SANGIOVESE – THE THIN-SKINNED REBEL BATTLING IT OUT ON LIMESTONE WITH CABERNET SAUVIGNON AND MERLOT

The Sangiovese grape is traditionally a thin-skinned type. So what could be done at an altitude of over 600m in the Borgo la Stella region?

The grape varieties planted follow the principles of the two winemakers Oscar Geyer and his son Christian-Oscar Geyer. From the outset their aim was strictly to preserve the wine-growing traditions of the Chianti Classico region whilst at the same leaving room for a controlled degree of innovation. Based on this approach, the Borgo la Stella vineyard favours cultivation of the Sangiovese grape variety. This ampelographic choice is systematically completed with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The area under cultivation currently covers around 4.5 hectares.

Retrospective view: it is well known that during the boom of the last twenty years, many winemakers chose not to rely solely on the labour-intensive Sangiovese grape. Sangiovese is traditionally a thin-skinned creature. It is a grape which has extraordinary sensitivity to the rather sudden changes in weather which are quite frequent in Tuscany. Sangiovese fears the rain in Spring and late autumn. Storms and hailstones can easily burst the sensitive, porous skin of the grape. Which means that the September weather seals the fate of the Sangiovese harvest.

Grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, by contrast, are more robust, internationally fashionable and easy to sell.

So what can be done at an altitude of over 600 m in the Borgo la Stella region? Can we, and do we wish to, take the risks associated with tricky weather conditions and add to these a sensitive, thin-skinned grape? What should be the role of Cabernet and Merlot? What sort of dual is in prospect?

To come to the point: Borgo la Stella relies on its incomparable limestone soil. This is where Sangiovese basically wins out and challenges Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to a show of strength. The winemakers in Borgo la Stella will not allow Chianti Classico to go under in a sea of soft and fruity Cabernets and Merlots. Actually, the job of these “foreign” grapes is to enrich our Sangiovese wines with new freedoms, whilst always emphasising the elegance of the Chianti character.