Sangiovese – an Italian classic

Continuing with our quest to highlight some of the very best varietals on offer, The Journal and Jacques Scott have this time teamed up to dissect that most quintessential of all Italian grapes – Sangiovese. Ragazzi was the perfect location to bring out the characteristics of this truly classic Italian grape. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.

The Sangiovese grape is native to the Tuscany region of Italy, renowned for its Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. It has been planted in other parts of the world outside its Italian homeland, in countries such as Australia and the US, yet Italy is where this grape really comes into its own.
Therefore we decided to taste four great wines from Tuscany, each with their own character and nuances, but all carrying recognisable forest fruit flavours, enhanced by that distinctive Sangiovese tannin punch.

2004 Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino CI$45.95
Wine critic Robert Parker gives this wine 90 points, while the Wine Spectator, which scores this wine 91 points states: “Antinori’s 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Pian delle Vigne is a sweet, perfumed offering. Medium in body, the wine offers up scents of tobacco, wild cherries, spices and flowers in an elegant, restrained style for this bottling. The silky, finessed tannins frame the fruit nicely and carry through all the way to the long finish. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2019.”
Such a magnificent example of Sangiovese deserves a whole hearted rustic approach, culinary-wise, so tasters enjoyed Ragazzi’s lasagna, a rich and luscious Italian classic that paired so well with the Pian delle Vigne it could not help but warm the cockles of your heart.
Tasters also enjoyed a pasta special with this wine, a well-balanced and hearty mix of chicken, penne pasta, tomatoes, courgettes (zucchini) and squash. Just to highlight the versatility of the wine (yet of course still on the Italian theme) tasters were also presented with an extremely filling and flavourful Salsicciona sausage pizza which also went down extremely well with this medium-bodied Brunello.

2004 Altesino Rosso di Montalcino CI$30.95
Again receiving a decent score by the wine experts (Wine Spectator awarded this 86 points), the Altesino Rosso de Montalcino can perhaps be viewed as a baby Brunello. Lee Royle, retail wine professional with Jacques Scott sums up this wine choice: “The Altesino displays nice ripe plum notes on the nose, along with light oak and a medium body, with medium tannins.”
Paul McLaughlin, retail wine manager with Jacques Scott notes the light fruitiness of the wine, along with its earthy, mushroomy flavours. A real winner with mushroom-infused dishes, such as Ragazzi’s chicken Marsala (sautéed chicken scaloppine, Marsala and wild mushroom sauce, served with mixed veg and mash) as well as rustic delights such as Ragazzi’s Antipasto Misto, with Prosciutto, bresaola, salami, grilled peppers and Parmesan cheese.  

2004 Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico CI$30.95
Castello di Fonterutoli is the source of some of Italy’s most prestigious wines, a historic property that is a centuries-old hamlet just south of Castellina in Chianti, in the heart of Chianti Classico. Since 1435 the estate has been in the hands of the Mazzei family which has been devoted to winemaking for 24 generations. Its 2004 Chianti Classico is made from an interesting blend of 80 per cent Sangiovese (seven different clones) and 20 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ross Phillips, wine marketing manager with Jacques Scott says this wine is extremely approachable: “This Chianti Classico gives off lots of lovely fruit and earth aromas of cherries, black truffles and dried plum. It’s earthy and tannic yet balanced by good acidity.”
Lee adds that the tannins in the wine (as with all the wines tasted) make it an excellent wine to be drunk with food, in particular with fatty foods, the tannins cutting through any richness of the hearty Italian cuisine, creating a wonderful taste fest on the palate. Tasters enjoyed Ragazzi’s delicate and delicious beef carpaccio as well as the Antipasto Misto with the Chianti Classico and the wine made an excellent pairing with both dishes. 
Both the Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate awarded this wine 88 points.

1999 Castello di Verrazzano Sassello CI$54.95
A founding member of the Consorzio del Chianti Classico, Verrazzano has made wine since Roman times, and was home to the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano who discovered New York Bay in the early 16th century. But its growing reputation among wine lovers is due to its present owners, Luigi and Silvia Cappellini, who purchased the property in 1958, and replanted Verrazzano’s vineyards, which fan out from the forest limits down to the valley below. Fertilisation is organic and vineyards are weeded by hand. Green harvesting (entirely by hand) results in a heightened concentration of flavour in the remaining fruit and increasingly high quality wines.
Top of the range from the Verrazzano estate, Sassello is a 100 per cent Sangiovese of extremely limited production. Made only in the finest vintages, it originates exclusively in the estate’s La Querciolina vineyard and is named for a songbird that frequents the area around harvest time.
The Sassello received an excellent 90 points from the Wine Spectator and has been well received among wine critics in general.
Lee says the wine is well-structured with aromas of dried cherries, plums and dried flowers. “It’s full-bodied and very firm, with thick yet slightly austere tannins and a long finish.”
The Sassello was a big hit with the lasagna and chicken pasta dishes, a truly winning pairing that would make any Tuscan feel happily at home.