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Wine A to Z: Sangiovese

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Sangiovese. The root of the name is said to be Latin for Sanguis Jovis, the "Blood of Jove." In Italy, Sangiovese's point of origin, it is translated as Sangue di Giove. In most interpretations, sangiovese is synonymous with Chianti, perhaps Italy's most famous red wine. In America, it is a varietal we are still discovering and tinkering with.

Sangiovese is a thin-skinned grape, that matures late, and not all together uniformly. It has a tendency to rot in damp climates and can be very site specific in it's preference for soil types. It also clones itself frequently, with at least fourteen known clones, and still more being studied. When the grapes are vinifed into wine, it can produce a range of flavors and styles, from medium to full bodied, fruity to earthy, basic table wine to a firmly structured wine. Of all the red wines, sangiovese will typically be among the most acidic, and food friendly.

In Italy, Tuscany is home to this great red varietal. Chianti is the region in the center of it all, and Chianti, the wine, has had it's share of peaks and valleys in it's multi-century existence. It, both region and wine, has birthed the Super-Tuscan style of wine, and a shift in Italy's strict wine laws. It still reigns supreme, as winemaking techniques have risen to the task of producing consistent quality wines from this grape.

In America, a handful of California wineries have planted sangiovese. Some have since given up the romance of Italy's classic varietal, while others have made a name for themselves based on this grape. One noteworthy vintner of sangiovese grapes is Vino Noceto, an Amador County winery that has been instrumental in sangiovese's success. They produce over five sangioveses, many of them 100% varietals. Check out their website, www.noceto.com, to learn more about their history with sangiovese.

In Lodi, Cosi Bella Vineyards (www.cosibellawine.com) grows sangiovese. It is their fruit that winemaker Ryan Sherman uses for Fields Family Wines (www.fieldsfamilywines.com) much-loved Il Ladro blend. Made in small batches, it is a different blend from year to year, but always based on the beloved sangiovese grape. In Calaveras County, check out the Gitano Sangiovese from Chatom Vineyards (www.chatomvineyards.com).

Whether you are serving lamb, steak, or a classic spaghetti and meatballs, seek out a bottle of wine made from sangiovese grapes, and discover for yourself the range of wines this great Italian red can make.

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