About a month ago I had the pleasure of meeting enologist/winemaker Carlo Ferrini. His tireless work throughout Tuscany has given him a unique experience working with Tuscany’s most important grape variety, Sangiovese. Sangiovese provides the backbone for many of Tuscany’s most prized wines, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and many other classified wine areas.
A difficult concept to understand is how the same grape can make different wines from different areas. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa Valley can be considerably different from Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced further north in Mendocino County. Although the wines may appear different, a question I have always asked myself is, ‘Do the grapes actually change in appearance due to the different climates and soil conditions? Does a Cabernet grape in Napa look different than a Cabernet grape in Mendocino?’ The following is the dialogue I shared with Carlo regarding this concept…
DA: How was the 2009 vintage in Montalcino?
CF: It has been a great year so far. The temperatures were somewhat low in August and September, which is good for Sangiovese. If the weather is too hot, Sangiovese stops growing.
DA: You have worked in many different areas of Tuscany, including Chianti, Montalcino, and the Maremma. Does Sangiovese appear differently on the vine in different areas?
CF: It is hard to detect appearance changes in Sangiovese, whether in Montalcino or Chianti. However, what’s more important are the people involved. This pasta for instance (referring to the carbonara pasta he just took down) was excellent. But if you take the chef out of the equation, it changes. It may look the same, but the quality and flavor will be different if a different hand was involved in crafting it.
So there you have it. The same grape, in this case, Sangiovese, appears the same throughout Tuscany. What’s more important to consider, is not what the weather may do to change the grape, but what the winemaker may do to change the end product.