Tuscany is red wine country, and much of it is down to the noble Sangiovese grape. This variety is the essence of some of the world’s iconic wines, known by name if not grape variety. Three of these players are Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, and Rosso di Montalcino.
These touchstones carve three slices out of the sea of Sangiovese, helping to find direction for a season’s worth of Sangiovese purchases. Sure, this grape is cultivated all over Italy (and other parts of the world) but honing in on Tuscan highlights is valid starting point. There are so many talented producers in the region, many committed on the typicity of Sangiovese and this world class terroir. Brunello is considered to be of the most prestigious and revered wines in all of Italy (and the world, to some of its fans) so it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to experience a few quality bottles of this icon aside some of the neighboring favorites.
If you are looking for a red wine characterized by an acid-driven lifeline delivered on red fruit and herbal notes — with charming hits of complexity in the form the balsamic or tomato — Sangiovese could hit the spot. Looking to pair Sangiovese from Tuscany? Look at what the locals eat: steak grilled rare, fresh tomato dishes, mushroom pasta, and of course Tuscan olive oil.
Chianti Classico DOCG
This region is the historical heart of the hilly Chianti zone between Florence and Siena, an area of tradition and considerable quality and age-capability. While there can be other grapes in bottles of Chianti Classico, they skew hard towards Sangiovese, which must comprise 80% of the blend. Before it is sold, Chianti Classico must be aged for a year. Cherry notes dashed with herbal or leather notes are appealing to people that love Chianti Classico.
Brunello di Montalcino
This is one of the top guns of central Italy: prestigious, full-bodied, and blasting with tannins when young. Complexity and smooth character are the rewards of those who wait for this 100% Sangiovese stunner. In fact, the region stipulates extended aging requirements before release, including a couple of years in oak. Cherry notes with hints of forest, violets, and balsam (plus oak character, to the varying degrees applied) are flavors that keep people coming back to Brunello.
Rosso di Montalcino
Rosso di Montalcino is also 100% Sangiovese. As the name suggests, this wine shares a growing region with Brunello, but its denomination asks for an earlier release. This delivers a wine of youthful freshness, about a year post-harvest. Red fruit flavors with a hint of earthiness and vibrant acidity are common charms of tasty Rosso di Montalcino. Sometimes this wine is referred to a ‘baby Brunello’ thanks to the youthful positioning of the release schedule. Regarded as an appealing alternative to Brunello with an approachable price, Rosso feels like a score, balancing cost and quality at a delicious return.
Producers to Try
Isole e Olena: Isole e Olena is connects two estates in Chianti and comprises 290 hectares of land, 53 of which are planted with vineyards. The altitude offers a healthy breeze that provides a cooler winter temperature than other Chianti neighbors.
Perfect for entertaining, and one of Dustin’s Picks.
Monteraponi: The Monteraponi estate is located in the village of Radda, right in the seat of Chianti.The hilltop winery is the visual icon of the valley, which cascades down towards the Arbia river.
A Verve Wine team affordable splurge. Makes us feel like we are in Italy for the evening.
Monte Bernardi: Monte Bernardi is situated in the beating heart of Chianti Classico, in the village of Panzano. The vineyards have been farmed biodynamically and organically since the early 2000s. The bulk of the vineyards are more than 40 years old.
A steal for a top-quality Chianti Classico Riserva, at under $45 a pop.
Salicutti: The first certified organic estate in Montalcino, a space filled wine vines, olive groves, an forest. Owners Sabine and Felix Eichbauer call this a self-contained “cosmos” where purity and sustainability reign.
An exciting range of cellar selection options.