August 21, 2013
A Note from Sergio
When most people think of Sangiovese, they think of Brunello. But that thinking is short sighted. Sangiovese has been pushing its way through the rocky Italian soil since Etruscan times. It's the key to Chianti Classico, many Super Tuscans, Carmignano, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, and Morellino di Scansano, among others, and it's spawned two major clones, Sangiovese Grosso, whose most famous wine is Brunello, and Sangiovese Piccolo, which is somewhat less regarded. About 11 percent of all Italian vineyards grow Sangiovese, making it the most cultivated grape; its dominion stretches from Umbria to Le Marche.
But Sangiovese's true home is Toscana, where it thrives on the rolling hills, calmed by continuous cool breezes and ripened by the Tuscan sun. Even there in ideal conditions, Sangiovese remains a difficult fruit to master. Part of that difficulty lies in Sangiovese's biggest strength: its flexibility. Sangiovese translates terroir and carries vinification with the quick-change artistry of a spy. Grown in the right ground and made by the right hands, Sangiovese makes a stellar wine; grown in the wrong soil and made poorly, Sangiovese goes very bad indeed. It's like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead; when it's good it's very, very good, and when it's bad it's undrinkable.
But those men and women who have a way with this grape make a wine that sings great arias of Italy. There's this way that an excellent Sangiovese wine transmits the very air where it grew, the sun that shone on it, and all the green things big and small that grew alongside it. Pour a glass of a really good Sangiovese, and you're transported to Italy. You can smell the earth, the needles on the cypress trees, the chestnuts rolling along the ground, the poppy seeds blowing in the wind.
I'm proud today to offer one of the great bottles of Sangiovese, Montevertine Le Pergole Torte. This is one of those wines that makes converts out of skeptics and collectors out of converts. It's a heady, complex, serious Sangiovese in any given vintage, but the vintage I'm offering today, the 2009, is celestial. It needs some time in the cellar (and it can easily age decades) but it's worth it. Like the label on the bottle itself, designed by Italian artist Alberto Manfredi, it's a work of art.
I'm placing this Sangiovese in the company of another great one, Cerbaiona 2007 Brunello di Montalcino. These two wines, side by side, offer a dizzying perspective on the breadth that great Sangiovese wines can take. And finally, I'm delighted to offer the 2011 releases from Burgundy great Chavy-Chouet. These organically grown wines manage to surpass even the estate's 2010s--and that's saying something.
Here's to well-made wines in general, to beautifully made Sangiovese in specific, to the winemakers who make them, and to the people who know how to enjoy them.