Tagliatelle al ragù and red wine (Photo Stefano Calamelli)
What’s the wine to drink with Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese? Undoubtedly the best matches are the Italian dry red wines, medium bodied. However, according to the experts of Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna, there is an almost perfect pairing base on the terroir: Sangiovese di Romagna DOC, which has been produced since ancient times in the same region where the dish was born, in the provinces of Bologna, Forli-Cesena, Rimini and Ravenna.
Romagna occupies the south-western sector of the Regione Emilia-Romagna. It is an extremely diverse area extending over about 8,000 km2, from the coastal areas of Rimini and Riccione to east of Bologna. Between the two extremities are gentle hills that yield some of the best –and best-known– wines of the Region.
More wine than water
In past times people in Romagna used to drink more wine than water, as it was hygienically safer, pleasant and energy giving, three characters which made it suitable for the farmers’ hard lifestyle. It isn’t surprising, then, that “e’ bè” (the drink) ended up automatically referring to it and that wine is present in many proverbs and traditions, like that of pouring a glass of wine under a vine-tree on Christmas morning, in order to encourage grape production in the following year.
Sangiovese di Romagna is without doubt the king of Romagnan wines: some even say it reflects the nature of Romagnan people: frank, outgoing, hospitable, sometimes rough but sincere and delicate inside. Just think about Federico Fellini’s characters in the movie that best represents Romagna, Amarcord: at once cunning and naïve, sexi and unsophisticated; in a word genuine people. Fellini’s attachment to this wine is stated in this same movie: “What a great Sangiovese!”, and he himself always paired his favourite food (cappelletti, tagliatelle and passatelli) at Rimini’s Grand Hotel with Sangiovese for a red wine. Another real Romagnan, Fellini’s scriptwriter Tonino Guerra, has always shown his attachment to Sangiovese di Romagna, to the point that he in the past he even accepted to be a testimonial for it.
Romagna disputes with neighbouring Tuscany over the origin of Sangiovese. Whatever its origin, in the Romagna sub-region Sangiovese found the ideal soil and climate to develop and spread, marking the most suitable terroirs to the point that some towns, like Predappio, even display a Sangiovese grape bunch on their coat of arms.
Where the name comes from
Various stories tell how Sangiovese got this name. Some relate it to the fact that this vine sprouts early, around the second half of June, identified with San Giovanni’s celebration. Others think the name comes from Mount Giovo, upon which rests the town of Santarcangelo di Romagna. Also the most fascinating story about Sangiovese’s name is set in Santarcangelo. As the story goes, during a banquet at a Franciscan Monastery this wine was served some illustrious guests, who appreciated it so much that they asked which wine it was. Nobody had given it a name yet, but a witty monk immediatly answered that the name was “Sanguis Jovis”, Jupiter’s blood, hence the name Sangiovese.
In the last thirty years, the new generation of wine producers has brought in new technologies and vinification and grape farming techniques, taking the quality and character of Romagnan wines, especially Sangiovese di Romagna, to unprecedented levels. As the journalist Andreas Marz put it: “I think I can point out that, compared to Tuscans, these wines are a little more round, fuller. Maybe their acitidy is lower, and their tannins are sweeter. I’d almost bet that a blind tasting between the best ten Sangiovese di Romagna and the best ten Sangiovese-based Supertuscans victory of Romagnan wines.” Nowadays, this is widely known to the experts and that is happening increasingly often in oenologic contests and events.
The Sangiovese di Romagna appellation, established in 1967, holds four subdivisions: Sangiovese di Romagna Novello, Sangiovese di Romagna, Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore and Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva."Superiore" indicates that the grapes are grown to the south of the Via Emilia, and in any case, that the wine's alcohol content is not less than 12,5 Vol%. When the word "Riserva" is added, it means that the wine is aged for at least two years, unlike the Superiore, which can be released on April 1 of the year following the harvest. The “novello” type is to be drunk very young and has a minimum alcohol content of 11,5 degrees. It is to be obtained from at least 50% of wine produced by carbonic maceration.
Sangiovese di Romagna characteristics
The characteristics of the wines of this DOC, which must consist of at least 85% Sangiovese, are ruby red color with violet reflections, floral bouquet with violet and blackberry accents, dry, balanced palate, and silky tannins. These wines display a distinctive balance between elegance and structure, a balance that makes them top quality wines capable of aging at length in the cellar. Served at 18 °C it perfectly matches egg pastas with ragu, white meat roasts as well as boiled meat and grilled. 173 wineries produce this renowned wine, and many, which enjoy both critical and commercial success, are also exported.