25/02/2010 - 00:00

Local take on an Italian icon

25/02/2010 - 00:00

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LAST month, my column focused on some of the old-world grape varieties starting to gain favour with Australian winemakers and consumers.

Local take on an Italian icon

LAST month, my column focused on some of the old-world grape varieties starting to gain favour with Australian winemakers and consumers. This time I would like to shine the spotlight on sangiovese (san-gee-o-vay-zee), an indigenous northern Italian grape variety that is terribly misunderstood and has an undeserved reputation for producing rough peasant reds.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sangiovese is the most widely planted variety in Tuscany and produces wine known as chianti.
Ahhhhh ... so now we see why sangiovese finds it hard to be taken seriously; 'Isn't chianti that horrible stuff that comes in squat raffia-wrapped bottles, plonked unceremoniously onto the table before I get my greasy carbonara at the local cheap eats Italian restaurant', I hear you ask.
Not any more.
It's still the same grape variety from the same region but all those stereotypical bottles of generic rough red have been replaced by serious wines using modern viticultural and winemaking techniques to produce some bloody interesting wines.
These new-style chiantis are medium bodied, dusty, earthy and very stylish.
I was lucky enough to host a dinner last week with Alberto Antonini from Poggiotondo - a smart little producer from the heart of Tuscany. He bought along a fleet of his wines, I supplied a selection of the best sangioveses from around Australia, there was rustic peasant fare, wine was drunk, food was enjoyed and a good time was had by all.
Most importantly, though, was his high opinion of some of our examples of wine using his native variety. The Australian wines are louder, more fleshy, more robust, and have riper fruit flavours but still with that tobacco-like tarry chianti attitude.
Alberto loved them. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't start experimenting with some of the techniques used to make these Aussie wines so bright and approachable.
Stand out wines of the night ...
2008 Chalk Hill Sangiovese (Maclaren Vale): Black and inky in the glass, overripe plums wafting up from the glass, a big whop of alcohol in the mouth gives the wine a generous warming feel. $25
2006 Coriole Sangiovese (Maclaren Vale): The most traditional and Italian in style of all the Aussie wines; lovely dried cherries and dark chocolate in the mouth with a finely structured tannin profile. Classy. $28.
2007 Stella Bella Sangiovese (Margaret River): My pick of the Aussie wines, this wine does the sweet and sour thing really well. Big, supple, red fruits initially backed up with a sour cherry, licorice feel. Its fruit length is a testament to the quality of the team at this excellent Margaret River producer. $30.
2007 Poggiotondo Chianti Classico Superiore (Chianti): Very stylish, the embodiment of Tuscan subtlety. It's very high in acid and the tannin grip is considerable at this young stage. The chorizo, olive and tomato flavours in the accompanying dish were big enough to complement this brooding brute of a wine. Will cellar very well. $35.
LAST month, my column focused on some of the old-world grape varieties starting to gain favour with Australian winemakers and consumers. This time I would like to shine the spotlight on sangiovese (san-gee-o-vay-zee), an indigenous northern Italian grape variety that is terribly misunderstood and has an undeserved reputation for producing rough peasant reds.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sangiovese is the most widely planted variety in Tuscany and produces wine known as chianti.

Ahhhhh … so now we see why sangiovese finds it hard to be taken seriously; ‘Isn’t chianti that horrible stuff that comes in squat raffia-wrapped bottles, plonked unceremoniously onto the table before I get my greasy carbonara at the local cheap eats Italian restaurant’, I hear you ask.

Not any more.

It’s still the same grape variety from the same region but all those stereotypical bottles of generic rough red have been replaced by serious wines using modern viticultural and winemaking techniques to produce some bloody interesting wines.

These new-style chiantis are medium bodied, dusty, earthy and very stylish.

I was lucky enough to host a dinner last week with Alberto Antonini from Poggiotondo – a smart little producer from the heart of Tuscany. He bought along a fleet of his wines, I supplied a selection of the best sangioveses from around Australia, there was rustic peasant fare, wine was drunk, food was enjoyed and a good time was had by all.

Most importantly, though, was his high opinion of some of our examples of wine using his native variety. The Australian wines are louder, more fleshy, more robust, and have riper fruit flavours but still with that tobacco-like tarry chianti attitude.

Alberto loved them. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t start experimenting with some of the techniques used to make these Aussie wines so bright and approachable.

Stand out wines of the night ...

2008 Chalk Hill Sangiovese (Maclaren Vale): Black and inky in the glass, overripe plums wafting up from the glass, a big whop of alcohol in the mouth gives the wine a generous warming feel. $25

2006 Coriole Sangiovese (Maclaren Vale): The most traditional and Italian in style of all the Aussie wines; lovely dried cherries and dark chocolate in the mouth with a finely structured tannin profile. Classy. $28.

2007 Stella Bella Sangiovese (Margaret River): My pick of the Aussie wines, this wine does the sweet and sour thing really well. Big, supple, red fruits initially backed up with a sour cherry, licorice feel. Its fruit length is a testament to the quality of the team at this excellent Margaret River producer. $30.

2007 Poggiotondo Chianti Classico Superiore (Chianti): Very stylish, the embodiment of Tuscan subtlety. It’s very high in acid and the tannin grip is considerable at this young stage. The chorizo, olive and tomato flavours in the accompanying dish were big enough to complement this brooding brute of a wine. Will cellar very well. $35.

 

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