In its different subtypes and clonal varieties it continues to prove its unquestionable virtues, also thanks to the diverse expressions of the ‘terroir’ where it’s cultivated.
Ampelographers claim that Sangiovese’s birthplace is in the Apennines between Tuscany and Romagna, to this day the two most important regions for this red grape. Reading a study published by farmers of the Federazione Nazionale dei Consorzi Provinciali in 1939, one learns that Sangiovese was widely planted in the Romagnan hills and that the quality was equal to the famous Tuscan wines.
In fact, visitors to the first trade fair for local wines, held in Siena from the 3rd to the 18th of August, 1933, especially appreciated the wines made from Sangiovese di Romagna. The same study shows to what degree Sangiovese can vary and adapt to its environment. For example, even just in the province of Forlì one can detect subtle differences between one zone and another, even when they’re neighbors (ex. Predappio, Bertinoro, Modigliana, Castrocaro, etc.).
The origins of Sangiovese are very difficult to identify; information about one of Italy’s best known and most widely cultivated grapes is very fragmentary and often unreliable. For solid information, one has to wait until the 16th century, when Soderini described it in his treatise The Cultivation of the Vine, saying “The Sangiovese (Sangiocheto or Sanioveto) grape variety is remarkable for its regular productivity”.
But it is claimed that the famous grape was already well-known more than 2000 years ago and the Etruscans used it to produce wine. Even the origins of the name are uncertain and there are numerous versions of the story. There are those who claim the name comes from San Giovanni, others who say it comes from a local dialect (from “San Giovannina”, a grape that ripens early, thanks to its early budding), and still others who swear it comes from “Sanguis Jovis”, the blood of Jove. Widely planted in Tuscany, where it takes on various names (Brunello in Montalcino, Prugnolo in Montepulciano, Morellino in the region of Grossetto, Sangioveto in Chianti), Sangiovese has found its second home in Romagna.
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:
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.
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).
Romagna Sangiovese wines with an indicated sub-zone must observe production norms which are more restrictive and/or specific, in particular:
(Romagna Sangiovese, Enogea - Alessandro Masnaghetti Editore)