Showcasing Sangiovese: The Chameleon of Wines

Showcasing Sangiovese: The Chameleon of Wines

Sangiovese may not be a grape that is widely grown or even well known in Australia, but it’s influence across the winemaking world can’t be understated. It may be an Italian native grape but it has proven itself capable of producing exceptional wines in hot and dry climates across the globe. The French Island of Corsica is the world’s second largest producer of Sangiovese, but large plantings are found in Mendoza in Argentina and also in California in the USA. So, what makes Sangiovese so special?

There are few other grapes that can create wines that are so strikingly different depending on their birthplace. In the habit of a chameleon, Sangiovese seems to have an innate ability to blend in with the region it’s being grown in and reflect soil, aspect, geology and climate. Perhaps it’s this unique ability to reflect terroir that makes it so intriguing? Some of the most expensive and widely acclaimed wines are built on Sangiovese – think Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano and Chianti. They’re three unique styles with a wide range of price points, but all made from Italy’s most widely planted red varietal.

And if you need any further proof of the rock star status of Sangiovese, then look no further than Tuscany’s “Super Tuscan” wines. These highly prized and uber expensive reds are based on Sangiovese but blend in small quantities of other varietals that aren’t native to Italy. The most expensive examples (like Masseto Toscana IGT) now command retail process of well over $1,000.00!

Finding good Italian reds in Queensland can be tricky but in Brisbane, the easiest option is probably paying a visit to Wineology on Adelaide Street where there are about 14-15 Italian wines available by the glass and dozens of others available by the bottle. Director, Troy Brown, tells me that wines available by the glass change weekly but that they always keep a wide range of high-quality Brunello, Chianti and Super Tuscans on hand. Troy and his wife, Natalee, choose the wines after personally visiting the wineries, and import them in small quantities. There’s probably no better place in town to immerse yourself in wines made in the country that is famously shaped like a boot!  A few of the treats I sampled there recently include:

Tassi ‘Consilium” IGT Rosso Toscano 2018 ($40) – a light to medium bodied entry level Rosso that shows lively raspberries and sweet black cherries on the palate before a savoury meatiness appears on the back end. Pretty fruit dominates tannin. It’s a charmer that won’t break the budget.

San Guglielmo Rosso di Montalcino 2019 ($75) – an earthy violet nose is met by ripe cherries, all spice and a slightly metallic edge through the middle. I love the linear structure and the olive and almond meal characters that weave themselves into gentle tannins and embrace natural acidity. Great length and balance and there’s a real freshness to the fruit though the tannins on the finish are almost as grippy as the tyres of Max Verstappen’s RB19!

Cortonesi Brunello di Montalcino ‘La Mannella’ 2017 ($175) – from the first sniff, the floral notes strike you like a bolt from the heavens. Lavendar, sage and even blood orange characters emerge from the glass as the swishing and swirling allows the fruit to tell its story. It’s a full-bodied wine that isn’t for the fainthearted or meek of palate, as blood-plums, cassis and blueberries challenge acidity for supremacy through a silky, tannin lined finale. Wow!

With its lively acidity, Sangiovese is a perfect pairing for Mediterranean dishes with a tomato base, while its savoury nuances ably support barbecued or grilled meats. To be fair, I’d happily pour Brunello alongside just about any red protein! It’s a shame that the good ones aren’t exactly priced to be Saturday afternoon quaffers.

As published in The Courier Mail.

Wineology Brisbane


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