Sangiovese

Sangiovese is the most planted red grape varietal in Italy, especially prolific in Tuscany where it is used in the production of Chianti wines. The name Sangiovese is unfamiliar to many Americans despite how common the grape varietal is in Italy, but that does not mean that wines made from Sangiovese grapes are uncommon or unfamiliar; it's just that wines are not prominently labeled "Sangiovese," except more recently in California. 

In Italy, Chianti can be classified from ordinary Vino di Tavloa (table wine) to Classic Superiore, with Chianti Classico somewhere in between. In some ways, Sangiovese is to Chianti what Cabernet Sauvignon is to Bordeaux. Both form the base of wines normally blended with other varietals and both, by themselves, share a certain distinctive elegance and complexity when well made. 

Tuscan winemakers, experimenting over the past decades with blends of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot, have succeeded in creating some excellent Super Tuscan blends commanding high prices, which has led to an increasing number of experimental Sangiovese vineyards being planted in California, especially in Sonoma, Napa and San Luis Obispo counties and the Sierra Foothills. Several California producers are making proprietary blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, following the Super Tuscan example. 

The flavor profile of Sangiovese is fruity with moderate to high natural acidity and generally a medium body ranging from firm and elegant to assertive and robust and a finish that can tend towards bitterness. The aroma is generally not as assertive and easily identifiable as Cabernet Sauvignon, but Sangiovese can show a strawberry, blueberry, faintly floral, violet and/or plumy character. 

Sangiovese pairs well with hearty acidic dishes such as red meats cooked in wine or tomato bases, including olives, tomato-based pastas, roasted meats and game, chicken in wine sauce, meatloaf, hamburger, mushrooms, pancetta, prosciutto, pizza, smoked meat, cold cuts and salami. 

Cheeses that go well with Sangiovese include Asiago, Brie, Camembert, Dry Jack, Emmental, Fontina, Grana Padano, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Piave, Provolone, Ricotta, Taleggio, Tomme de Savoie and such sheep-milk cheeses as Pecorino Romano and Pecorino Toscana.