Sangiovese Wine: Your Guide To Taste, Origins, and Serving

Sangiovese Wine: Your Guide To Taste, Origins, and Serving

McKenzie Hagan |

It’s not hard to love Italian culture. The food, the history, the fashion, and the wine are famous all over the world. If you’re like us, and are constantly dreaming of running away to live in a beautiful Tuscan farmhouse, Sangiovese wine is about as close as you can get without a plane flight.

The Sangiovese grape has been a part of Italian culture for thousands of years and is grown all over Italy. While it may not be as globally popular as some other Italian wines, such as Prosecco, if you get the chance, you’ve got to try it.

In this article, we’ll give you a beginner’s guide to Sangiovese wine. From its many names to its fascinating history to its complex tasting notes, we tell you everything you need to know to start your next Italian wine love affair.

Sangiovese Wine and the Blood of Jove

Sangiovese is a wine known by many names, but none are quite as fascinating as “The Blood of Jove.” Named in Central Italy thousands of years ago, the name Sangiovese is translated from the Latin Sanguis Jovis, meaning the blood of Jupiter, or the Roman king of the gods.

While evidence is shaky, the legend states that Roman monks named the wine as tribute to Jupiter, suggesting that this wine flowed through his very veins. 

Not only is this legend fascinating, but it also states the significance of the Sangiovese grape to the Roman people and to Italian history.

What Is Sangiovese Wine?

Sangiovese (pronounced san-joe-vei-zay) is an Italian wine through and through. Though the grape is grown in other wine regions across the globe, it’s hard to come by anywhere else but Italy.

It is a medium-bodied wine, with medium to high tannins, and it’s on the high end of the scale when it comes to alcohol. It’s probably most comparable to Merlot, although Sangiovese wine has high acidity, much more than Merlot ever has.

As with many wine varietals, Sangiovese has many regional names. So, while you may not think you’ve ever had the pleasure of a glass of Sangiovese wine, if you’ve spent time in Italy chances are it could have been masquerading under a different pseudonym.

Some of the most popular names include:

  • Prugnolo Gentile
  • Chianti
  • Montefalco Rosso
  • Sangiovese Grosso Brunello di Montalcino
  • Nielluccio, Rosso di Montepulciano
  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
  • Morellino, Rosso di Montalcino
  • Morellino di Scansano

With Chianti on this list, it’s important to mention that while all Chianti wine will contain Sangiovese grapes, they are not exactly the same. Chianti is a popular Italian blend that combines Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah to make a silky, complex red wine.

Sangiovese is a popular blending grape. You’ll also find it in Super Tuscans, which are wines created by blending French and Italian grapes. These Super Tuscans are wine rebels — they don’t fit into the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) classification system due to their use of grapes grown outside of the DOC region.

Our own Usual Red is also a Sangiovese wine blend. We blend Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Pinot Noir to make a wine which has notes of red fruit, dark cherry, and cocoa.

Where Does the Sangiovese Grape Grow?

Sangiovese wine: Serving Usual Wines bottle on a glass

Sangiovese is known as a chameleon grape due to its ability to adapt to and thrive in its environment, therefore making it a much easier grape to grow. 

Sangiovese wines grown and produced in Tuscany are probably the most celebrated in both the New and Old World of wine. However, this intriguing red wine grape is grown throughout Italy and the world. 

Notable Italian regions include:

  • Umbria, Central Italy
  • Campania, Southern Italy
  • Romagna, Northern Italy

While the majority of Sangiovese grapes grow in Italy, they are also grown on the neighboring French island of Corsica in Patrimonio AOC (Nielluccio), a notable region with the second largest Sangiovese yield in the world.

While much rarer, some New World wine regions like the United States also grow Sangiovese grapes. 

Some notable regions include:

  • Mendoza, Argentina
  • Napa Valley, California
  • Sonoma County, Washington
  • Barossa Valley, Australia

Like many grape varietals, the Sangiovese grape produces different tasting wines depending on where it was grown. Therefore, we advise you to try a range of Sangiovese wines, as even the area of Italy the grape was grown in could alter the subtle flavors.

What Does Sangiovese Wine Taste Like?

While Sangiovese wine tastes different depending on where it’s produced, or what it’s blended with, it has a few common tasting notes.

Red fruit flavors, such as red cherry, strawberry, plum, and raspberry are almost always cited as Sangiovese’s primary flavors. However, this grape variety is also praised for its complex savory flavors. Some of these include:

  • Herbaceous notes
  • Leather
  • Clay
  • Tomato
  • Smoke
  • Tobacco

If you enjoy wines with a wide depth of flavor, complex savory notes, and sharp acidic qualities, Sangiovese may be the wine for you. However, if these tasting notes don’t interest you, don’t be afraid to experiment with Sangiovese blends, as these intense flavors are often balanced with other lighter wines.

How To Pair Sangiovese Wine

For Sangiovese food pairings, look to dishes swimming in olive oil or butter. The high tannins in the wine will easily cut through these fatty dishes and add balance.

As Sangiovese wine is an Italian native, we think the perfect pairing is something traditionally Italian. We’re thinking rich, cheesy pasta dishes, mozzarella-coated pizzas, and indulgent salads, with plenty of sundried tomatoes and olives.

How To Serve Sangiovese Wine

Unlike some of the more fragrant red wines, such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese doesn’t have much of an aroma, therefore you needn’t worry about serving it in a large bowled glass. A standard wine glass will do just fine.

As for temperature, 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature for this red. If you don’t have a thermometer, a good rule of thumb is to place your bottle in the fridge for an hour, then remove an hour before serving. You don’t want your wine to be chilled, but room temperature is actually too warm for red wine.

If you have a decanter, Sangiovese wine benefits from aeration, so decant your wine an hour or so before serving to really make those subtle flavors sing.

Sip on the Wine of the Gods

Usual Wines bottle and grapes

With a medium body, high tannins, and high acidity, Sangiovese can be an intense wine to get on board with. However, due to its savory flavors and ability to adapt to its environment, the Sangiovese grape is slowly making its way across the world, and finding itself in a host of interesting blends. So, if you don’t like the sound of it at first, you may love it blended with other red grapes.

To give Sangiovese a try, head to our shop, where you can try a bottle of our Usual Red Blend  of Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel.