Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, two amazing grape varieties from Italy, have made a huge impact on Italian wines. Nebbiolo, famous for its connection to the misty vineyards of Piedmont, and Sangiovese, the star of sunny Tuscany, each brings their unique characteristics to winemaking.
In this article, we’ll dive into the differences between these two grapes, including how they’re grown and what flavors they bring, all to gain a deeper appreciation for the wonderful world of Italian wines.
Nebbiolo vs. Sangiovese
Terroir and Regions
The districts of Barolo and Barbaresco in the Piedmont region of Italy are renowned for growing Nebbiolo. Barolo, with diverse soil structures, produces structured and long-lived wines, while Barbaresco benefits from a milder climate and offers more elegant and approachable wines. Nebbiolo has also gained international popularity, with notable expressions in the United States, Australia, and Mexico.
Tuscany, known as the heartland of Sangiovese, offers ideal conditions for this grape to thrive. Sangiovese shines in renowned wine appellations like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, showcasing vibrant acidity, medium body, and captivating cherry flavors. Other Tuscan regions, like Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano, also produce noteworthy Sangiovese-based wines. Beyond Italy, Sangiovese has found homes in vineyards worldwide, including California, Oregon, Australia, and Argentina. With its adaptability and charm, Sangiovese offers wine lovers a diverse range of flavors to explore.
Nebbiolo, a black-grape variety, originates in the Piedmont region of Italy. This grape variety has large, elliptical berries with thick skins that are rich in tannins.
The Sangiovese grape, on the other hand, is the most widely planted red grape variety in all of Italy, originating in the Tuscany region. It bears smaller, round grapes with thin skins.
Key tasting notes
Tannins and Structure
The tannin structure in Nebbiolo wines is robust and can come off as astringent in younger wines, which tend to have a more aggressive tannic grip. As the wine ages, the tannins mellow, and the structure becomes more velvety and refined. Sangiovese, with its firm tannins and lighter color, offers a more rustic structure. The tannins are prominent but less aggressive than Nebbiolo, giving the wine a balanced and rounded feel.
Both Nebbiolo and Sangiovese have high acidity levels which make them excellent food wines. The sharp acidity in Nebbiolo is a defining characteristic, lending a vibrancy and freshness to its rich flavor profile. Sangiovese, with its medium-to-high acidity, offers a lively and bright profile, complementing its fruity to earthy flavors.
Nebbiolo is famous for its unique aromatic blend of “tar and roses”. The wine’s bouquet evolves with age, showcasing more complex aromas like truffles, cherries, and anise.
On the other hand, Sangiovese’s aroma can range from fruity to earthy, with more complex notes of tobacco and herbs unearthed as the wine matures. This wine’s scent is varied and can be influenced by the specific terroir and the winemaking techniques employed.
Both Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are excellent food wines, with their high acidity and tannin structure making them a great match for rich, hearty dishes. Nebbiolo pairs well with traditional Piedmontese dishes like risotto and pasta with meat sauces. It also complements game meats, grilled meats, and aged cheeses.
Sangiovese is a versatile pairing wine and can be enjoyed with a wide range of Italian cuisine, from pizza to pasta dishes, as well as roasted meats and aged cheeses. Its acidity also makes it a great match for tomato-based sauces.
Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are both used to produce a variety of wines, from light-bodied and approachable to bold and complex. Nebbiolo is the primary grape used in the production of Barolo and Barbaresco, two highly revered Italian wines known for their age-worthiness and complexity.
On the other hand, Sangiovese is the key grape in Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines. These wines are known for their bright fruit flavors and earthy notes, with some aged versions offering more complexity and depth.
Nebbiolo vs. Sangiovese: Which One to Choose?
Nebbiolo, with its robust structure and aging potential, is perfect for special occasions and those who appreciate the evolution of flavors over time. On the other hand, Sangiovese offers versatility and approachability, making it a great choice for everyday enjoyment. While they shine individually, blending these two varietals can result in unique and exciting wines that balance strength and vivacity while introducing a range of flavors and aromas.
What’s the best way to store Nebbiolo and Sangiovese wines?
Nebbiolo and Sangiovese wines are typically suitable for aging, so it’s essential to store them correctly to maintain their quality. It’s recommended to keep bottles in a cool, dark place with a consistent temperature of around 55°F (13°C). It’s also best to store the bottles horizontally to keep the cork moist. Once opened, it’s crucial to re-cork and refrigerate the wine for up to three days or use a vacuum seal to extend its shelf life.
- Clay Pot
55–60°F / 12-15°C
- GLASS TYPE
60–68°F / 15-20°C
- GLASS TYPE