As we get closer to the winter season, we must all give thought to what wines we want to enjoy as the weather cools. Sangiovese, named for the king of the gods, is also the king of Italian grapes and the grape that makes Chianti. This beautiful red varietal, though of vital importance to the Italian wine market, is starting to make its mark on the Arizona wine industry as well.
I had the pleasure of trying the 2016 Sangiovese from Flying Leap Vineyards and was delighted by the rustic aromas coming off the wine. Its earthy nose balanced well with the bright cherry and juicy plumb notes that arose from my glass. The soft palate was rife with fresh red berries that complemented the cedar and baking spices that the wine displayed. The 30-second finish was substantial without being over-long. All the flavors this wine displayed swept me away with thoughts of Tuscan soils and Arizona sunshine. This Sangiovese would pair excellently with a Caprese Salad as an appetizer or Spaghetti Bolognese as a main course. If you are looking for a wine that will warm you this upcoming winter, the Flying Leap Sangiovese will keep your thoughts off the cold!
Sangiovese, the main grape in an Italian Chianti wine, is being grown in many locations in Arizona including the Wilcox AVA. The 2014 Sangiovese from Zapara Vineyard in Wilcox received a rating of 87 points from Wine Spectator and a Silver Medal at the San Francisco Chronicles Wine Competition!
This dry red wine has a beautiful garnet color and the nose offers lovely aromas of black cherry, cinnamon, currants and strawberry. The palate showcases additional flavors of mild oak, cedar, chocolate and pipe tobacco. The finish comes in at around 22 seconds. 90 cases of this Sangiovese were produced, and it has a high alcohol content of 15.6 % ABV. I recommend decanting it to bring out additional subtle flavors. It paired well with my chicken cacciatore.
Sample a little bit of Italy in Arizona with the Zapara Sangiovese for around $24.
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I hadn’t had a Chianti in a while and discovered a 2015 Fontella Chianti DOCG from Casa Girelli in my wine cooler. I love Sangiovese! The wine had 12.5% alcohol by volume and a lovely garnet/ruby color. It had a medium body and was quite smooth and velvety. There were cherry and raspberry notes on the nose which carried onto the palate, with additional flavors of oak, cedar and vanilla. On the winemaker’s website, it states that it is a blend of Sangiovese and Cannaiolo. They also stated that it was fermented in stainless steel and aged for three months in large Slavonian (from Croatia) oak barrels. The grapes are sourced from various vineyards in the Chianti DOCG region in Tuscany where Sangiovese is King, but bottled in Trento, in the Northern part of Italy. The finish came in at around 18 second. James Suckling rated this delightful wine at 90 points and for around $10 per bottle it’s an excellent Chianti value you can do!
I recently had a guest on my wine tour that had just returned from Europe. She enjoyed the trip immensely but was confused at the way Europeans name their wines. What exactly goes into a Chianti or a Bordeaux blend? In New World wines such as the United States, the label will frequently tell you what variety that bottle holds. Is the wine Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay... just read the labels to find out. However, in Old World wine classification, the label tells you WHERE the wine is from and it is expected that the consumer knows what varieties are grown in that region. It can be very complicated, but to simplify and clear up some of the confusion of Old World wines, here are a few examples of what some of your favorites may contain:
Brunello di Montalcino-100% Sangiovese. Brunello is the local name for Sangiovese.
Chablis - Made from 100% Chardonnay
Champagne – Is normally made from a single variety or blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Pinot Meunier.
Chianti – Mostly Sangiovese with some small amounts added of indigenous grapes and some Internationals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Merlot or some white grapes. It can also be 100% Sangiovese.
Rioja – Red Rioja is mostly a Tempranillo blend with added amounts of Garnacha, Carignan and Graciano.
Bordeaux- Red Bordeaux is primarily a blend of 2-3 grapes from the area. The main grapes are, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, however Malbec, Carmenere and Petit Verdot are also allowed.
Burgundy – Red Burgundy is mostly 100% Pinot Noir with some southern areas being Gamay driven.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape – This can be a blend of anywhere between 13-18 varieties including some white wine. Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Counoise, Cinsault and Roussanne are among the most famous.
Vouvray – Chenin Blanc based which is known as Pineau de la Loire in this area.
I hope this helps to take some of the mystery out of European wine labeling. Cheers!
Sue Schurgin, CSW, (Certified Specialist of Wine). WSET II, is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She loves wine and beer education and is also a Level 1 Sommelier.
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