By Rick Riozza

So Sangiovese was missing for almost three weeks. Our neighbor Sally named her kitty cat “sangiovese” because the cat’s coat was crimson fur—like an overdone Calico Cat, I guess. Sally was quite distraught, since the cat had never been away for so long.

“Perhaps she left for Tuscany”, she lamented.

“Was she born there, or, did you get her while you were in Tuscany?” I asked quite curiously. (Most wine enthusiasts know by now that the Sangiovese grape is predominant in Tuscany.)


“No”, she answered without much feeling. “But where else would you go—if your name was Sangiovese?”

I just stared at her for a while before hunching my shoulders. Women and their cats—whaddya gonna do?

Anyway—the story ends well as someone rescued the kitty and returned it to Sally. In celebration, she prepared for us a nice pasta dinner and she poured one of our favorite wines—you guessed it, a Chianti.

So—while we’re at it, why not talk about the Sangiovese grape in Toscana. (By the way, I was just at a California wine tasting seminar, and I can’t believe how much blueberry vanilla jam I was getting from so many red wines. High end or not, they kind of all tasted similar. I was dying for a Sangiovese/Chianti red just to cleanse my palate! Give me some sanguine, earthy, leathery, herby textured wine—please! I know, I’m the minority report—but I report on a bunch of jammy wines for your readers, cause you like them!but hey! I’ll enjoy a nice big Petite Sirah with you anytime!)

Anyway, again, the Sangiovese grape shows up in Tuscany by way of Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Bolgheri/Maremma/Super Tuscan, as well as a few others such as Chianti Rufina Carmignano.

One could live and die on Sangiovese all their life and not really miss French and Californian wine. But aren’t we blessed by God to enjoy His worldwide stuff!

And speaking of God, He has blessed us with three great vintage years in Tuscany, marked by periods of both dryness and rain, cold winters and warm summers, significant contrasts of daytime and nighttime temperatures to keep the grapes lively, juciy and complex! Bravo!

If you like your wines on the softer red fruit side of things, look for the 2020 vintage. For the more bold, darker fruit flavors with vibrant structure, go for the 2019 and the 2021 bottlings. It’s a win-win either way you go. Andiamo!

For you California Cab lovers who’d like to try a Tuscan wine, try the Brunello di Montalcino: full flavored stuff that won’t take you down to sleeps-ville during dinner. And those tasting the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano will get an extra boast of complexity while enjoying black cherries, chocolate, earth, flowers, leather, licorice, minerals, mint, plums, smoke, spice, tea, tobacco, and violets. Both the Brunello and the Vino Nobile are rich, round, and velvety.

And, as you’ll see below—they are a pricey wine; but for a special occasion, it’s a special treat.

And now—some Sangiovese recommendations:

If you plan to treat your friends or family to a magnificent Brunello di Montalcino over the holidays—this is the bomb! 2016 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montacino Tenuta Greppo Riserva ($800). “A harmonious, balanced red, this sets the stage perfectly for the cherry, strawberry, floral, iron and tobacco flavors. Fresh and detailed, with a linear profile and refined structure driving the seemingly endless finish. Superb!” Wine Spectator gave this wine the review and the top score of 98 points.

Should you wish to come back to earth and gift or try a less expensive Brunello, the at only $90, look for the 2018 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino. “Rose, strawberry and cherry aromas and flavors are the main themes in this red, along with wild herb, mineral and cut hay accents. Racy and full of energy, with a long, saturated finish.” This wine received 95 points, WS.

Many of you have tried Brunello, but I only know of a few wine enthusiasts who’ve really spend any time on a fabulous Vino Nobile. Some folks will mistake the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for the other red wine of Abruzzo Italy, which is much farther south of Tuscany. It’s called Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The grape is definitely a “cousin” of the Sangiovese; in this Abruzzo region, the wine is much more rustic but a lot less expensive.

At this time, we’re recommending the 2018 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano “Terresolatìe” DOCG ($50) This wine is from especially selected Sangiovese grapes. The bouquet opens to wild fruit aromas with distinct mineral tones that define its aromatic properties. The mouthfeel reveals good complexity and lots of freshness. Its color is an intense and brilliant ruby that changes to garnet with aging. Its bouquet is strong with light, violet aroma, elegant with savory flavor, soft and fluffy velvet flavor.

This would make an exquisite dinner gift as it is a great food wine. The ideal companion for noble poultry, game and mature cheeses. Excellent with pasta served with tasty meat sauce, finely chopped roast meat, carpaccio and pecorino cheese.

Finally, a wonderful find for only $15 or less is the 2019 Monte Antico Sangiovese Italy Toscana. The wine is dark ruby in color, its bouquet of leather, earth, herbs, black cherries, licorice and plums is confirmed on the medium to full-bodied palate of juicy black currant and dark cherry Round, spicy, elegant, attractively fruity and extremely versatile. Is this a great buy or what!

A Blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Italian Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Italian Merlot

Should you have any left over, save me some. Saluti!!