Sangiovese, a dark-berried vine, is the most widely planted grape variety in Italy. Sangiovese is the core constituent in some of the great names in Italian wine. Italy's love affair with Sangiovese – and indeed the world's – is generations old, though recent grapevine research suggests the variety is not as ancient as once thought.
Good-quality Sangiovese is prized for its high acid, firm tannins, and balanced nature. Savoury flavors of dark cherries and black stonefruit are characteristic and may be backed by secondary notes of tomato leaf and dried herbs. The use of oak has become more popular and this coaxes richer flavors from the grapes, tending toward plum and wild raspberry.
In Tuscany, Sangiovese is the sole grape variety permitted in the prestigious Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and provides the backbone to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the popular wines of Chianti.
Outside Tuscany, Sangiovese is widely planted in Lazio, Umbria, Marche, and of course Corsica. In Corsica, the variety is known as Nielluccio and has a distinctive maquis characteristic, which distinguishes it somewhat from other Sangiovese. Worldwide, it has travelled to California and Australia, where its high acidity is an asset in the hot climate.
All clones of Sangiovese are relatively slow ripening, which results in an extended growing season and richer, stronger, and longer-lived wines than those made from early-ripening varieties. When the vines are encouraged to produce higher yields, the wine's naturally high acidity is accentuated and its characteristic color noticeably diluted.