A tale of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - the 'other' Montepulciano - through a 2016 - 2017 tasting.
The difference between Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo you ask? Ahh the beauty, and confusion, of the wine world sometimes!
The former, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are premium (they became D.O.C in 1966 and D.O.C.G. in 1980) Sangiovese-based red wines named after the town Montepulciano in Tuscany while the latter, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, are often budget-friendly reds made with Montepulciano grapes in the Abruzzo region!
Let’s chat about these beautiful, premium, Vino Nobiles!
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has a long, and storied, wine history closely associated with Italian nobility (it was only available on their tables). These prized Tuscan wines owe their quality not only to the winemaker’s expertise, but also to the geological features of the vineyards (1,300 hectares are registered for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano) situated between 250 and 600 meters above sea level. Vino Nobile wines must be made up of a required minimum 70% Sangiovese (called ‘Prugnolo Gentile’ in Montepulciano) and a maximum of 30% of other varieties authorized for the Tuscany Region. By law both vinification and ageing must take place in the municipal area of Montepulciano and must be aged for two years (three for Riserva) before being sold.
Below, the 8 wines tasted as part of this week’s virtual Vino Nobile di Montepulciano tasting, showcasing the 2016 and 2017 vintages, organized by the Italian Trade Commission and Consorzio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and hosted by Lauren Power.
For the vintage curious, 2016 is considered a 4 star “classical” vintage: intense colors, pronounced aromas, good structure and tannic texture, medium acidity and alcohol – a year with very high quality that will stand out for wines with elegance, finesse and refinement. The 2017 vintage is considered a 5 star year and was characterized by extreme hot and dry weather conditions that impacted vine growth and vineyard production and translated to a drastic reduction in yields (the lowest recorded in the last 70 years) resulting in wines that are intense in colour, concentrated, with darker notes and that are well-balanced in alcohol and acidy, complex and with significant tannins. An extreme year resulting in small yields of good and excellent quality wines.
Cantina Del Giusto San Claudio II D.O.C.G. 2017 (85% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo Nero, 5% Mammolo) – Cantina del Giusto is a small size farm sitting just near the foot of Montepulciano in the area of Acquaviva. The San Claudio II (named for the old farm once utilized for winemaking and ageing and now used to conserve precious old winemaking instruments) was rated 91 points by James Suckling as recently as last month. Ruby red with a light orange tint on the outside it’s high on alcohol on the nose but with nice fruit (raspberry, sour cherries, plum, lemon zest), licorice, slight smoke, spice and a hint of earthiness. Medium-bodied, with solid but smooth tannins and palate cleansing acidity it’s fine but packs a big punch of fruit. Think duck, game and beef or hard cheeses for your pairing!
Fattoria del Cerro Silineo D.O.C.G. 2017 (100% Sangiovese) – Fattoria del Cerro is the largest private estate producing Vino Nobile and one that invests in indigenous varietals and in biodiversity. Deep ruby in colour, elegant and bold with a smooth and strong body it has fruity (cherry, raspberry) and savoury (earth, chocolate) notes on both the nose and palate. The malocatic fermentation comes through with hints of cream and butter – a beautiful, savoury wine with a long finish that would pair beautifully with osso bucco or braised meat dishes.
Il Molinaccio La Spinosa D.O.C.G. 2017 (100% Sangiovese) – Il Molinaccio, sitting near the town of Montepulciano, is transitioning to certified organic and has a strong green philosophy including purifying their well water and installing a photovoltaic plant making them auto sufficient. Graceful, elegant and stylish, La Spinosa is delicate in colour (ruby red) and aroma. Notes of dark cherry, pepper, mushroom, coffee, leather and forest floor are all present, but delicate and balanced. It has harmony and structure and could age but is delightful now. The soils composed of a portion of broken fossils add minerality and salinity – a fresh ocean breath. Highly drinkable on its own, would pair beautifully with lighter meat dishes, any manner of olive-based sauces and veal piccata. Of the label, Il Molinaccio says ‘the porcupine is a shy and feared animal but La Spinosa, on the contrary, shows itself with an elegant dress’.
Salcheto D.O.C.G. 2017 (100% Sangiovese) – Salcheto (for the story, Salco means willow tree – present on the wine’s label - in ancient Tuscan and Salcheto is the name of the nearby stream that winds through a willow-filled valley) is organic, biodynamic and committed to environmental sustainability with a focus on making terroir and sangiovese oriented wines with winemaking that is sulfite-free, using indigenous yeasts and an ‘off-grid’ cellar that is considered an environmental model. The wine itself has a deepness that translates from the nose to the palate. Velvety, smooth, present tannins, with fruit (plum, dark cherries), floral (lilac and violet), cedar, tea, smoke and balsamic vinegar on the nose. On the palate it has lovely pristine notes of fruit but also vanilla, cinnamon, herbs and black olives. Full-bodied, rich, balanced and complex it’s a super versatile wine that would pair beautifully with a tapas-style dinner or light game meats. 94 points (WE), 90 points (WS, WA & Decanter) and 3 Glasses (Gambero Rosso). Beautiful!
Tenuta Valdipiatta D.O.C.G. 2017 (95% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo) – Family-owned and founded in 1960, Tenuta Valdipiatta is certified organic and has instilled sustainability and environmentally sensitive practices throughout its vines and vineyards including plant biodiversity cover crops between the vine rows to feed the soils and attract beneficial insects to maintain a natural balance against predator insects. Ruby red with orange tints this wine really comes alive on the palate. Red fruit yes, but also tomato, smoke, tapenade on both the nose and palate. Aged in large barrels with only a very small percentage of new oak to preserve the fruit – here the oak is used only to preserve the balance and not add any flavours or complexity and the resulting wine has a lovely texture and tannic/acidity balance. Pair with grilled meats, charcuterie and aged cheese.
Podere Casanova D.O.C.G. 2016 (97% Sangiovese) – Flanked, to the west, by a deep forest and to the east by the Chiusi lake, Podere Casanova benefits from a unique microclimate and diverse terroir. Intense ruby red with aromas and flavours of black cherry, tobacco, cocoa, coffee and hints of game and truffle. Full, refined, full of fresh flavours, soft tannins, balanced acidity it’s deliciously unique and would pair beautifully with game dishes, mushroom pasta and a charcuterie board.
Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano D.O.C.G. 2016 (Mostly Sangiovese) – Cooperativa Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano is the oldest cooperative in Tuscany with member estates practicing espalier system cultivation with spurred cordon vine training. Bright ruby in colour and upfront with ripe fruit (cherries, blackberries and raspberry jam) it has notes of spice, cocoa, smoke on the nose and fresh flavours of fruit, nuts and burnt orange. Beautiful balance of tannins and acidity, structured and savoury , paired beautifully with the spice of marinated Portuguese chicken and smoky grilled cauliflower. 91 Points (JS)
Carpineto Riserva D.O.C.G. 2016 – Carpineto founded it’s Vino Nobile estate in 1994. With a dry farmed hillside vineyard averaging less than one bottle produced per vine it produces premium wines. Here the Riserva is dry, elegant, smooth and definitely can benefit from decanting an hour before serving. Beautiful ageing potential on this wine! Ruby red in colour, jammy dark red and blue fruit (cherry, raspberry, blueberry), forest floor, black pepper on the nose and palate with some wood and floral notes (violet) showing, the elegance of the 2016 vintage shines here. It’s balanced, elegant and velvety with a long finish. Would pair beautifully with aged cheese and savoury game or duck confit.