Chianti Classics – Sangiovese in Focus

The Variety: Sangiovese is considered synonymous with the Chianti and Brunello regions of Tuscany, which are among the many famed styles of Italy. It is one of Italy’s widest planted varieties. According to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (D.O.C.G) regulations a minimum of 75% of Sangiovese is required to make Chianti. These wines are responsible for 11.7% of Italy’s entire production. Sangiovese is often blended with other varietals in the Old world. However in the last decade it has come to prominence in the new world as a single varietal medium bodied red wine. Lets explore regionality and styles.

The Rules: In 1992 the Italian government had to redefine their wine laws to sort out the anomalies and bring more wines in under its wing. Until this time, only 13% of Italian wine harvest was covered by DOC rules (compared with France 55%), Germany (98%). The significance of the vini da tavolas* extends right across Italy, and has meant radical changes in both vineyard and winery.

Denominizaione di Origine Controllata (DOC)

Similar to French appellation laws, regulates geographical origin, vine varieties, yields, pruning methods, alcoholic strengths, ageing requirements.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

Introduced as a higher tier of DOC, a way of recognising the finest Italian wines, supposed to supply some guarantee of quality. Restrictions are tighter, wine must be tasted and analysed by a panel of judges.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) i.e. Super Tuscans

Low level of table wine based on French Vin de Pays, the rules are less stringent than for DOC.

*Vino da Tavola (VdT) The most basic quality classification. But also appropriated by some of the best producers allowing them to make wine not bound by wine laws.

The Region: Chianti, situated in Tuscany in central Italy, Chianti is home to probably the best known and most iconic of all Italian wines. Although a wine of ancient origin, Chianti has been recognized by its geographical area only since the Middle Ages. This emblematic wine is made all over the Tuscan countryside, but the historic heart lies in a region between Florence (in the north) and Siena (south). In 1716, Chianti Classico, the heart of the region became easily recognisable by the gallo nero- its distinctive Black Rooster label.

The Style: ‘Key flavour attributes would have to be it’s lifted aromatics and ruby colour, aromas of cinnamon and other spices, cherries and cherry pips, supple berry fruit and just little nuances of oak. The skin on Sangiovese is quite thick which generally equates to bright colours and ripe tannins. Think of these wines coming between Pinot Noir and Merlot on the flavor meter. This variety brims with style and bursts with flavour.

Babo Sangiovese – Tuscany I.G.T, 2011

Winemakers Justin Bub’s 2011 Sangiovese is a blend of 85% Sangiovese sourced from the northern tip of Chianti Classico (a 15 year old vineyard in San Casciano Val di Pesa planted to the high-quality Brunello clone) and 15% from Maremma, coastal Tuscany. All the Maremma fruit (from a site near Valdonica) was included as whole bunch, bringing a lovely freshness to the aromas and palate, though it’s main purpose – according to Justin – is to add some flesh to the more classically structured Chianti Sangiovese. Both batches are fermented separately and then assembled and matured in 500-litre puncheons. Its scented nose combines ripe plum, milk chocolate, leather and sweet spices.Suave, juicy and smooth, with harmonious acidity giving shape and freshness to the wine’s ripe black fruit, tobacco and dried herb. A subtly intense, mid-weight Sangiovese finishing with smooth tannins and a moreish savoury quality. Cellaring 3 – 5years

Ravensworth Sangiovese – Canberra, 2014

Made by an assistant at Clonakilla, and one of the most complete Australian Sangiovese’s. Five different vineyards and clones are the source of this wine, trying to capture a range of microclimates to create a wine with layers of complexity. As a young wine it will be beautifully aromatic, gentle but with a few hints that there is more interest and complexity to come. Cellaring 3 – 5years

Sorrettole Chianti La Querce – Impruneta, D.O.C.G, 2012.

Sorrettole High Vineyards, the grapes were macerated in stainless steel tanks for about eleven days, with periodic mountings for a better colour and soft tannin extraction during which the wine completed its alcoholic fermentation. Ruby red color, pleasantly fruity and with cherry notes to the nose, while fresh and long lasting in mouth. Cellaring 5 – 7years

Corzano e Paterno Chianti ‘Terre Di Corzano’ Chianti, 2012

It’s made up of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo, aged in a combination of large botti cask and older barriques. Hand harvested, with 80% of the wine spending approximately 12 months maturing, it is bursting with freshly picked bramble and cherry fruit, with a lick of umami and wild thyme. The palate delivers perfumed and luscious red fruit shrouded in barely perceptible fine tannins. There’s a surprising mineral note as well as some hints of wet earth and it finishes with a wonderful freshness. Cellaring 6 – 8years

La Cappella Chianti Classico – Poggio, D.O.C.G, 2011 (Sangiovese merlot) 

Fermentation and maceration on the skin in steel vats for 15-20 days with temperature control ageing in one and two years old French oak barriques (250 liters) for about one year. In this period a natural malo-lactic fermentation takes place. Ageing in bottles for at least 8 months before releasing. After about one year Chianti Classico starts expressing its best characteristics. Vibrant. Ruby red. Intense aromas with reminiscence of ripe fruit and liquorice.
 Agreeable and balanced soft taste with a long lasting finish.

2011 Col D’orcia Rosso di Montalcino D.O.C

When the Cinzano family arrived in 1973, most of the wine bottled in Montalcino was Brunello. A second denomination, “Vino Rosso dai Vigneti di Brunello,” was used locally to improve the image of the wine sold mostly in bulk formats. Count Alberto Marone Cinzano decided that it was just the right wine for drinking every day. He used to say: ‘it’s the young Sangiovese I drink at lunchtime.’ In 1976, three years later, Col d’Orcia already represented more than half the production of ‘Rosso’ in Montalcino. Thanks to Col d’Orcia’s efforts in 1983, Rosso di Montalcino became a D.O.C. wine by decree of the Italian President of Rosso di Montalcino is now a classic wine, made with pure Sangiovese grapes, released one year after the harvest so as to retain all the freshness and fruitiness of a young wine and at the same time the intensity that only the Montalcino terroir is capable of delivering. Cellaring 4 – 6years

Barone Ricasoli ‘Castello di Brolio’ Chianti Classico 2007

It is a fleshy, seductively textured, complex Chianti that could only result from an outstanding terroir. Although it has now more than six years of aging, it remains full of promise and will certainly develop even further complexity and finesse as it ages. A powerful and rich red, with blackberry, milk chocolate and cherry character. Full and soft. Not the 2006, but still outstanding.. Cellaring- Nearing its peak – 3 years.

Sangiovese and Chianti have often had a reputation as cheap, however the reverse is true, there are some great value styles from both here as well and Italy and they do belong in you cellar.