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Grape Varietals

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kee-YAHN-tee / san-jo-VAY-zay

In Italy, well over 1,000 types of grapes get made into wine. Perhaps none is so widespread as Sangiovese, with vineyards stretching in all directions from its traditional roost in Tuscany. Different clones of Sangiovese star in other Tuscan reds, but its most celebrated role is as the core of Chianti.

Flavors and aromas: Not a blockbuster grape, Sangiovese offers herbal and cherry aromas and flavors, and as Chianti it usually displays a light, food-friendly texture. All versions of Sangiovese-based reds carry a signature streak of tartness.


Color: Sangiovese's color can span a wide range of red; the lighter the tint, the lighter-bodied the wine.

Prominent plantings: Chianti Classico, from a sub-region of the overall Chianti zone, is considered more serious than basic Chianti. Other important Tuscan Sangiovese-driven wines include Vino Nobile di Montepulciano; Carmignano; Brunello di Montalcino (revered as a collectible and priced accordingly) and Rosso di Montalcino (Brunello's ready-to-drink brother). Beyond Tuscany, more bottlings are found with Sangiovese front and center on the label; these are usually affordably priced and styled for everyday drinking.

Pairing with food: Chianti's cherry fruit and tart acidity practically dance the Tarantella with classic Italian red sauces. The bright, but earthy, notes also sing right along with potent ingredients like capers, garlic, olives, and lemon. In short, Sangiovese is a no-brainer with traditional Italian food.

Insider tip: The letters DOC and DOCG on bottles of Italian wine are similar to France's appellation AOC system; they basically indicate regional type. The modern practice of blending Sangiovese with non-native grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon spawned a type of wine dubbed "Super Tuscans." These blends can be light quaffers or trophy wines; the price is usually a clue. 

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