Just as most people recognize pinot grigio, chances are good that if you ask someone to name an Italian red grape varietal it will be sangiovese. Or perhaps chianti, which was certainly popular back in the day, when many a mom-and-pop Italian eatery sported a straw-covered bottle of chianti atop its red and white checkered tablecloths. Some places even had candles burning inside the empty bottles. A good size plate of spaghetti and meatballs or a pizza would often be accompanied by a glass or three of the rollicking red wine.
Actually, chianti and sangiovese are almost synonymous, since sangiovese is the main component of the chianti blend. Translated as "blood of Jove" (Jupiter), this grape was employed in the United States almost exclusively in Chianti until the rise of the so-called Super Tuscans in the late '80s. Called the pride of Tuscany, it has also thrived in California (after a few false starts) as well as the hotter weather of our own Texas High Plains and Hill Country. Sangiovese has long been used to pair with tomato-based dishes, making it a natural accompaniment to hearty Southern Italian Cuisine.
In Grapevine, Cross Timbers Winery offers a Sangiovese made from High Plains grapes which my wining companion and I sampled during a tasting there. The color is a lighter shade of red than is typical of most Sangioveses, and the nose contains strawberries along with the typical black cherry and currants, plus lots of light plum flavors and berries, particularly strawberries, and a touch of spice on the finish. Cross Timbers Sangiovese promises to be very food-friendly, not just with typical pasta-and-pizza dishes, but also with roast chicken and hearty salads. However, if you feel like dragging the old Chianti-bottle candles and red tablecloths out of the attic, you can also pair with pizza and lasagna, as this is a very playful wine.
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