Now that I’m back in the trenches sipping vino, I hope to continue my exploration of the Sangiovese varietal. I will continue exploring other wines as well, of course. Still, the renown and venerable Sangiovese has somehow caught my interest.
Sangiovese Grapes by Francesco Sgroi
Winemaker: Di Majo Norante
Appellation: Terre degli Osci IGT, Italy
Notes: This southern Italian was a bit like opening an old cedar chest with mothballs in it. Those were the scents that immediately struck me – cedar resin and menthol. A dark wine in the glass, it was medium-bodied with good acidity. The tannins were quite present, verging on high. Alcohol was at 13%. On the palate I tasted rubber, blackberry, resin, menthol, pepper and woody tannins that lingered. Pretty decent, I’d say. In fact, given the tannic structure, I think it might have been a good candidate for cellaring.
I hope my wine blogging friends didn’t think I’d forgotten my desire and intention to experience and learn more about this venerable wine varietal! Not by a long shot. Oh, there may have been a hiatus, but the break has only whetted my thirst for more. I picked this bottle up at a boutique wine shop not too far down the road.
Notes: Scents wafting from this dark garnet glass of wine included violets, berries, and dry earth. It was medium-bodied with good acidity and medium tannins. A dry Sangiovese at 14% alcohol, it brought flavors of red plum, violets, dried green herbs, and a hint of carob to the tongue. In addition, the finish was quite tart. I found it an interesting drink. No doubt it’d be a nice accompaniment for a variety of meat dishes.
This is the last of the Sangiovese varietal wines available at my local Whole Foods. As I was told by others (I think it was winegetter), the variations in the different bottlings are interesting. I’m happy to say that despite my focus on budget-friendly wines, I haven’t had any 100% Sangiovese that I’d label as plonk. That may be the result of the smart people buying for the local retailers, of course. At any rate, I now find myself faced with the need to wander farther afield to find more for my sampling purposes. Oh, boy! Field trip!!
Winemaker: Il Bastardo
Appellation: Toscana IGT, Italy
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: This Sangiovese was an extremely dark burgundy in color. On the nose I detected scents of wet earth, tangy berry, with notes of mocha and chocolate. It was medium-bodied with high acidity and medium tannins. Alcohol was at 13%. On the palate I caught flavors of oak (initially quite present, but settling with oxidation), plenty of blackberry, pepper, some dusty soil, and pomegranate on the finish. It certainly had enough structure – tannins and acidity – to stand up to foods and just enough in the flavor profile to make it sufficiently interesting on it’s own. Amazing? Well, no. But it’s a good bargain purchase.
I have to admit that I’m surprised with the local Whole Foods when it comes to their Sangiovese varietal wine options. There are four of them on their shelves. That’s pretty good by comparison. This is the third of them I’ve tasted – previous experiences were with a Globerati offering and a Gran Conti selection. Of course, that means there is only one more to go! When I purchased this Pirovano, I explained to the helpful wine staffer there (because he asked if he could help me) about my focus on only the 100% Sangiovese wines. He looked at me quizzically and then began recommending a good Chianti blend. When I stopped him and reiterated my intentions, he looked even more puzzled. He even thought that I didn’t understand that Sangiovese was a type of grape. Well, I thanked him for explaining, but assured him that I was fully aware of that fact. Once he realized that I really was serious about my particular approach, though, he smiled and with a quick shake of his head graciously helped me identify the four bottles of this varietal he had in stock.
Notes: The color of this red from Romagna was a dark ruby. In the ebullient bouquet I found scents of musty earth and berries. The body was light, acidity was high, and tannins were light. Alcohol was at 12%. This was a gentle Sangiovese with flavors of cherries, pepper, something along the lines of mustard greens, and a quick clove note near the very brief finish. To me, it seems made for family pasta night.
You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve been making my way through some inexpensive Sangiovese wines of late. The goal is to learn a little more about the wine as well as what is available to the budget-minded consumer in this varietal. I realize that to learn more, I’ll have to splurge a bit. And I will, I will. Of course, there is also the whole Chianti thing. Since many of the Chianti selections are blends, however, I’m sticking to the single varietal Sangiovese right now to help me understand this grape and the kind of wine it becomes. My exploration of this varietal is precisely why I couldn’t pass up this selection.
Winemaker: Grifone by Roccadoro (Castellani)
Appellation: Puglia IGT, Italy
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: This cheap Italian was dark red in the glass. I’d compare it to a velvet curtain in a traditional opera house. That shade of red. On the nose I found violets, plum and pepper. The body was very light but with a gentle plushness on the tongue. Acidity was good. Alcohol was at 12.5%. Tannins were moderate but distinctly present. As far as flavors I detected, there was an overarching woodiness (think dried twigs) to the wine, some pleasant plum, and a touch of pepper. The finish was a mix of tart and bitter much like pomegranate. This is definitely a good value. Amazing? No. Decent? You bet!
Last time I was waiting to check out at my local Trader Joe’s, they had this Vola strategically positioned right at the end of the line immediately before the cash registers. Given that I had sampled two other inexpensive Sangiovese wines in recent days, how could I pass this one up? According to the label it was bottled in Italy and imported by D’Aquino.
Notes: The color of this budget Italian was a light ruby. The bouquet brought scents of cherry, earth and mushroom. Acidity was bright on this light-bodied Sangiovese, and tannins were medium. Alcohol was at 12%. On the palate I found wood, cherry, boysenberry and pepper. Except for the definite sweetness, flavors were very weak in the midpalate. At the finish the wood returns along with a medicinal note. While this does present many of the attributes touted as typical for a Sangiovese, I think it’s not a good example of this varietal. I didn’t hate the wine; price notwithstanding, I just didn’t like it all that well due largely to what I felt was a weak flavor profile. At $2.99, though, maybe you’ll want to trust your own taste buds over mine and give it a try.
The Globerati label indicates they are “Wines of the World.” According to their website, Globerati “stalks the finest vineyards of the world, swooping in at the opportune moment to bring you the latest sensational wine.” Their products listed include a Gascogne Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon from France, a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, a Bonarda from Argentina and this Sangiovese from Italy. Their parent company is Wine Exchange, Inc. out of Novato, CA.
Interestingly, this is the second inexpensive Sangiovese I’ve found at Whole Foods bottled by the folks at Casa Vinicola Botter. The first was the Gran Conti Sangiovese Rubicone 2012. Looks like the Botter folks make quite a bit of Sangiovese!
Notes: Another Italian red that was a deep garnet color in the glass. On the nose I caught aromas of earth, dark fruit, herbs and a hint of oak. This was light-bodied with a noticeable but gentle viscosity. Acidity was lively, and the tannins were in the medium range. Alcohol was at 12%. On the tongue this was a peppery Sangiovese with plenty of oak, black cherry, a hint of red licorice and notes of green herbs. The finish was of roughly medium duration with more pepper, the herbs, and a haunting of red licorice. It was yet another pleasant budget Sangiovese. I think the peppery nature of this selection helps reduce the perception of sweetness on the palate – something I personally appreciated. I can imagine this wine would be good accompanying a red sauce pasta, lasagna or maybe a pork chop.
As I have mentioned before, I am always interested in knowing who made the wine I’m drinking. Sometimes it’s a fairly straightforward situation. Other times it’s hard to suss out – labels notwithstanding – without a little help. In this case the label only had an official vintner number to identify the winemaker. That could mean the wine was made as a private label selection – perhaps for Whole Foods or maybe for the importer. Doing a little poking around and connecting the dots, it looks to me as though this Gran Conti Sangiovese comes from the Italian vintner La Casada which also bottles/has bottled a Sangiovese Rubicone under it’s own label. According to simplywinesdirect.com, “La Casada is a part of the Casa Vinicola Botter, established by Carlo Botter in 1928 in Fossalta di Piave, north-east of Venice. … The company is now run by Carlo Botter’s grandchildren, and has established a remarkable reputation for the quality of its wines.” Interestingly, neither Gran Conti nor La Casada are listed on the Casa Vinicola Botter website among their products.
Winemaker: Gran Conti
Wine: Sangiovese Rubicone
Appellation: Rubicone IGT, Italy
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods
Notes: The color of this Sangiovese was a nice ruby in the glass. On the bouquet I smelled sweet berries and musty earth with hints of spice. Characteristically light-bodied, this Gran Conti red was at 12% alcohol with good acidity. Flavors for me were sweet currant and cherry at the fore, developing stewed plum as the wine breathed. There were also notes of black tea and oak with a good dash of pepper near the finish. Tannins made a very subtle showing. Overall, although fairly sweet (right at the minimum alcohol content requirement for a Chianti Classico) and lacking some structure, I thought it was a pretty decent glass of Sangiovese.