The Sangiovese grape is a bit of a chameleon; easily altering its genetics to fit the environment. There are many different mutations of the variety all over Italy, which results in very different tasting wines. From the delicate floral strawberry aromas of Montefalco Rosso to the intensely dark and tannic wines of Brunello di Montalcino, Sangiovese wine has something for everyone.

Sangiovese is a red Italian wine grape variety that derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jupiter“. The literal translation of the grape’s name, the “blood of Jove”, refers to the Roman god Jupiter. Though it is the grape of most of central Italy from Romagna down to Lazio, Campania and Sicily. It is the most widespread grape in Tuscany and outside Italy it is most famous as the only component of Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino and the main component of the blends Chianti, Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano, although it can also be used to make varietal wines such as Sangiovese di Romagna and the modern wines like Tignanello.

Sangiovese was already well-known by the 16th century. Recent DNA profiling by José Vouillamoz of the Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige suggests that Sangiovese’s ancestors are Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo. The former is well-known as an ancient variety in Tuscany, the latter is an almost-extinct relic from the Calabria, the toe of Italy.[8] At least fourteen Sangiovese clones exist, of which Brunello is one of the best regarded. An attempt to classify the clones into Sangiovese grosso (including Brunello) and Sangiovese piccolo families has gained little evidential support.Young Sangiovese has fresh fruity flavors of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavors when aged in barrels. While not as aromatic as other red wine varieties such as Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, Sangiovese often has a flavor profile of sour red cherries with earthy aromas and tea-leaf notes. Wines made from Sangiovese usually have medium-plus tannins and high acidity.

Early theories on the origin of Sangiovese dated the grape to the time of Roman wine making. It was even postulated that the grape was first cultivated in Tuscany by the Etruscan from wild Vitis vinifera vines. The literal translation of the grape’s name, the “blood of Jove”, refers to the Roman god Jupiter. According to legend, the name was coined by monks from the Santarcangelo di Romagna in the Emilia-Romagna region of east-central Italy.

The first documented mention of Sangiovese was in the 1590’s.The grape was identified as “Sangiogheto” and the grape makes very good wine. While there is no conclusive proof that Sangiogheto is Sangiovese, most wine historians generally consider this to be the first historical mention of the grape. Regardless, it would not be until the 18th century that Sangiovese would gain widespread attention throughout Tuscany, being with Malvasia and Trebbiano the most widely planted grapes in the region.

In 1738, wines made from Sangiovese were described as excellent when blended with other varieties but hard and acidic when made as a wine by itself. The winemaker, Bettino Ricasoli formulated one of the early recipes for Chianti when he blended his Sangiovese with a sizable amount of Canaiolo. In the wines of Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Sangiovese would experience a period of popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1970s, Tuscan winemakers began a period of innovation by introducing modern oak treatments and blending the grape with non-Italian varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon in the creation of wines that were given the collective marketing sobriquet “Super Tuscans”.


BEST SANGIOVESE WINE - Sangiovese grapes
Sangiovese grapes


BEST SANGIOVESE WINE - Sangiovese vineyard
Sangiovese vineyard

Sangiovese has shown itself to be adaptable to many different types of vineyard soils but seems to thrive in soils with a high concentration of limestone, having the potential to produce elegant wines with forceful aromas. In the Chianti Classico region, Sangiovese thrives on the highly friable shale-clay soil known as galestro. In the Montalcino region, there is a high proportion of limestone-based alberese soils alternating with deposits of galestro. The lesser zones of the generic Chianti appellation are predominantly clay, which often produce as high quality of wine as alberese and galestro do.

The grape requires a long growing season, as it buds early and is slow to ripen. The grape requires sufficient warmth to ripen fully, but too much warmth and its flavors can become diluted. Harvests in Italy have traditionally begun after September 29, with modern harvest often taking place in mid-late October. A longer growing season gives the grapes time to develop richness and potential body. However, in cool vintages this can result in the grapes having high levels of acidity and harsh, unripened tannins. In regions (like some areas of Tuscany) that are prone to rainfall in October, there is a risk for rot due to the Sangiovese grape’s thin skin. For the best quality, yields need to be kept in check as the vine is notably vigorous and prone to overproduction. In Chianti, most quality conscious producers limit their yields to 3 pounds (1.5 kg) of fruit per vine. Soils with low fertility are ideal and help control some vigor of the vine. Planting vines in high densities in order to curb vigor may have the adverse effect of increasing foliage and limiting the amount of direct sunlight that can reach the ripening grapes.[13] Advances in understanding the quality and characteristics of the different clones of Sangiovese has led to the identification and propagation of superior clones. While high-yielding clones have been favored in the past, more attention is being paid to matching the clone to the vineyard site and controlling the vine’s vigor.

To add color and fruit to the wine, some winemakers will blend their Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon (pictured).

The high acidity and light body characteristics of the Sangiovese grape can present a problem for wine making. The grape also lacks some color-creating phenolic compounds known as acylated anthocyanins. Modern winemakers have devised many techniques trying to find ways to add body and texture to Sangiovese — ranging from using grapes that come from extremely low yielding vines, to adjusting the temperature and length of fermentation and employing extensive oak treatment. One historical technique is the blending of other grape varieties with Sangiovese, in order to complement its attractive qualities and fill in the gaps of some of its weaker points. Other techniques used to improve the quality of Sangiovese include extending the maceration period from 7–12 days to 3–4 weeks to give the must more time to leach vital phenols out of the grape skins. Transferring the wine during fermentation into new oak barrels for malolactic fermentation gives greater polymerization of the tannins and contributes to a softer wine flavor.rounder.

Wine regions

BEST SANGIOVESE WINE - Sangiovese wine.
Sangiovese wine.

Sangiovese wine.

BEST SANGIOVESE WINE - A glass of Sangiovese

A glass of Chianti made primarily from Sangiovese.

While Sangiovese plantings are found worldwide, the grape’s homeland is central Italy. From there the grape was taken to North and South America by Italian immigrants. It first achieved some popularity in Argentina where in the Mendoza region it produced wines that had few similarities to its Tuscan counterparts. In California the grape found a sudden surge of popularity in the late 1980s with the movement of winemakers seeking red wine alternatives to the standard French varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot noir.


In Italy, Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape variety. It is an officially recommended variety in 53 provinces and an authorized planting in an additional 13. It accounts for approximately 10% of all vineyard plantings in Italy with more than 250,000 acres planted to one of the many clonal variations of the grape.


BEST SANGIOVESE WINE - Brunello di Montalcino

A glass of Brunello di Montalcino.

From the early to mid-20th century, the quality of Chianti was in low regard. DOC regulation that stipulates the relatively bland Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes needed to account for at least 10% of the finished blend, with consequent higher acidity and diluted flavors. Some wineries trucked in full-bodied and jammy red wines from Sicily and Apulia to add color and alcohol to the blend—an illegal practice that did little to improve the quality of Chianti. From the 1970s through the 1980s, a revolution of sorts spread through Tuscany as the quality of the Sangiovese grape was rediscovered. Winemakers became more ambitious and willing to step outside DOC regulations to make 100% varietal Sangiovese or a “Super Tuscan” blend with Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet and Merlot.[13]

Outside Tuscany



Sangiovese is considered the “workhorse” grape of central Italy, producing everything from everyday drinking to premium wines in a variety of styles-from red still wines, to rosato to sweet passito, semi-sparkling frizzante and the dessert wine Vin Santo. In northern Italy, the grape is a minor variety with it having difficulties ripening north of Emilia-Romagna. In the south, it is mainly used as a blending partner with the region’s local grapes such as Primitivo, Montepulciano and Nero d’Avola.

In the Romagna region of Emilia-Romagna, the same grape is called Sangiovese di Romagna and is widely planted in all the Romagna region east of Bologna. Like its neighboring Tuscan brother, Sangiovese di Romagna has shown itself to spring off a variety of clones that can produce a wide range of quality—from very poor to very fine. Viticulturists have worked with Romagna vines to produce new clonal varieties of high quality.

United States and Canada

BEST SANGIOVESE WINE - Sangiovese Grapes
Sangiovese Grapes

Italian immigrants brought Sangiovese to California in the late 19th century. But it was never considered very important until the success of the Super Tuscans in the 1980s spurred new interest in the grape. In 1991, there were nearly 200 acres planted with Sangiovese. By 2003, that number rose to nearly 3,000 acres with plantings across the state, most notably in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and the Sierra Foothills.

The flavor profile of the wine usually shows red plums, tart cherries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and figs. It undergoes a light oak aging, which often imparts it a subtle vanilla and cedar character. The style of the wine may be rustic, or fruit-forward, though both go very well with food. Pairing the wines with some ingredients suggested below, say tomatoes, would accentuate the fruitiness of the wine.


  1. Sangiovese and tomato is a classic combination. Pair the wine with tomato-based dishes such as red sauce pasta. Spaghetti and meatballs, the Italian-influenced American dish, famous the world over, or preparations with marinara sauce, like ravioli marinara, are brilliant pairings with Sangiovese.
  2. Any grilled steak is delicious with this wine. Cut from the loin, the meat is marbled and cooked on live charcoal or wood fire.
  3. Grilled vegetables are a great pairing with this red too! Try a pizza with roasted veggies!
  4. Beef stew. The richness of meat helps cut through the tannins in the wine.
  5. Sausages taste delicious with this varietal. Barbecued sausages, in particular, are excellent.
  6. Dishes flavored with herbs, mainly oregano, thyme, basil, and sage are a delightful companion to Sangiovese.

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