A strong regional imprint is often celebrated: we seek evidence of region and site with Pinot, we love that Shiraz is a chameleon, and Riesling’s transparency gives regions their raison d’être. Sangiovese produced in McLaren Vale isn’t so lucky. The variety’s been in this beautiful, historic region for a while, and the impact of certain early wines like Coriole’s have imprinted this particular region-variety relationship on my consciousness. Yet it’s often criticised for tasting nothing like Sangiovese, by which we presumably mean Chianti, and too much like McLaren Vale. I think I may have even contributed to that line of thinking.
This wine, a modest example of the genre, has me wondering whether tasting like McLaren Vale isn’t such a bad thing. It is, after all, a region that effortlessly produces full-flavoured red wines of considerable appeal, despite being in many ways the stylistic antithesis of Tuscany. The key here is that this wine, and many McLaren Vale Sangioveses, inherit enough of the region’s imprint to take the variety in a new direction. As I smell this, it is a curious mash-up of the red berried exuberance of McLaren Vale and the more angular savouriness of Sangiovese. Some might argue it falls into a stylistic no man’s land as a result; that’s simply a matter of taste. For mine, this is luscious enough to satisfy my cravings for a slutty red wine, and odd enough to mark it apart from more familiar Shiraz and Cabernet siblings. It also has a reductive edge I’m not so hot on, though this seems to be blowing off with some air.
The palate tells a similar story, with little of the structural aggressiveness Sangiovese can show. In its place, rather pillowy tannins and plump fruit that slips and slides all over the tongue as it leaves behind ripe, pleasingly savoury flavours. Acid is quite firm and brings to life some of the more varietal flavours present here — almonds mostly. It’s medium bodied at least and, in terms of shape and size in the mouth, very regional.
It’s a humble wine to hang so much on, but I think it does show some varietal interest while being true to its region. Just don’t expect an Italian.