There’s another side to Sangiovese wines.

Sangiovese: Look Beyond Tuscany to the Hills of Romagna

 


Sangiovese is touted as the most widely planted grape variety in Italy. It is most frequently associated with Tuscany; being the catalyst for Brunello, Chianti, and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano. However, Sangiovese is as much at home in Romagna as it is in Tuscany. In fact, according to the Consorzio Vini di Romagna, pre-historic evidence suggests Sangiovese seems to be part of the vitis silvestris family, a native of Romagna with traces dating back to the Paleolithic era. Furthermore, Romagna obtained DOC status for its Sangiovese back in 1967. So why does Romagna Sangiovese still lie in Tuscany’s shadow?
Although the region of Emilia-Romagna is administratively linked by a conjunction, the two regions are quite distinct culturally as well as viticulturally. Romagna comprises the south-eastern portion of Emilia-Romagna, bordered by Tuscany it extends from the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic coast. One reason Romagna may not be at the forefront of the wine lovers palate is due to the region’s historic production of bulk wine. According to the Consorzio Vini di Romagna, in the late 1990’s, the region’s vineyards were almost entirely replanted to maintain a higher plant density per hectare compared to the past with Sangiovese clones that had proven to yield better results. The result has been high quality grapes. Furthermore, the Consorzio has invested in studies of the region’s twelve hillside sub-zones to better understand the soils, irrigation, topography, and climate, resulting in wines that continue to improve with every vintage.

Cristina Geminiani, owner and winemaker of Frattoria Zebrina explains how Sangiovese in Romagna develops different qualities than Sangiovese in Tuscany because “the clones of Romagna Sangiovese are more fruit oriented with smoother and more open tannins compared to the Tuscan [clones]. Grown mostly in clay soils, the [grapes] are generally more generous than in Tuscany, and the hills in Romagna are very close to the sea and they are less steep, milder;  [resulting in] the fruits usually ripening earlier. [Additionally,] the type of berries are mostly larger: in the winemaking we do shorter skin contacts in order to get wines of more approachable style. In general, we can say that the first aspect that people should appreciate is the friendly character of the wines that shows strictly what is Romagna Sangiovese. The wines reflect the character of the joyful and friendly people of this region!”

Andrea Bonivento, of Podere La Berta, shared a similar sentiment. At a press dinner he explained Romagna Sangiovese is designed to be enjoyed in its youth with great friends, family, and food. He expressed it is a wine meant to contribute to the joy and passion of the occasion but not steal the show; adding enjoyment and depth to the experience without drawing attention away from being in relationship with loved ones and great food.

Vintage improvement was evident at Vini Ad Arte 2017, the preview of the new Romagna Sangiovese vintages. There were many enjoyable wines poured over the course of three days, making it difficult to sort through them all for recommendations. However, seven producers stood out among the group of over 150 wines. As Romagna Sangiovese continues to move into the US market, here are some wines to look for:

The 2015 and 2016 Villa Papiano “Le Papessse di Papiano” Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOCs were light and elegant, notes of red fruits and violets captured the nose and palate with medicinal notes added to the 2016. I preferred the newer vintages to the 2013 Riserva, which was more tannic, but great with food.

Tre Monti was a favorite across the board. The 2016 Campo di Mezzo Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC was an elegant wine offering red berry notes with pleasing earthiness of damp underbrush and mushrooms. The 2014 Thea Superiore Riserva was smooth on the palate with notes of dried roses and herbs along with a slight medicinal note. Finally the 2013 Petrignone Riserva was well-structured with nice length and body and a pleasing spicy finish.

Frattoria Zerbina, one of the leading producers of the region, shined as expected; the 2015 Ceregio Romagna Sangiovese DOC Superiore was an elegant expression of the Romagna terroir. The 2013 Pietramora Romagna Sangiovese DOC Marzeno Riserva overall was one of the best wines of the tasting; elegant and sophisticated, a perfect balance between earthiness and fruit with a well-structured body.

La Pandolfa Noelia Ricci in the Predappio sub-region offered some of the most interesting wines. Both the 2015 Il Sangiovese and Godenza Romagna Sangiovese DOC Superiore offered faint Sulphur aromas from their sub-region along with round notes of ripe berries, dried floral and herbal notes, and medicinal notes; they were unique in their expressions yet both elegant and round on the palate. Both wines represent a modern interpretation in their style.

Podere La Berta’s 2012 and 2013 vintages of Olmatello Romagna Sangiovese DOC Riserva were exceptional. Owned by Tuscany’s Felsina, the wines of Podere La Berta shined with their rustic notes of red berries and spice balanced with dried roses, herbs, and damp tobacco; wines meant to bring a smile to the face and palate succeed on every level.

Conde is another modern representation easily agreeable for the wine lover’s palate. The 2015 Romagna Sangiovese DOC Superiore is juicy on the palate but still possesses the dried floral and herbal notes, though the tannins were pronounced they were silky and well-integrated. The 2013 Cru Raggio Brusa Romagna Sangiovese DOC Predappio Riserva delivered the same flavor profile but with well integrated tannins that were rich and round on the palate.

Finally, Frattoria Nicolucci offered two wines that were a nice balance between traditional style and modern style. Both the 2015 Tre Rocche Romagna Sangiovese DOC Superiore and the 2013 Vigna del Generale Riserva felt young and vibrant. Tre Rocche had dried roses while Vigna del Gernerale brought forth candied violets; however, both wines were herbal with ripe juicy berries, and a nice balance of damp underbrush; two lovely expressions of Romagna Sangiovese.

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