Pizza party? Open some sangiovese

No matter the season, it’s always a great time for pizza or pasta with some sort of red sauce. Which means it’s also time to break out the sangiovese-based wines.

Italy’s Tuscany region is the best-known source for wines based on sangiovese – think Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Sangiovese-based wines typically display flavors like red cherry, tea and tobacco leaf, with ample acidity and fairly high levels of tannin. (That acidity explains sangiovese’s affinity for tomato sauces. And yes, I know, pizza isn’t traditionally Tuscan.)

More modern styles of sangiovese tend to be richer, riper and fleshier. The three recommended wines that follow have a touch of modernity but are faithful to their dominant grape variety.

For example, there’s the 2018 Tolaini “Vallenuova” Chianti Classico ($30), which is structured and fresh, with red cherry and tea leaf flavors and a drying finish. Chianti Classico must be at least 80 percent sangiovese, and the remaining 20 percent can include “international” varieties like cabernet sauvignon and merlot, which plump up the wines. But this bottling is 100 percent sangiovese.

The 2017 Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva ($30) is a little more modern, with 10 percent cabernet sauvignon in the blend and some time in small French oak barrels. But the sangiovese shows in the wine’s rich red fruit and note of tea. The riserva is more expensive than the estate’s Chianti Classico, but I think the balance here is better. The estate was acquired by Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, in 1994 and is now part of Jackson Family Wines.

The 2017 Poggio Trevvalle “Pontolungo” Montecucco Rosso ($19) is from a lesser-known appellation in southern Tuscany, not far from Morellino di Scansano. The wine, which is about two-thirds sangiovese, offers ripe yet bright red cherry, with notes of anise and tar, medium weight and drying tannins.

When cooler temperatures roll around, try these wines with beef braised in red wine.

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