2012 Sangiovese Smackdown: McLaren Vale Vs Chianti

By the Blood of Jove! Sangiovese! Chianti, Tuscany, Italy is the spiritual home for the grape/wine, but one may argue that McLaren Vale the spiritual home in Australia. Certainly commercially it seems Coriole have been the leading light with plantings in 1985. The King Valley in Victoria may have had more than a few backyard Sangioveses smuggled in with the strong Italian communities there, but it seems McLaren Vale, with similar climate to Tuscany, has been first off the blocks for Australia. This a quick comparison of similar price and all from the same year. For other top Australian Sangioveses, I suggest Capital Wines and Ravensworth from Canberra district; Pizzini from King Valley; Greenstone from Heathcote and Skimstone from Mudgee.


Chapel Hill McLaren Vale

Bryn Richards. Great with the Alternatives

Bryn Richards. Great with the Alternatives

Darker red & cherry fruits, fennel spice, clove, a little rubber. Savoury herb flavour balancing the red fruits. The bright bright red fruits, almost cola like. Some meaty, animal qualities that aren’t detracting at all for a hint of dark interest. Medium, fine tannins with enough acidity for a solid spine of length.  A little heat from the 14% Alc & viscosity rounds out the palate to a medium full body. Leaves good flavour resonance and a desire for a 2nd taste. This is a tasty tasty drink

Closure: Screwcap RRP: $25 Alc: 14% Source: Sample courtesy of Chapel Hill Wine

Coriole McLaren Vale

Coriole. Pioneers.

Coriole. Pioneers.

Dusty, almost hessian sack counterpointed with a smoothing varnish of heady red fruits. Rubber smells, reminding me of a “Staedtler” brand Eraser and intermingled with roasting coffee. Dusty, fine tannin & mouth puckeringly higher on the acidity scale than the Chapel Hill (and not quite as fruit forward). Medium bodied, but complex and beguiling: the fruit flavours are taking a back seat for the moment as the acidity leaves the mouth dry. This by far the most serious of the 3 wines and the one that I’d like to see again with a few years under its belt.

Closure: Screwcap RRP: $25 Alc: 14% Source: Sample courtesy of Coriole Vineyards

Barone Ricasole Chianti

Typical Italian flare on the label

Typical Italian flare on the label

Okay, this wins the sexiest label. a bit of embossing and a swirly crest…I’m sold! Winemaking of predominantly stainless steel ferment enhances the bright red cherry fruit squaring off against briny meat and tobacco and leafy herbs in the savoury corner. High in juicy acid and bright, almost “joven” style red fruits. Not quite medium bodied on the palate and certainly less full than the Australian tag-team, it’s just a perfect drinking wine and you can’t help but thinking about having food.

Closure: Diam RRP: $22 Alc: 14% Source: Own purchase (distributed through Bibendum AU)

The Verdict

The Contrade of Sangiovese

The Contrade of Sangiovese

Tough call. They’re slightly different and maybe it’s case of horses for courses. Want a yummy drinking, full bodied Aussie red that’s not a Shiraz? Take the Chapel Hill. Need something a bit different to lay down in the cellar and pull out next time you’ve got a lamb on the spit to impress the snobby uncle? Grab the Coriole. But there’s just something unique about the Ricasole. Something that the other two can’t quite nail. There’s a place you’re transported to immediately drinking this wine…you’re in a stone courtyard in a castled town overlooking rolling hills filled with Cypress trees and carving dense wild boar salami to eat straight off the knife. Maybe, just maybe, the Ricasole takes the Palio for the romantic place it comes from. You be the judge.

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