Sangiovese by another name…like Morellino or Prugnolo Gentile. (#ItalianFWT)

Panoramic view from Montepulciano-Italy

Sangiovese by another name…like Morellino or Prugnolo Gentile. (#ItalianFWT)

We find ourselves in strange unprecedented times.  I find it hard to focus on wine when there are so many more important things to focus on right now. My country is going through change, a change that is long overdue.

In addition we are still living with a worldwide pandemic and Italy was deeply affected by COVD-19. I want to show my support for the vineyards, wineries and people in general who were so affected by this virus and are continuing their recovery.

Amid standing for what we know to be right, there also must be self-care to keep us strong to continue.  I join with the Italian Food Wine and Travel Group today in posting this piece. This is a community and communities are much needed now. 

We paired these wines with comfort food. Perhaps you will find comfort in these dishes to gather at table and replenish yourselves to continue to fight for change.

The many names of Sangiovese

Sangiovese Grapes for Tuscan Wine
Sangiovese Grapes for Tuscan Wine (photo by Stefano ShardsOfLife, Adobe Stock)

Sangiovese. It is a grape most closely associated with the wines of Chianti.  You find it grown throughout Tuscany as well as in the regions of Umbria, Marche and Lazio.  At over 70,000 hectares (170,000+ acres) Sangiovese is the most planted grape variety in Italy.  It is beloved and grown worldwide, but its home is Tuscany.

The Apennine Mountains running down Italy’s spine create many small isolated regions.  As a result, the same grape may have a different name depending on the area.  It is known as Brunello in Montalcino, as Prugnolo Gentile in Montepulciano, as Morellino in Maremma and as Nielluccio in Corsica. 

Prugnolo Gentile in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Located South East of Florence the village of Montepulciano has been known for winemaking since the Etruscans.  Wine here was a favorite of Pope Paul III who called it the “King of Wines”. 

Rules of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG

  • Minimum 70% Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese). The remainder may be Canaiolo, Mammolo, Trebbiano or perhaps an International variety like Merlot or Syrah.  White grapes are allowed but cannot be more than 5% of the blend.
  • Maximum yield per hectare of 8000 kg.
  • Matured for 2 years, (3 for Riserva).
  • Subject to consistency tests by the commission
  • Vinified and matured within the Municipality of Montepulciano
  • Panoramic view from Montepulciano-Italy
  • Panoramic view of the medieval village of Montepulciano Tuscany Italy
  • Beautiful alley in Tuscany Oldtown Montepulciano Italy

This was one of the first 4 DOGCs put into place in 1980.  It is interesting to note that there was a recent push to refer to these wines as Vino Nobile, dropping the di Montepulciano.  There is a grape named Montepulciano which is grown in Abruzzo (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo) with which it could be confused.  I remember sitting amidst a heated conversation in a session at an Italian wine event where they “discussed” this.  It seems for the most part that it is referred to as Vino Nobile, these days.

Morellino in Morellino di Scansano

This DOCG is in the Tuscan province of Grosseto and within the region of Maremma.  Sitting close to the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, this region south west of Florence is protected from the north winds and open to sea breezes.

Rules of the Morellino di Scansano DOCG

  • Minimum 85% Morellino (Sangiovese). The remainder may be other authorized red grapes in Tuscany including: Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Malvasia, Colorino, Alicante as well as International Varieties Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah and other red grape varieties.
  • Maximum yield per hectare of 9000 kg.
  • Riserva must be aged for a minimum of 2 years.
  • Vinified & bottled within the production area of the grapes (Exceptions for wineries that historically bottled these wines outside the area before the DOCG recognition.)
  • View of tuscan fields and hills in Maremma region
  • Talamone rock beach and medieval fortress at sunset. Maremma Argentario Tuscany Italy
  • Maremma (Tuscany), landscape at summer

On to the wines

Figli d’Italia Leone d’Oro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2013

Figli d'Italia Leone d'Oro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  Sangiovese based wine from Tuscany

Figli d’Italia is the Order of the Sons of Italy, a fraternal organization for Italian Americans, founded in 1905.  The lion on the label is the “Leone d’Oro” the Golden Lion, the organization’s symbol. They partnered with Votto Vines and Vecchia Cantino to produce this wine. I was unable to find the details on this particular vintage, but previous vintages have been 90/10, Sangiovese and Canaiolo.

On the nose I got sweet tobacco, eucalyptus, white and black pepper, black cherry, leather, clove, prune, and a little five-spice.  It was dry with medium tannins, body and alcohol.  The acidity seemed medium, but as we enjoyed this with food, we realized that it had bigger acids to go with the food, they just came across very smoothly.  On the palate I got red and black cherry and spice. 

This wine had a complex nose, with a lighter mouthfeel.  The acid was cleansing rather than tart.  Tannins went from suede to velour, coating and numbing the gums then gently dissolving.  As it opened, we got more earth and leather notes. This wine sits at 12.5% abv and ran me $21.99

Terre di Talamo Morellino di Scansano Tempo Riserva 2015

Terre di Talamo Morellino di Scansano  Tempo Riserva 2015 a Sangiovese based wine from Tuscany

Produced by Bacci Wines this wine is unfiltered and made from Sangiovese, known here as Morellino.  The soils in the vineyard, are rock and brown clay.

The vineyard is in the far southwest of the region and has spectacular views of the coast, from the Argentario promontory to the port of Talamone. Go to the site, I’ve included the link below. The photos are spectacular.

This wine has a nose of sweet clove, walnut, black plum, rhubarb, coffee, berries, black cherry, with notes of iris and chocolate or cocoa.  Again, medium across the board as far as tannins, body and acidity.  It has a lovely long finish.

This was decidedly brighter than the Vino Nobile, perhaps because of its youth (it is 2 years younger), perhaps because of its proximity to the sea or maybe there was a little less time in oak (it only requires 2 years).  It was fresh and beautiful with surprising depth. 14% abv and $18.99

Pairings with regional cuisine

I went looking for Tuscan fare to pair with these wines.  After much searching, I settled on a cheese platter, Panzanella and a Tuscan Ragu with pasta.

Sangiovese based wines from Tuscany with a cheese plate

The cheese plate was filled with all sorts of things to compliment and contrast with the wines: Asiago cheese, soppressata salami, pecorino romano cheese, prosciutto, apple, orange slices, cherries, dried cranberries, walnuts, blueberries, chocolate and basil.  Hard cheeses are great with this wine and the Asiago was wonderful in the way that it brought out the floral notes. 

Panzanella

Panzanella

This traditional salad is typically made with stale bread. Mine was fresh, but I crisped it up in a pan with olive oil. We added sliced grape tomatoes, seeded cucumber slices, thinly sliced shallot, red and yellow peppers and basil and tossed the lot with a vinaigrette. Make sure to let it sit at least 30 minutes to integrate all the flavors.

Tuscan Ragu

Pasta with Tuscan Ragu

I had to vary my recipe, which called for dried porcini mushrooms, which I could not find.  This was a simple soffritto (which is Italian mirepoix, just onion, carrot and celery, sautéed in olive oil) with prosciutto, ground pork, ground beef, tomato paste and sauce, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  This recipe suggested some options for added umami including tamari or soy, Worcestershire and fish sauce.  I had soy and Worcestershire sauces.  At the end we added grated lemon zest to brighten it, tossed it with penne and topped with some of the pecorino romano.

The pairing

Both wines were lovely with perfect acid to pair with the foods.  The Vino Nobile was a bit richer and seemed heavier, perhaps a bit more serious.  While we enjoyed both, we both seemed to reach more often to refill our glasses from the Morellino di Scansano.  It seemed fresh and lively with just the right complexity for our mood.

#ItalianFWT

The Italian Food Wine and Travel Group will gather on Twitter on Saturday June 6th to discuss Sangiovese from around Italy.  You can join in the conversation by following the hashtag #ItalianFWT on Saturday morning 8 am PST.  Below you can find out more about other Sangioveses from around Italy that this group of writers have written about.  I can’t wait to read them and find my next bottle to search out.

Sources and Resources

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Robin Renken CSW (photo credit RuBen Permel)

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

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Robin Renken
[email protected]
8 Comments
  • wendyklik
    Posted at 00:43h, 06 June Reply

    Both wines sound lovely. I was surprised to see that you enjoyed the younger wine. Can’t wait to try both of them.

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 00:40h, 11 June

      I was surprised by that too! I think we were really in the mood for something fresh. It was really delicious.

  • Nicole Ruiz Hudson
    Posted at 21:43h, 08 June Reply

    I’m with you — I am finding it very hard to concentrate these days as well! But the breaks are important to sanity. Great intro to various styles of Sangio and your pairings were making me hungry. The panzanella in partuclar looked amazing!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 22:11h, 08 June

      Thank you!
      Balance in all things I suppose. Caring for ourselves so that we can sustain our energy. Pacing is important.
      Next time I will remember to add the mozzarella to the panzanella ! LOL. In the meantime I have the makings of a caprese.

  • Vino Travels
    Posted at 21:07h, 13 June Reply

    That panzanella looks tasty! Love the pictures of the fruits, etc around the bottles of wine. Unique! Thanks for joining out group.

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 20:39h, 14 June

      It is a pleasure to join you. Thank you for the compliment on the photos. I have been looking for ways to communicate the wines flavor profiles. I look forward to joining you again for Super Tuscans later this month!

  • Kat
    Posted at 18:29h, 17 June Reply

    I love that you included pics of the regions. Really gives you a sense of place. And I definitely hear you about it being hard to focus on wine. For me, I’ve used it as an escape.

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 21:38h, 17 June

      It’s nice to know I’m not alone Kat. I’m glad you liked the pictures. I am a maps and photos kind of girl. I need to see the region and get a feel for it. I always feel that wines taste better if you know their story and seeing the place, even just in photos, is so much of that.

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