a large clonal variety that was often both planted in unsuitable sites coupled with legislated neglect. In this last point I draw a line directly to the original formula for Chianti Classico which made sangiovese a bit player alongside a fruit salad blend that neither stimulated producers to aim for better quality nor consumers to expect it.

Without being overly simplistic, the worm started to turn for Sangiovese via two significant events. The first was the rise of the Super Tuscan and the second was the Chianti 2000 project. Since then there has been an explosion of great Sangiovese from across central Italy, and like many good things the new world has followed. Here in Australia Sangiovese had a bit of a false start, poor clones from Southern Italy where initially widely planted. These clones bread for volume rather than quality resulted in many of Australia’s first attempts at producing Sagiovese falling short. Things in the last ten years have improved significantly, new clones better located planting in Heathcote and the Hilltops region around Canberra are both starting to produce excellent wines.

This tasting pits some of our favourite Australian Sangiovese and against some very good Italian examples.