Sangiovese is the uncontested king of the red wines of central Italy, where it is practically omnipresent. In its different clonal varieties it continues to prove its unquestionable virtues, also thanks to the diverse expressions of the ‘terroir’ where it’s cultivated.
Sangiovese’s birthplace is in the Apennines between Tuscany and Romagna, to this day the two most important regions for this red grape. it is claimed that the famous grape was well-known more than 2000 years ago and the Etruscans used it to produce wine. The origins of the name are uncertain and there are numerous versions of the story. There are those who claim the name comes from San Giovanni, and others who swear it comes from “Sanguis Jovis”, the blood of Jove (Jupiter). Widely planted in Tuscany, it takes on various names (Brunello in Montalcino, Prugnolo in Montepulciano, Morellino in the region of Grossetto, Sangioveto in Chianti).
Sangiovese has found its second home in Romagna. For those not “in the know”, the Romagna Sangiovese may not be as highly regarded as the Tuscan, but in the hands of experts, they absolutely rival those from Tuscany. The sandstone and clay rich hills south of the via Emilia, near the Apennines is covered by much of the Sangiovese di Romagna DOC and here is produced Sangiovese of the highest quality. Several wineries in the area are consistently selected as some of Italy’s best producers and these are wines not to be missed. Also, because these wines are less well known, prices are very reasonable.
In tasting through a series of Sangiovese di Romagna wines, you’ll find wide variations in style as the area has a diversity of soils and microclimates. In Modigliano, where the altitudes are every bit as high (if not higher) than Chianti, and the scenery every bit as foresty, steep sloping vineyards produce a bigger more brooding tannic structure and have more in common with Chianti Classico than their cousins on the plains. The lower-lying, more marine influenced sites tend to produce broader, more diffuse, more fruit forward styles.
Here is a little background on one of my favorites, Fattoria Zerbina.
…this is the leading estate in Emilia-Romagna, has been so for fifteen years, and it cannot be ignored.” – Wine Advocate
“Sometimes the impact of a winery is so positive that it enriches a whole area with its quality, consistency and continuity. This is true of Fattoria Zerbina…” – The Gambero Rosso, 2007 ed.
Trained in enology at the University of Bordeaux, after obtaining a degree in agronomy at the University of Milan, Cristina Giminiani has taken a radically new approach to viticulture and winemaking at her family’s estate, located in an area of Italy previously little known for quality wine production. Since taking over the estate in 1987, she has been called “of the most talented women in Italian wine” by the Wine Advocate and has been a regular recipient of the prestigious Tre Bicchieri award, such that the estate is listed among “The Stars” of the famed Gambero Rosso Wine Guide.
Fattoria Zerbina, named after a local warm southerly wind, is located at Marzeno in Romagna where the land begins to rise towards the Appennines that divide Romagna from Tuscany. The vineyards cover 29 hectares, more than 70% of which are planted to Sangiovese, and sit at an average altitude of 200 meters (656 feet) above sea level. Perfectly situated to benefit from the constant cooling breezes off the Adriatic Sea, they produced wines of breed, elegance, charm, depth of flavor and a personality able to rival their cousins in Tuscany on the other side of the Apennines. These include the charming, great-value “Ceregio” Sangiovese, aged entirely in stainless steel, to the “Pietramora” Riserva Sangiovese, aged one year in 70% new French-oak barriques (a consistent Tre Biccheri winner), to the Marzieno blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and 7% Syrah (which is also regularly awarded Tre Bicchieri. and produced from grapes grown “alberello” or “bush-trained” style, which can compete with any great Chianti.
The estate also produces the very rare “Scacco Matto” passito wine, an Albana-based wine that has been compared to Sauternes in quality. The 2008 vintage received the prestigious award “one of the 50 best wines in Italy, 2012” from Luca Gardini, “Miglior Sommelier del Mondo 2010″.