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SANGIOVESE

AN ITALIAN AFFAIR

SANGIOVESE

SUBZONES

Romagna Sangiovese sub-zones DOC.

Emilia and Romagna are viewed as one sole viticulture reality and, even worse, are considered, both by connoisseurs and trade, as synonymous. Quite to the contrary, the conjunctions inserted between the two nouns, rather than uniting, distinguishing them both from the cultural and viticulture point of view. And to distinguish them are, above all, the grape varieties, which see in Emilia a prevalence of Lambrusco (between Modena and Reggio Emilia), of Croatina and Barbera (in the province of Piacenza) and of red Bordeaux varieties (together with Pignoletto) in the small enclave of the Colli Bolognesi. Whereas, in Romagna, it is Sangiovese which historically has dominated the production of wine (followed by white wines from the Trebbiano and Albana grapes). Has historical tradition which was consolidated in 1967 with the official recognition accorded to the Sangiovese di Romagna appellation (DOC), the first to be conferred to the region. But for much time the appellation did not enjoy the notoriety and the prestige it merited because of the competition of neighboring Tuscany, where the grape is the protagonist of the most famous and enterprising viticultural areas, and because of the widely accepted cliché according to which Sangiovese di Romagna was the undistinguished product of high-yielding vineyards.
And yet, the factors which would enable the production of high quality Sangiovese in Romagna do indeed exist and have been both identified and become operative: a viticulture which, in large part, is located on the hillsides (which unlike other areas, have always remained faithful to the grape and have left only marginal space to other complementary varieties), excellent clones, and both climatic conditions and the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil. Quality which were long unrecognized and misunderstood because only a small group of producers managed to take maximum advantage of them in their wines. Over the past fifteen years, the significant contribution of excellent consultants and the appearance of an important number of new and committed producers has led to an ampler, more varied, and more dependable range of fine wines.
In this regard, the latest available estimates reveal a sector animated by approximately one hundred producer-bottlers, a total surface under vine of 7,000 hectares (17,500 acres) officially registered to the appellation, and 16,000,000 million bottles produced annually, conventionally divided into three different categories:

  • “Young” Sangiovese (“d’annata”, or the most recent vintages), fruity and easy-drinking, usually aged in tank and marked just a few moths after harvest and fermentation;
  • Sangiovese “Superiore”, interpreted at times as a wine to be drunk young or, alternatively, as a certain type of “selection” (which is generally aged for a few months in oak), endowed with a more intense fruit, a more tannic structure, and normally marketed after a suitable ageing in bottle (even in the appellation rules allow the wine to be released as early as April after the harvest;
  • “Riserva”, a powerful, deep wine, aged for at least two years in the cellar (calculated from December 1st after the harvest), aged in oak, and which, in finer vintages, can be appreciated for its ample panopy of flavors and for a pronounced ability to age.

A distinction of types, this, which we find in identical terms in the new production rules which went into effect with the 2011 vintage innovations in the regulations: a new name for the appellation (Romagna Sangiovese rather than Sangiovese di Romagna) and the recognition of twelve production sub-zones.

SANGIOVESE DISTRICTS

The production zone of Romagna Sangiovese extends over an area to the south of the Emilia (the old Roman road which runs from Rimini to Piacenza) and to the north of the Appennines which divide Romagna from Tuscany. The area touches, from north west to southwest, thirty different townships within the province of Ravenna (Brisighella, Casola Valsenio, Castel Bolognese, Faenza, Riolo Terme) and Forli-Cesena (Bertinoro, Borghi, Castrocaro Terme, Terra del Sole, Cesena, Civitella di Romagna, Dovadola, Forli, Forlimpopoli, Galeata, Longiano, Meldola, Mercato Saraceno, Modigliana, Montiano, Portico San Benedetto, Predappio, Ronco San Cascinao, Roncofreddo, Santa Sofia, Savignano sul Rubicone, Sogliano al Rubicone, Sorbano-Sarsina, Tredozio).

A hillside and foothill area which extends principally over wide valleys which enjoy fine ventilation and excellent sunlight and in which viticulture is concentrated at altitudes which are never excessively high, between, 100 and 300 meters (330-1000 feet) above sea level, and on soils which are prevalently sedimentary and rich in clay.

With the exception of a few vineyards trained to goblet, a pruning system reintroduced two decades ago in an attempt to recover a viticultural tradition which existed prior to the 1950’s, the training system used by a large majority of cultivators is a low cordon de Royat; Guyot is notably rarer, and the few vineyards planted with older concepts in mind (Geneva Double Curtain, arched canes, or a free cordon) are decidedly marginal.

From the climatic point of view, even though a high percentage of the vineyard surface of Romagna extends over an area not far from the Adriatic Sea, the region enjoys a climate of the continental type, with warm summers and cold, lengthy winters.  Average rainfall, generally limited in the initial hillside strip, increases as we pass into the more internal areas until it reaches some 90 centimeters in the vineyard sites nearest to the Appennine chain.

The Romagna Sangiovese district can be divided traditionally into three separate macro-areas or, more precisely, proceeding from west to east, into the Faetino (the area which gravitates around the city of Faenza), the Forlivese (a large territory centered on the city of Forli), and the Cesenate (Cesena town and its surroundings).

BRIEF NOTES TO THE SUB-ZONES

Romagna Sangiovese wines with an indicated sub-zone must observe production norms which are more restrictive and/or specific, in particular:

  • the minimum percentage of Sangiovese in the blend must be at least 95% as opposed to the 85% of Romagna Sangiovese without an indication of sub-zone;
  • the name of the sub-zone may, or may not, be followed by the term “Riserva”, with the sole exception of Bertinoro, where the term is the only one permitted by the regulations and hence is obligatory;
  • the maximum production levels for the grapes has been fixed at 9 tons per hectar (3.6 tons per acre), as opposed to the 10.5 tons of the Romagna Sangiovese Superiore without an indication of sub-zone and the 12 tons permitted for the “simple” Romagna Sangiovese. For Riserva wines, be they produced in an indicated sub-zone or not, the maximum yield has been fixed, instead, at 8 tons per hectar (3.2 tons per acre);
  • the marketing of Romagna Sangiovese with an indicated sub-zone is permitted only from September 1st of the year following the harvesting the grapes; Riserva wines may only be released from September 1st of the 3rd year after the harvest (and after an obligatory 6 months period of bottle aging).

(Romagna Sangiovese, Enogea - Alessandro Masnaghetti Editore)

SANGIOVESE GROSSO
- Thick skin rich in Bloom;
- Dark purple color (rich Polyphenols/Anthocyanins);
- Medium-low yields;
- Very coarse character;
- Likes hot day & cold night;
- Thrives in clay and limestone soil;
- Slow and late ripening;
- Tannic and crisp character completed by a good structure.

SANGIOVESE PICCOLO
- Medium thick skin;
- The berry give a must with less sugar, higher acidity;
- Very dark color (rich Polyphenols/Anthocyanins);
- Very productive –up to 5 kilos if not controlled;
- Thrives in clay and limestone soil;
- Tannic and crisp completed by a good structure;
- Slow and late ripening.