Sangiovese is an indigenous Italian red grape variety whose name derives from the Latin 'Sanguis Jovis', 'the blood of Jove (Jupiter)'. It is the grape of central Italy from Romagna down to Lazio, Campania and Sicily, outside Italy it is most famous as the main component of the blend Chianti, Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano, it can also be used to make varietal wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino or Sangiovese di Romagna, as well as modern 'Super Tuscan' wines like Ornellaia, Tignanello & Sassicaia.
Young Sangiovese has fresh fruity flavours of cherry and a little spiciness; it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavours when aged in barrels. Sangiovese was already well known by the 16th century, recent DNA profiling suggests that Sangiovese's ancestors are Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo. The former is well known as an ancient variety in Tuscany, the latter is an almost-extinct variety from Calabria, the toe of Italy. At least 14 Sangiovese clones exist, of which Brunello is one of the best regarded. An attempt to classify the clones into Sangiovese grosso (including Brunello) and Sangiovese piccolo families is an ongoing process.
Sangiovese has shown itself to be adaptable to many different types of vineyard soils but seems to thrive in soils with a high concentration of limestone, having the potential to produce elegant wines with forceful aromas. The grape requires a long growing season, as it buds early and is slow to ripen. A longer growing season gives the grapes time to develop richness and potential body. Wines made from Sangiovese tend to exhibit the grape's naturally high acidity as well as moderate to high tannin content and light colour.
Sangiovese based wines have the potential to age but the vast majority of Sangiovese wines are intended to be consumed relatively early in its life. The wines with the longest aging potential are the Super Tuscans and Brunello di Montalcino wines that can age for upwards of 20 years in ideal vintages.