Sangiovese Wine: A Popular Italian Red

Sangiovese wine is the most popular red Italian wines. It's used primarily in blends to create the popular Chianti and also for the expensive, higher end wines called Super Tuscans.

sangiovese wine

It is widely grown in Italy and the most popular of the Italian red wines in the country. It's an interesting one in that it has more than a dozen clones that create this wine's variety of tastes and structures.

This type of red is temperamental and tough to grow. It doesn't always fully ripen and when it does ripen, it can ripen unevenly. The only one that is tougher to grow is Pinot Noir.

For years, this red type was not very good and many considered it a lower end house wine. However, winemakers worked hard to improve it. It started to gain in quality and then popularity in the 1980s. Today, there are a number of high quality Sangiovese wines on the market.

The Basics: Flavors, Aromas and More

The name Sangiovese comes from the Latin Sanguis Jovis meaning "blood of Jove". You'll see this reference quite a bit when someone discusses or writes about this popular Italian red.

Due to the number of clones, there are a wide range of flavors and aromas for this one. Some of the most common flavors include:

  • Fruits: cherries, plums, strawberry and raspberry
  • Spicy: clove, nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Other flavors: vanilla and tobacco

Some of the most common aromas for this red are:

  • Fruits: strawberry, raspberry, fresh plum, black cherry and sometimes blueberry
  • Floral notes such as violets
  • Other aromas: tar and wood smoke

Sangiovese wine is usually medium bodied. Those on the lighter side are best consumed within the first 3 to 5 years. The heavier and/or higher quality ones can age a little longer and are at their peak within the 8 to 10 year mark.

The acidity in this wine is usually medium to high. As it ages, it will soften a little making it even more enjoyable to drink.

Italian Wines and Regions

Sangiovese is most likely indigenous to the Tuscany area in Italy. The first documented reference to this grape in the region was in 1722. It grows well in hot, dry climates, making central Italy the perfect location for it to flourish. It accounts for almost 10% of the grapes planted in Italy.

chianti wines italy

Tuscany is well known for this variety and uses it to create many popular Tuscan wines including: Chianti, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. It is also used as the main component of the high end, expensive red Italian wines from Tuscany known as Super Tuscans.

Chianti wines are required to contain at least 70 to 100% Sangiovese wine. The requirement for Chianti Classico is 80 to 100%. Brunello di Montalcino is always 100%.

The remainder of the blend for Chianti wines includes either the local varieties Canailo and Colorino or the international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Up until recently, winemakers were allowed to add a local white variety, but that is now banned for all wines carrying the Chianti name.

Regions Outside of Italy

Historians believe Italian immigrants brought this grape over to the US around the 1880s. As I mentioned above, it didn't really become popular until the 1980s when the quality of this one increased.

In the US, you'll find Sangiovese wine grown in a number of locations in California. It's in several wineries in Napa Valley, Sonoma, the Central Valley, Sierra Foothills and the Livermore Valley. The California varietal is much fruitier than its Italian counterpart.

In Washington State, you can find it in a number of Walla Walla and Yakima Valley wineries.

Other locations outside the US include Australia and in the Mendoza region in Argentina. In France, it is grown on the island of Corsica where it is known as Nielluccio.

Pairing and Tasting Tips

Sangiovese wine is highly complementary to any dish featuring extra virgin olive oil. It also pairs well with poultry, red meat, BBQ and spicy or well-aged cheeses. Many people also like to pair it with pizza or pasta with tomato based sauces.

Lighter Chianti or Sangiovese wines should be served around 60 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 17 degrees Celsius). Heavier ones, including Chianti Classico, are best served just a few degrees warmer or around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).


Find out more about the other popular types of red wine including:

  • Zinfandel
  • Syrah & Shiraz
  • Also, learn more about these regional red types:
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Malbec
  • Tempranillo
  • > > Sangiovese

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