I recently went to Tuscany in the Montepulciano region which is located about 90 minutes south of Florence and 2 hours from Rome in the heart of the production zone of the famous Vino Nobile! It was at the invitation of the Unione Italia Vini and the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that I went for 10 days to visit this beautiful region as well as several producers. The setting was one of the most important viticulture wine fairs in Italy ‘’Enovitis in Campo’’ which took place in Montepulciano at the Trerose vineyard which is part of the Bertani Group.
The region is among the most beautiful in Tuscany and possibly of all Italy. For 10 days I was able to admire the landscapes of this region consisting of beautiful undulating hills (which go up to about 600 meters altitude), valleys that extend as far as the eye can see and beautiful forests that still look well protected and preserved (no extreme deforestation as found in Barolo). What a sight! Vineyards everywhere, beautiful olive groves and nice roads bordered by tall cypresses. You can’t take a bad picture of Tuscany!!
I stayed in Chianciano Terme which is a small medieval village about 15-20 minutes drive from Montepulciano which is mostly known for its spas, relaxation pools fed with a mineral rich water and its hotels. In fact in this area, all villages are pretty much close by. However, it is imperative to have a car because public transport is quite rare. There are many small villages to visit along with many wine producers.
Montepulciano and Montalcino are a must and you should devote half a day to visit each. Make sure to visit the Fortezza along with the Enoteca while in Montepulciano. Should you have another day or two some great destinations are Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia, Bagno Vignoni, Citta della Pieve, San Casciano dei Bagni and Cortona which is a bit further.
You should also take a few days to stay in Rome as I did and visit the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps and the Borghese Gallery & Museum along with its beautiful gardens. You’ll need at least 2 days to properly visits these landmark
Take the opportunity to redeem your Dream Miles against airfare and Hotels in Rome.
So, what is there to know about the wines and production zone of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano?
History of Vino Nobile
They have been making wine in the area for some time. In fact, the oldest documented reference to the wine of Montepulciano is from 789: the cleric Arnipert offered the church of San Silvestro or San Salvatore at Lanciniano on Mt Amiata, a plot of land cultivated with vineyards in the estate of the castle of Policiano. Later, Repetti mentions a document in 1350 (in his “Historical and Geographical dictionary of Tuscany”) which drew up the terms for trade and exportation of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
But it was really in 1980 that Vino Nobile took off as it was among the first of a very few Italian regions to receive the top DOCG status . In addition to this, the Rosso di Montepulciano DOC was created to define the terms of yield per hectare, alcohol content and ageing, although the production zone remains the same. Individual producers were given the option to join one of these two DOCs according to the aspect of their land, the seasonal weather trend and all the other elements which may affect the suitability of the grapes used for the production of one or the other of these wines. Montepulciano’s glorious past and its links to the local terroir, its history and the Vino Nobile remain essential elements in order to guarantee present and future quality and authenticity to all that this “noble land” can yield.
The production area is limited to a small portion of land in the municipal area that is specifically adapted to viticulture. There are 1,300 hectares of vineyards registered for the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and around 550 for the Rosso di Montepulciano. This represents a production of about 8 million bottles per year, 85% of which is in Vino Nobile and 15% in the Riserva. This zone is subdivided into 4 sub-regions (north, south, east and west) all determined among others according to their soil typicity.
Regulations of production
The wines must be made from the Sangiovese grape (called « Prugnolo Gentile » in Montepulciano) with a minimum of 70% and it can be assembled with up to 30% by other varieties authorized for the Tuscany region. These varieties include a fairly wide range of grape varieties, including for example Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Mammolo and Cannaiolo. The eight vineyards I visited all used 85% or more of Prugnolo Gentile in their Vino Nobile with some using up to 100% of Prugnolo.
The maximum yield allowed per hectare is 80 quintals with an effective wine yield of 70%.
The wine can only be sold after aging for two years for Vino Nobile (including a minimum of 12 months in oak casks) and three years for Riserva (including 6 months in bottle). It must be approved after passing a series of tests including organoleptic tests conducted by a ministerial council. Vinification and aging must take place in the municipal area of Montepulciano.
The Vino Nobile Consortium of Montepulciano – challenges and opportunities
The Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was founded in 1965 with the aim of protecting and promoting the image of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (and later the Rosso di Montepulciano and Vin Santo) in Italy and in the rest of the world. There are currently around 270 members in the consortium (including 78 bottlers) representing nearly all the vineyards.
I had the chance to meet Andrea Rossi the new president of the Consorzio since last May. I will later publish this complete interview. Suffice to say that together with his team, he faces some important challenges including but not limited to the following:
There is some confusion in the minds of consumers as to the brand identity of Vino Nobile. This confusion stems from the fact that Montepulciano is a village, that it is also a varietal (grape variety) and that another appellation Montepulciano d’Abruzzo promotes it based on its origin. Few people know that Vino Nobile comes from Tuscany and is made from Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile). Moreover, they do not really know that it is a DOCG the highest level of designation.
While the appellations Chianti and Brunello were most active in the 1980s to the present day, Vino Nobile’s was kind of inward looking during this time and as a result, it lost some ground over other wine regions. The Consorzio must therefore reclaim lost ground and this is what Mr. Rossi intends to do.
The appellation allows a minimum of 70% Sangiovese with 30% other varieties authorized by the Tuscany appellation. This includes as I mentioned, several international grape varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many vineyards use these international grape varieties while others only use Sangiovese and other native grapes. This creates quite different styles between wines and can confuse the identity of what a Vino Nobile is.
Another consequence is the price variations between the various Vino Nobile on the market that come from the fact that the winemaking process can vary from one vineyard to another. See for yourself from the wines that are available at the LCBO with prices that range between $14.00 and $100.00.
Finally, soil types vary considerably from one subregion to another. In order to increase the quality of the wines, the Consorzio will be pushing for a greater understanding of soils and terroirs by wine growers and encourages them to optimize the quality by planting the appropriate grape varieties in the best soils.
It is therefore necessary for the new Consorzio to close ranks and ensure a common vision between the various players. Among other things, it is analyzing the impact of a potential increase in the percentage of Prugnolo Gentile in wines in order to increase quality and standardization. As for the identity of the Vino Nobile, the consorzio wishes to focus on the name Vino Nobile on bottling and communication. It has just recently officialized the fact that will add the mention that the wine comes from Tuscany in order to differentiate it from the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which, as the name mentions, comes from Abruzzo. By adding the Tuscan origin on the bottle and its communication, the consorzio will more clearly define the quality of Vino Nobile.
Vino Nobile is truly unique compared to Chianti wines and the Brunellos from Montalcino. In fact, the aromatic profile is closer to Brunello but with a slightly more floral side, lower acidity and tannins more flexible and approachable. In full style wine that meets the new expectations of consumers who seek more freshness, finesse and balance. Which gives the Vino Nobile a definite advantage.
Finally, Vino Nobile offers an excellent price/value ratio.
Wine Producers we visited:
During these 10 days spent in Montepulciano, I had the chance to visit the following vineyards: Tenuta Trerose (eastern sector) which is part of Bertani group, Poliziano (eastern sector), Salcheto (eastern sector), Tenute del Cerro (sector south), Boscarelli (eastern sector), La Ciarliana (northern sector), Braccesca – Antinori (southern sector), Canneto (eastern sector) and Carpineto (southern sector).
Specific articles about each of these producers along with tasting notes will follow. Suffice to say that each of these wine producers were all without exception, quite convinced of the growing success and potential of Vino Nobile. The care given to viticulture and viniculture testifies to a constant search for quality. And as I said, all without exception used a greater proportion of Prugnolo Gentile (85% and more) while the decree indicates 70%. Obviously, the debate persists on the use or not of international grape varieties such as Merlot for example. Some persist to have only native grape varieties while others insist that the addition of Merlot ensures the desired aromatic profile.
I have added the links to each wine producer. You can check all the details to organize your visits. I would personally recommend a maximum of 3 vineyards per day as there is so much to see. Just remember that you may need to book your visits ahead of time and that in general you’ll pay a fee that will vary depending on the type of visit you select. You can also contact the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for help: https://www.consorziovinonobile.it/110-55/ENG/WHERE-WE-ARE-HOW-TO-REACH-US
Tenuta Trerose (part of the Bertani group): https://tenutatrerose.it/en/guided-tours-and-tastings-our-winery.
Fattoria del Cerro: http://www.tenutedelcerro.it/come-raggiungerci
La Ciarliana: http://www.laciarliana.it/home_ing.htm
Braccesca – Marchesi Antinori: https://www.antinori.it/en/tenuta/estates-italy/la-braccesca-estate/ https://www.antinori.it/en/experiences/
Should you want to further explore (bike tours, walking tours etc.) the area I suggest this great site: https://www.valdichianaliving.it/en
Wines – Vino Nobile
The following Vino Nobile wines are currently available in Ontario at your LCBO stores. I would suggest you contact your local store for product availability as these wines tend to be available at specific times of the year.
Remember that you can Earn 1 AIR MILES® reward mile for every $30 you spend at the LCBO on a monthly cumulative basis, excluding taxes and container deposit fees.
(This is a ficticious offer) – For a limited time only you can now double your AIR MILES® reward miles on the purchase of selected wines from Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at your LCBO store.
New: You can now use your AIR MILES Cash Miles towards the purchase of LCBO eVouchers for instant use in-store. Just visit www.airmiles.ca/LCBOeVoucher to use your Cash Miles toward a $10 LCBO eVoucher for use toward your favourite in-store purchases. LCBO eVouchers will be issued in denominations of $10 for 95 Cash Miles.