Tag: Australian sangiovese

Jul 07 2013

Australia’s Love Affair with Sangiovese

Posted on July 07, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

One of the guests told me over a dinner hosted by Pizzini Wines at Signorelli Gastronomia in Sydney that he had collected over 100 different sangiovese wines. I said that his collection must be rich with Italian examples to which he replied that all of his sangioveses were Australian. I was gobsmacked, having no idea that so many Australian wineries made sangiovese. Anyway, the discussion has led to be a bit of detective work on my part to learn more about why this so-called ‘alternative’ grape variety has captured the imagination of Australian winemakers.

First a bit of background on sangiovese. As you are no doubt aware, sangiovese is an Italian red wine grape variety used exclusively to make Italy’s prestigious Brunello di Montalcino. It is also the dominant grape variety in other famous Tuscan wines like Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti.

At the Pizzini dinner, reference was made to the so-called Super-Tuscans, a term used to describe a blended sangiovese wine that gained international attention in the 1980s. It was created in the late 1960s by a group of innovative Chianti producers who started blending sangiovese with non-Italian varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz. Some even eschewed the use of sangiovese altogether, and further broke with Italian tradition (and strict wine laws) by using ‘modern’ wine-making techniques, like ageing their wines in small French barriques instead of the traditional oak casks. (Are Super-Tuscans still Super? by Lettie Teague, eRobertParker.com, December 2006)

In fact, it was the success of high profile Super-Tuscans like Sassicaia, Solaia and Tignanello that spurred renewed interest in the wines of Tuscany and particularly sangiovese. In Australia, Penfolds was one of the first to undertake a large-scale commerical planting of the grape in the 1980s when it expanded its … Read the rest

Jun 06 2011

Australian Sangiovese: A Quiet Achiever!

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Over the weekend my husband and I enjoyed a bottle of Quartetto Sangiovese 2000. I use the word ‘enjoy’ with an element of surprise, because we had pretty low expectations for this 11 year old bottle from the Clare Valley. Although fairly light in colour, it still had an earthy fruit character, a bit of acidity, some tannins and the familiar savoury and restrained spice notes that are the hallmarks of Italian Chianti. It went really well with spaghetti bolognese on a cold winter’s night!

Quite a few Australian wineries make a sangiovese and a few, notably Coriole, Castagna, Pizzini and Chrismont, produce highly acclaimed wines from the cornerstone grape of Italian Chianti. But this noble grape of Tuscany is still very much of a niche variety  in Australia. In fact, James Halliday notes that plantings of the grape peaked in 2001 at 600 hectares, and have been on a slow decline ever since (510 hectares in 2008). (James Halliday, The Australian Wine Encyclopedia, Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books 2009)

Sangiovese is a wonderfully food friendly wine, so the dearth of Australian sangiovese is probably not the result of a reluctance on the part of wine drinkers to embrace the style. Rather, experience has shown that sangiovese is not an easy grape to master in the vineyard. It is, in fact, a prime example of a grape that is particularly sensitive to the nuances of terroir. For the most part, only Australia’s boutique winemakers have the time and perseverance to stick with a grape that demands a lot of love and attention.

McLaren Vale based Coriole was the first winery to introduce the variety to Australia in 1985. (Coriole also makes a great chenin blanc – another variety that has had a spotted history outside of its home … Read the rest