Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sangiovese di America

A great group of wine lovers gathered at Elise's house to taste the wines of sunny Tuscany on a rainy Seattle afternoon. We started with an old fashioned fiasco of Chianti purchased at the state liquor store. We wanted to taste Sangiovese in it's raw primitive state. Sure enough, the wine was "stern, angular, medium bodied, very aggressive, dry and brisk, acidic, with thin scratchy dry tannins." Is it any wonder that even traditionally, Sangiovese has been blended with other grapes such Trebbiano and that more recently it has been blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to make "Supertuscans."

We wanted to see what American winemakers could do with Sangiovese. We tasted 1997 Columbia Winery Red Willow Vineyard Sangiovese made by Washington state Master of Wine, David Lake. California was represented by 1997 Long Vineyards Napa Sangiovese made by Zelma Long. These wines were head and shoulders above the straw covered Chianti. The Red Willow sangio was soft and elegant, whereas the Long Vineyards wine still had considerable tannin and was more rustic in style. It is not really clear whether these differences reflected "terroir" or winemaker style. Red Willow does produce outstanding Sangiovese grapes as witnessed by the Red Willow Sangiovese wine made by Mark Wysman at Yakima Cellars. To check the effect of age we opened a 2004 "Lucia" Sangiovese from Andrew Will which was bigger and more tannic, closer to the Long Sangio than to its Washington cousin from Red Willow. We tasted two California supertuscans - La Storia from Trentadue and Duo from Estancia. Unfortunately, a surprising number of the wines we tasted were spoiled in one way or another including secondary fermentations in the bottle, TCA, and other abnormalities. Is this more evidence of the " difficulty" of the Sangiovese grape? Perhaps! In any event, Washington state is making softer fruitier, cleaner sangiovese than Italy, but, perhaps it lacks the character of Tuscan sangiovese. We ended the tasting by comparing Nebbiolo di Klipsun from Wilridge with 1995 Revello Barolo. The Revello had been decanted four hours in advance. IMO, it was the best wine of the evening - balanced, medium bodied, fruity with moderate tannin. This wine would go well with the food to follow. Can raw unadulterated Sangiovese be improved upon? Definitely! But despite, Miles' Sideways anti- Merlot soliloquy (rant?) I'd rather be drinking Merlot than Sangiovese.


  • At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi, it is actuall Zelma Long (not Thelma).

  • At 11:24 AM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Hi, anon. You're right. Thanks for the corection! Gene

  • At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just found your blog and read with interest your notes on Sangiovese. I don't think you know what you are talking about. You use a liqour store purchased straw flask of Chianti as a reference point and then compare that to domestic Sangiovese. Were you too cheap to buy a real bottle of Tuscan Sangiovese and you really need to identify what Chianti you are drinking. It's people like you that should drink Merlot. You deserve it.

  • At 11:35 AM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Miles:), I'm glad you read this post with interest. You should note that I bought the fiasco to show sangiovese "in it's raw primitive state". I wasn't taking this as a basis for comparison or an example of a well made Chianti or Supertuscan of which I have many in my cellar. This fiasco was not intended as a basis for comparison between new world and old world. We were just exploring Sangiovese. Have you ever tasted Washington State Sangiovese? Try a Sangio from Red Willow Vineyard. They're very good, even though they don't have that exciting little zing that some Chianti's have.

    This is the angriest comment I've ever received. My first flame mail!:) You might want to think about what you are so angry about.


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