Wegmans Supermarkets will occasionally host different events that help to educate and empower their customers. Right now the Northborough, MA store is in the middle of trailing out wine classes for their customers. Whilst they’ve had two prior to this one, it was my first one I’ve been able to attend , and I’m excited to share with you my experiences.
As a disclaimer, I can honestly say that I’m not a wine drinker, and alcohol is not something I enjoy consuming. But the beauty of every opportunity in which Wegmans provides is a further education and a chance to enjoy/try something new. With my passion for food, pairing wines is very important, but also a general understanding is good to have for guests I may entertain later.
Wegmans invited two of their wine vendors, Rick and Francesco to give our class of ten an overview of the Sangiovese wines. Sangiovese apparently is the most planted and notable amongst the red grape varieties, which was completely new to me. They were wonderful with providing us details on Sangiovese itself, but also on a history of wines. Please bear with me as I took tons of notes, and I am relaying what they taught our group. If something is incorrect, please feel free to correct me.
Vineyards date back to 750BC, where they have been successfully planted and maintained throughout Italy since the Etruscans. Today we find more than 1,200 grape varieties, of which make upwards of 3,000 specific wines. Italy tops that list as they grow more grape varieties than any other country in the world due to their unique climates. For as small as their country is, there is a wide temperature difference from north to south, with a variety of microclimates interspersed.
Francesco was from Palermo and provided us with a unique insight into the culture of Italy. Food is central to their culture and most meals are extended past what we know as Americans, and enjoyed to the fullest. Because of this, wine is not drank unless it is with a meal. Wine is almost the sidekick but a vital part of a successful meal and tying everything together. Because of this, areas throughout Italy will generally keep wines local to them as they go best with their diets. Southern Italy is typically poorer and meat is not as readily available. Due to their light diets, a lighter wines is essential as to not throw off the balance of the meal. The same goes for the Northern regions of Italy where more meat is consumed and a heavier, more full bodied wine is needed for adequate harmony.
Grapes that grow at a higher climate actually ripen quicker as they essentially protect themselves from the elements, putting most of their resilience into the fruit as it’s their way to continue life. Because runoff trickles downwards, their roots have to be tough in order to gather what nutrients they can before they lose out as they settle in valleys and low areas. Grapes grown in low areas which are very rich in nutrients, grow large and don’t put their focus into the fruit. There is something to be said for those grapes grown at higher altitudes which provide a higher level of intensity and elegance.
The Sangiovese grape is grown throughout most of central Italy. Tuscany is actually the home of Sangiovese and is the oldest winemaking region, even though it is most known for Chianti. Typically in terms of other red wines, it is normally more acidic and provides a great pairing with the foods of Italy, specifically tomato sauces. When a Sangiovese wine is drank, it will usually leave a mouth watering sensation.
Now we move onto the five wines we tried!
We started out our tasting with a Sangiovese Terre degli Osci IGT 2010. It is made from 100% Sangiovese found in Molise. The body of the wine was much lighter than expected, but reflects the diet found in Molise which is typically vegetarian. This wine is aged in stainless steel and large oak barrels for six months which helps to achieve great smoothness and softness to the wine which exhibits the noted fruity flavors of Sangiovese. Fresh aromas of woodland berries, violets, tea leaves and sweet spices are what is reminiscent with this wine. It pairs very well with brick oven pizzas, chorizo and hard cheeses. Personally I found this wine to be much more pleasant with a bite of food, specifically stuffed peppadews. We were told that this wine is certified organic by Italian standards. Some smaller vineyards will not go through the extra certifications to become organic in the US, but it is something worth noting.
Our next wine was my favorite of the bunch. It was a Sangiovese Umbria IGT. Made from 100% Sangiovese grown in vineyards near the historic communes of Montecchio and Orvieto (Umbria). Umbria itself is very similar to Tuscany in it’s landscape with picturesque lakes, rolling hills and sedimentary soils. They are famous for their truffles and lentils. This rich area then results in a wine which is very accessible, well rounded and good with a heavier meal. This wine for me was not harsh, but full of flavor with very expressive aromas of cherries and plums with spicy notes on the finish.
The next Sangiovese we tried was also from Umbria. Sangiovese Umbria IGP 2010 was fermented in stainless steel barrels and matured in Allier and Never barrels for two months to achieve additional smoothness and richness. The soil composition which is mainly limestone, definitely imparts a very different flavor to the wine. It was a beautiful ruby red color with flavors of blackberries and strawberries with a savory side hinting at coffee, tobacco and spiciness. For my palate, I found this wine to be pretty acidic, but it was a wine in which for me paired better with food and seemed to serve as a good general wine for most palates. Recommended food pairings are barbecues, pastas, pizza and sausages.
The next wine on the slate was a Rosso Umbria IGP. It was an interesting blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes. In a sense one set of grapes balances out the others to provide a very deep ruby red color with concentrated notes of black cherry jam, licorice and tobacco leaf. This blend is very harmonious, soft and fruit friendly with the spiciness coming through at the end. It pairs well with a variety of foods with tomato sauce bases and hard cheeses, specifically great with saltier foods.
Chianti Classico DOCG was the last tasting of the evening with a lot to offer a person both with rich intensity and a great story. For owner Marco Bacci of the Castllo di Bossi portfolio of wines, they balance tradition and rich history of the region with state of the art winemaking techniques. The small regional, Chianti Classico is made from 100% Sangiovese grown in soils high in chalk content and is aged twelve months which imparts a full structured character into the wine. The wine is a light ruby red color with aromas of fruit, toasted wood and violets. It provides the palate with a rustic edge with a powerful and savory finish. The best food pairings would be with bean stews, heavier meats or a great pappardelle with wild boar.
It was a lovely class filled with hungry knowledge seeking individuals and an enjoyable evening! If you have a favorite Sangiovese wine, please feel free to share your story!