“Bevete il Sangiovese, quello scuro
d’anni ne camperete centomila
fa bene alla salute, e v’assicuro
fa far l’amore dieci volte in fila.”
“Drink Sangiovese, the dark one / you’ll live hundred thousand years / it’s good for health, and I assure you / you’ll be able to make love ten times in a row.” This is how Roberto Benigni finishes his poem “To Sangiovese.” He goes even further… he claims in his humorous poetry that, compared to Sangiovese, even Champagne becomes a vulgar chamomile tea. No doubts, Tuscans are famous for their ironic sense of humor.
Sangiovese is among the noblest autochthonous grape varieties in Italy and most probably doesn’t even need this kind of promotion. The variety is widely associated with Tuscany, being the main component of Chianti. Indeed, the geographical origins of the variety are in Central Italy, in the regions of Tuscany, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and it is where its vines still flourish.
In fact, Sangiovese is the most cultivated red variety in Italy, occupying 11% of all vineyards. There are 90,000 ha of DOC vineyards planted with it, of which 40,000 ha are in Tuscany, and 6,000 ha in Romagna. More than 100 DOCs allow this variety. Several of them are famous DOCGs like, for example, Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Some authors claim Sangiovese to be known already to the Etruscan winegrowers, way before the Romans even started to think of an empire. Maybe ‘l’Ombra della sera’ (Shadow of the Evening) – one of the most beautiful artifacts preserved from the antiquity – was a votive statue buried in a vineyard with Sangiovese plants? The Etruscan name got however lost, the current one being derived from Latin ‘sanguis Jovis’ – the blood of Jupiter.
It might be the richness of synonyms, which sometimes leads to underestimating the role of Sangiovese in the Italian wine production. There are more than thirty names for this grape, some being the exact synonyms, others denominating subvatieties. There is Morellino di Scansano (Maremma), Brunello (Montalcino), Prugnolo Gentile (Montepulciano), Sangiovese Romagnolo (called also Nostrano or Sangiovese del Cannello Lungo), Nieluccio (Corsica), and many more.
The spectrum of aromas it may develop depending on terroir is spectacular. It usually has a great potential for aging too. And as for pairings, Tonino Guerra, an Italian poet and screenwriter, said that “Sangiovese is good with everything, just like the high-class prostitutes.” Have I mentioned yet, that Romagnoli (people from the region of Romagna) are famous for their humor too? 🙂