It never ceases to amaze me how often people who have never heard of the Maremma have heard of something the region produces. Whether it's wine, olive oil, chestnuts, mushrooms or dogs, the Maremma may be an under-recognised holiday destination, but its exports are always celebrated.
Outside of the Maremma, the Rosso di Sovana remains a niche wine.
It is the mark of a very good wine connoisseur if they drink this red. But once you get a taste of it, you'll find yourself thinking all other reds are wishy washy and weak in comparison.
All of the Maremma's red wines have a kick. They were produced with the traditional Maremman cuisine in mind. The local fare is made up of strong game dishes with rich flavours and heavy ingredients like wild boar, hare and pheasant, and the wines have to keep up with them.
The Rosso di Sovana is no wallflower. It dominates your palette, grabs your attention and stays with you long after you have finished it.
There are four versions of this DOC: The Sovana Rosso, the Rosso Riserva, the Rosso Superiore and the Rosato.
One thing that is particularly interesting about each of these is that they have their own very specific aging process. The Rosato can't be touched before the first of January the year after it was produced. The traditional Rosso cannot be drunk before the first of May.
The Superiore mustn't be tasted before June 1, and the Riserva must spend at least 24 months in an oak barrel and six months in the bottle.
IL ROSSO DI SOVANA
The original red wine is made up at least 50% Sangiovese grape and a mixture of any other authorized and recognized local red berried grapes.
Visual characteristics: Ruby red with violet reflections.
Olfactory characteristics: Winey, robust.
Taste characteristics: On the palate it's balanced and harmonious. The minimum alcohol graduation is 11°.
Food pairing: It goes well with simple second courses with meat or vegetables, except tomatoes, and medium-aged cheeses.
IL ROSSO DI SOVANA RISERVA
The Riserva is also made up at least 50% Sangiovese grape and a mixture of other local red berried grapes, but is aged for at least double the time the original DOC is. It spends three quarters of this aging in locally made oak barrels. The rest is in the bottle.
Visual characteristics: An intense garnet red.
Olfactory characteristics: Fruity with spicy elements.
Taste characteristics: On the palate it's dry, warm and full-bodied, balanced. The minimum alcohol graduation is 12°.
Food pairing: Drink this with well-structured and decisive dishes like braised meats and wild game.
IL ROSSO DI SOVANA SUPERIORE
The Superiore is made up at least 50% Sangiovese grape and a mixture of any other local red berried grapes like the Ciliegiolo or Merlot. The grapes are hand picked and processed separately. The wine is aged for at least 6 months in the bottle.
Visual characteristics: A ruby red.
Olfactory characteristics: Fruity and floral with hints of cherry jam, black pepper and balsamic vinegar.
Taste characteristics: On the palate it's dry, full bodied, moderately tannic, slightly acerbic. The minimum alcohol graduation is 12°.
Food pairing: Perfect with vegetable soups, red sauce pastas made with sausage, game served with beans, white meat served with berry or cherry sauces, pork cooked in wine and aged cheeses.
The same as the red: at least 50% Sangiovese grape and a mixture of any other local red berried grapes, but the maceration of the skins is reduced and only part of the tannins are used to get the characteristic pink color.
Visual characteristics: A rose colour with ruby reflections.
Olfactory characteristics: Vinous, delicate, with intense fruity notes.
Taste characteristics: On the palate it's smooth, slightly tart, round, fresh, harmonious and well-structured. The minimum alcohol graduation is 11°.
Food pairing: Tuscan bruschetta, steaks cooked over the coals, lentil soup and pastas with peppery sauces.