Sangiovese vs Chianti

Decoding Sangiovese vs. Chianti: What Makes Them Similar?

Are you interested in learning the differences between Sangiovese vs. Chianti?

Here’s the scoop: Sangiovese is like the star grape, known for its vibrant cherry flavors. Chianti, on the other hand, is the wine made from a mix of grapes, including Sangiovese, capturing the essence of Tuscany’s winemaking tradition.

In this article, I break down their unique roles in the wine scene, focusing on:

Key Takeaways

  • Sangiovese is the main grape in Chianti, while other versions, like Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, use a different kind called Sangiovese Grosso, which gives them a unique taste.
  • Chianti wines offer more diverse flavors like violet, black cherry, and herbs than regular Sangiovese wines. Some Chianti types, like Classico and Riserva, are perfect for hearty Italian meals.
  • Chianti often needs more time to age than Sangiovese wines. Some kinds can even sit for 5-10 years! There are rules about how long they have to age, like Chianti Classico, which needs at least 11 months.
  • Other great Sangiovese-based wines to explore are Chianti Superiore and Super Tuscans. These wines mix things up by adding grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, creating a new flavor experience.

Sangiovese – the Foundation of Chianti

Sangiovese Toscana IGT wine
100% Sangiovese wine from Tuscany

When we talk about Italian wines, Sangiovese is like the beating heart of the industry.

It’s the primary grape used in Chianti wines, which are famous and prestigious. But here’s the thing: Sangiovese is a type of red grape, while Chianti refers to the blend of wine that mainly contains Sangiovese.

So, if you pick up a bottle labeled as Sangiovese or Chianti, you’re probably getting a red wine with flavors of red fruits and a hint of herbs. Knowing the difference between Chianti (a place) and Sangiovese (a grape) can help you better understand and enjoy these Italian wine types.

Sangiovese Grape Origins and Characteristics

Sangiovese, a grape possibly dating back to the ancient Etruscans, has a fascinating history in Italian winemaking.

Its name, ‘Sangiovese,’ has mysterious origins, perhaps linked to the town of San Giovanni Valdarno or the Latin phrase ‘Sanguis Jovis,’ meaning ‘blood of Jove.’

Research suggests that Sangiovese blends the Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo grapes.

Wines made from Sangiovese are known for their high acidity and medium body, offering flavors like red cherry, black cherry, blackberry, plum, and herbal tones similar to those of cabernet franc.

Sangiovese’s tangy acidity and savory notes complement dishes with rich tomato flavors exceptionally well.

Sangiovese the Foundation of Chianti
Sangiovese: The Heartbeat of Chianti, Infusing Every Bottle with Italian Passion

Sangiovese Wine Styles

Sangiovese grapes are versatile, allowing winemakers to create red wines and rosé varieties.

Sangiovese rosé wines pair well with various foods, highlighting bright red fruit flavors and offering a succulent, savory undertone.

Whether you prefer a glass of red or rosé, Sangiovese provides a diverse and delightful wine experience. Simply put, there’s a Sangiovese wine style to suit every occasion.

Chianti: A Blend with Sangiovese at Its Core

Chianti Superiore Pogglio Al Casone
Chianti Superiore Pogglio Al Casone – pairs well with meats and cheeses.

Chianti is a name cherished by wine enthusiasts worldwide. This famous Italian wine, originating from the Chianti region of Italy, is primarily crafted from Sangiovese grapes.

Since the 12th century, the Chianti region has been esteemed for its winemaking, with influential families like Ricasoli and Antinori contributing to the reputation of Chianti wines.

The blend we enjoy as Chianti wine today was established in the 19th century by Baron Bettino Ricasoli. This blend centers around most Sangiovese grapes, highlighting the grape’s pivotal role in defining Chianti.

The standard composition of Chianti wine requires at least 70% Sangiovese grapes.

Chianti Wine Regions and Classifications

Chianti isn’t just a wine; it’s a whole region in Italy famous for producing top-notch red wines. Among its areas, Chianti Classico is the most prestigious, known for its rich history and strict production standards.

To earn the coveted title of Chianti Classico DOCG, a wine must meet specific rules:

  • It must be made mainly from Sangiovese grapes (at least 80%).
  • It must go through specific aging processes.
  • It must reach a minimum alcohol level.
  • It must showcase distinct flavors and scents, like wild berries and flowers.

Inside the Chianti Classico group are different levels, such as Chianti Classico Riserva, aged for a minimum of 24 months.

Gran Selezione takes it even further, using grapes grown on the estate and aged for 30 months. These wines boast exceptional complexity and are certified for their quality.

Blending Grapes in Chianti Wines

Blending Grapes for Chianti Wines
Crafting the perfect Chianti: where the art of blending grapes meets centuries-old tradition

While Chianti wines are required to have a minimum of 70% Sangiovese grapes, they often include other grape varieties to enhance complexity and flavor.

Some Chianti wines are made entirely from Sangiovese, known as ‘Chianti Sangiovese’ or ‘100% Sangiovese.’

Besides Sangiovese, Chianti blends may feature grapes like Canaiolo, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, Merlot, and occasionally Cabernet Sauvignon.

These additional grapes add complexity and flavor, making each glass a unique journey through Italian winemaking traditions.

Comparing Sangiovese and Chianti Wines

Sangiovese and Chianti wines have a special bond, as Chianti is mainly crafted from Sangiovese grapes. However, they do have some differences in structure and alcohol content.

Sangiovese wines usually have alcohol levels between 12-14% ABV, while Chianti ranges from 12-14.5% ABV.

Both Sangiovese and Chianti boast earthy and savory flavors. However, Chianti adds extra complexity with hints of violet, black cherry, and herbs, thanks to its mix with other grape varieties.

Both wines have impressive potential for aging, but Chianti often needs more time. Some Chiantis can age for 5-10 years or even longer. The Sangiovese grape guides the aging process, with rules stating that Chianti Classico must age for at least 11 months, and Chianti Riserva requires a minimum of two years.

Pairings Sangiovese and Chianti With Food

Italian dishes paired with sangiovese and chianti wines
Elevate your dining experience with a perfect pairing: Chianti and a hearty Italian feast

Italian wine and food are a match made in heaven. Sangiovese pairs well with various Italian staples such as pizza and pasta dishes, especially those focusing on tomato-based sauces.

Similarly, both Sangiovese and Chianti complement traditional Italian cuisine, including grilled red meats, complex veal or lamb dishes, and more decadent pasta sauces.

Due to their high acidity, both Sangiovese and Chianti wines can pair with spicy foods, helping to cut through the heat. However, sweeter or fruitier variants are recommended for particularly hot dishes.

Chianti, with its variants like Classico and Riserva, is well-suited to dishes with olive oil and richly flavored meats, embracing the depth and structure of these wines.

If you are looking for some quick pairings, here are my recommendations, along with additional notes for each wine:

WineFood PairingsAdditional Notes
Sangiovese– Margherita pizza– Perfect with tomato-based sauces
– Spaghetti marinara– High acidity cuts through spicy foods
– Eggplant Parmesan– Sweeter variants recommended for hotter dishes
– Caprese salad
Sangiovese pairings
Wine– Bruschetta with tomato and basilAdditional Notes
Chianti– Grilled steak– Ideal for grilled meats and hearty pasta dishes
– Mushroom risotto– Complements richly flavored meats and olive oil
– Pasta Bolognese– Variants like Classico and Riserva offer depth
– Roasted lamb
Chianti pairings
Wine– Osso BucoAdditional Notes
Chianti Classico– Beef Carpaccio– Enhances the flavors of truffles and pecorino cheese
– Porcini mushroom risotto– Aged versions pair well with complex dishes
– Grilled sausages with fennel– Classic Italian dishes like Carpaccio and risotto
– Truffle pasta
Chianti Classico pairings

Exploring Beyond Sangiovese and Chianti

Brunello di Montalcino Predella
Brunello di Montalcino Predella from our wine cellar

The tale of Sangiovese and Chianti goes beyond the famous Chianti region.

Other remarkable Italian wines, like Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, also star Sangiovese grapes.

Here’s the twist: while Chianti usually uses Sangiovese Piccolo, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano prefer Sangiovese Grosso, creating a clear grape variety distinction.

Brunello di Montalcino is all about Sangiovese Grosso, offering a bolder and richer taste than Chianti.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano needs at least 70% Sangiovese in its mix, resulting in a robust and unique flavor.

Chianti Superiore is another top-notch Sangiovese-based wine, providing a high-quality twist on the traditional Chianti.

And then there are Super Tuscans, mixing Sangiovese with international grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, expanding the Sangiovese wine world even further.


So, what’s the final say on Sangiovese versus Chianti?

Well, both are big players in Italian wine, each offering its unique taste experience. Like the star ingredient, Sangiovese is found in Chianti and other famous wines like Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Chianti symbolizes tradition and quality, blending Sangiovese with other grapes for an exceptional taste. Whether you go for the classic Chianti or try other Sangiovese-based wines, you’re in for a delicious journey through Italy’s wine country.

You Ask, We Answer:

What is Sangiovese, and what does it taste like?

Sangiovese is a red grape variety primarily grown in Italy, known for its bright cherry flavors and high acidity. It’s the primary grape used in Chianti and other famous Italian wines.

What sets Chianti apart from other wines, and why is Sangiovese important?

Chianti is a renowned Italian wine known for its versatility and ability to complement various dishes. It’s made primarily from Sangiovese grapes, which lend it its signature flavor profile and structure.

Are there different types of Chianti, and how do they differ?

There are various types of Chianti, including Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, and Chianti Superiore, each with its own aging requirements and flavor characteristics. For example, Chianti Riserva is aged longer than other types, producing richer and more complex wine.

What food pairs well with Sangiovese vs. Chianti wines?

Sangiovese and Chianti wines pair well with various Italian foods, such as pasta with tomato-based sauces, grilled meats, and aged cheeses. Their high acidity suits them for dishes with rich or savory flavors.

What is Chianti Classico?

Chianti Classico is the most prestigious zone in the Chianti region, known for its strict production standards and historical significance.


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