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Mooncakes, by Jove!

By Debra Meiburg MW

Looking for a wine to accompany this week’s moon festival celebrations? Consider Sangiovese. An indigenous Italian variety, Sangiovese (San-jo-vey-see) shares its etymology with a planet that has an astounding 63 moons circumnavigating its round body, which is just about the number of moon cake varieties touted in bakeries this week.
Sangiovese’s name is derived from Sanguis Jovis, which is a reference to the ancient Roman God, Jupiter, a name also ascribed to our fifth planet. As you might expect of a variety named after the Roman’s most powerful deity, Sangiovese is a robust, vigorous vine with dozens of genetic mutations. These changes in response to its environment result in a wide range of style and quality, but Sangiovese wines are consistently underlain with juicy cherry flavors, fresh acidity and dusty tannins. Sangiovese performs best in warm climates, such as central Italy (Tuscany), California, Australia and Argentina because it is one of the slowest red grape varieties to ripen, making it vulnerable to molds and fungi that attack in wet harvests.
Jupiter is famed for its red splotch of color, but Sangiovese was short-changed in the red pigment department, so darker skinned varieties, such as Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon are often blended with sangiovese’s medium-colored bunches. The four finest classes of Italian sangiovese are Chianti-Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and a group of fashionable sangiovese blends affectionately called Super-Tuscans. Most Hong Kong wine merchants offer a selection of sangiovese-based wines, with Italian specialist, Valdivia Wines, probably offering the broadest selection of Italian Sangiovese, both in standard bottle sizes and in magnums. Golden Gate Wines offers sangiovese from two highly respected Sonoma County California producers, Foppiano Vineyards and Ferrari-Carano. Australian sangiovese is hard to come by in Hong Kong, but a fine example from Yarra Yering Vineyards can be found at Kedington Wines.
Chinese astrologers refer to the planet Jupiter as the “wood star” and wood certainly co-stars with sangiovese these days. Though many sangiovese-based wines are still matured in large, neutral old wood vats called Botti, contemporary producers are maturing a substantial portion of their wine in small, new French oak barrels for added spiciness and a rounder palate. Traditional sangiovese wines taste of bitter red cherries and savory herbs whereas contemporary sangiovese is more reminiscent of riper black cherry, plum and mulberry flavor, in part because producers are harvesting 10-14 days later than they were a few decades ago.
Be careful, though. In Vedic astrology, Hindi scholars ascribed a name to Jupiter that has a literal translation of the “Heavy One”. And that is exactly what will occur should you consume too much Sangiovese, especially if alongside sixty-three flavors of moon cakes.

* Wine in China Conference 2014 * November 5 * Hong Kong * Get Your Tickets Here *

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