Last week I read that the Italian Sangiovese grape is to be cultivated in Herault in the Languedoc due to its drought resistant qualities and high yields. Decanter reported that Italy’s Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo – the world’s largest cooperative nursery – has sold about 170,000 Sangiovese vines to five Herault producers: Domaine de Gournier, des Peyrats, de la Bousquette, Clos des Roques, and de St. Laurent. Andrew Jefford has a most interesting blog about this topic out this morning on Jefford on Monday.
The vines consist of clones Toscano, Brunello, Romagnolo, Prugnolo, Montalcino, and Morellino. This will be the first time (as far as I can find out) that Sangiovese has been grown in mainland France – it has been grown in Corsica under the name of Nielluccio.
Sangiovese takes its name from the Latin Sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jupiter” (King of the Roman gods) and due to its name it is thought that this grape was grown in Roman times. The first documented mention of Sangiovese was in the 1590 writings of Giovanvettorio Soderini who called it “Sangiogheto”. It is most well known for the being the main grape in the blend of Chianti, Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano and can be found in the “Super Tuscan” wines. (If you enjoy Italian wine check out Vinissima, Juel Mahoney’s site).
There is a dispute as to Nielluccio’s origins – at one time it was thought to be indigenous to Corsica. However Nielluccio’s close genetic similarities to Sangiovese suggest that the two grapes are closely related and that Nielluccio is one of Sangiovese’s many clones. The grape was likely introduced to Corsica by the Genoese during their long rule over the island from the 13th – 18th century. Corsica’s wine making history can be traced back to 570 BC when Phocean traders settled there.
Corsica came under French rule in 1768 when the treaty of Versailles ceded Corsica to France. In 1769 the future French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was born in the Corsican city of Ajaccio to a wine making family. Under Napoleon’s rule. Corsica was allowed to export wine and tobacco duty-free across the French Empire.
It will be interesting to see how Sangiovese fares in the Languedoc. VCR’s director general, Eugenio Sartori has speculated that other Italian varieties such as Malvasia, Manzoni Incrocio, Teroldego, and others may play a future role in Languedoc viticulture.