We propose a toast to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano!
Vino Nobile di What? Montepulciano is a beautiful, historic medieval hill town in southwestern Tuscany. Although it began life in the 3rd-century BC as a Roman garrison town, it has long-since turned its attentions to much more palatable pursuits—especially the cultivation and creation of wonderful food (especially pork from its black, Cinta pigs and its pici pasta). It is particularly well known for its elegant Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
True, its wines are much less well known and less widely available than neighboring wines from Montalcino (especially Brunello di Montalcino) and Chianti (especially Chianti Classico), they are also overwhelmingly made from Sangiovese grapes (a minimum of 70 percent, blended with Canaiolo Nero and other locally-grown grapes).
While the grape varieties and blends are similar to those used in Chianti and Montalcino, the differences in soil and climate generally create riper grapes and fuller tastes than Chianti Classico, but are softer, less extracted and with less acid and tannin than Brunello di Montalcino. And, since regulation requires that wineries age Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines for a minimum of two years (and often longer) in oak, the wines are more appropriately compared with Chianti Classico Riservas than with less aged Chianti Classicos.
And speaking of comparisons, there is virtually no comparison with the confusingly names Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which is made from a grape named Montepulciano (rather than Sangiovese), grown in another, much more southerly province (west of Rome) and produces wines that are lighter, fruitier, less complex and less ageable than those of any of the three primary Tuscan wines.
Although we have loved these wines since well before our October 2012 visit to the region, when we walked the town, visited a number of wineries, tasted many additional wines and enjoyed the cuisine, we don’t often get a chance to drink them as often as we would like since they are less well represented in US wine stores, and especially on restaurant wine lists.
We were, therefore, very happy to learn that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano producers were coming to the U.S. to educate wine buyers, sommeliers, the wine media and educators on their wines. We attended a March 2016 event in San Francisco. It began with an educational seminar and a guided tasting of thirteen 2010 wines, followed by an open tasting of current releases of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Single Vineyard and Riserva wines along with a few Rosso di Montepulciano wines (similar blends that have lower aging requirements and are lighter and fruiter than their more aged cousins) and one delicious Vino Santo dessert wine.
Although we enjoyed many of the wines for their fruit, their balance and their potential for aging, we particularly enjoyed the Vino Nobles from Boscarelli, Carpineto, Polzino and Tenuta di Gracciano. However, we did have a particular affinity for a number of the Riservas, including:
- The 2010s from La Braccesca, Carpineto;
- the 2011’s from Casale Daviddi, Crociani, Tenuta di Gracciano Della Setta: and
- the elegant Riserva Vineyard designate wines including Fattoria La Braccesca Antinori Family “Santa Pia” 2010, Lunadoro “Quercione” 2010 and Montemercurio “Damo” 2009.
To end, we want to toast Montepulciano, Vino Nobile and the winemakers who made this educational event possible. And what better way to end with a toast of a classic Tuscan dessert wine, in this case, the Crociano Vin Santo di Montepulciano! Magnificant!