A couple weeks ago I was invited by Balzac Communications to attend a wine tasting featuring Vino Nobile di Montepulciano followed by a wine dinner with representatives from a number of wineries. Those wineries included:
- Le Berne
- Fattoria La Braccesca Antinori Family
- La Ciarliana
Unfortunately, due to work commitments I couldn’t attend the tasting, but jumped on the opportunity to have a dinner paired with these “noble wines” of Montepulciano. The dinner was held in Boston’s historic Italian section of Boston known as the North End at Ristorante Lucia. We were swimming in wines to say the least, so I wish I had attended the tasting so I could have given more focus to each one as the table was lined with close to 20 bottles and food was being passed around. Below is a preview into the food of our evening:
Appetizers: Sauteed Mussels & Antipasto Della Casa
Pasta: Pasta al Forno, Risotto con Porcini
Entrée: Sogliola Margherita, Pollo Arrabiata, Vitello Marsala
Dessert: Cookies, Italian pastries or Cannoli
The town of Montepulciano is located within the region of Tuscany, about 70 miles southwest of Florence. I had briefly visited this Tuscan Renaissance town years ago and more thoroughly the day after our wedding back in October 2013. Bring your walking shoes because it's a steep uphill climb to the top on via di gracciano, but take your time as it's lined with plenty of shops and cafes to stop and take a break at. My favorite are the quiet, picturesque alleys that break off from the main street before arriving at the top to Piazza Grande. I attended a wine tasting in Piazza Grande at Cantina Contucci and still have yet to open that bottle, but look forward to it!
Wine has been documented to be growing in this area since 790 AD when vineyards were donated to a local church. In 1966 this area gained D.O.C status (denominazione di origine controllata) and in 1980 became one of the first D.O.C.G (denominazione di origine controllata garantita) designations. The Consorzio just celebrated their 50th year in 2016.
The current wines being launched onto the market are the 2014 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano D.O.C.G., the 2013 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva D.O.C.G and the 2015 Rosso di Montepulciano DOC. A preview of the 2016 vintage was rated 4 out of 5 stars by oenologist Emiliano Falsini. According to the consorzio, the harvest year was highly favorable for the quality grapes that were selected for production. The wines are demonstrating intense colors and elegance.
There are about 2,000 hectacres (4,950 acres) of vineyards making up 16% of the total acreage of land with about 250 wine growers in total. The vineyards of Montepulciano are situated at about 250-600 meters. The recent annual production of the area totaled about 7 million bottles of Vino Nobile and 2.5 million bottles of Rosso di Montepulciano.
The vineyards here have been highly invested in totaling 8 million dollars in order for the wineries to practice sustainability. About 70% of the total wineries in Montepulciano are practicing sustainability. Biodiversity and organic winemaking is increasing as well with about 40% of the current vino nobile vineyards practicing. The Vino Nobile DOCG is also undergoing a project that will allow zero impact on the environment and will be the first winegrowing area within Italy that will have all bottles to be certified to show this impact of neutralizing the gas emissions once complete.
What makes up a Vino Nobile? The wine must be at least 70% prugnolo gentile, which you're probably familiar with as sangiovese. There is also allowance of up to 30% of other red Tuscan grapes. The wines can be released on the market after 2 years of aging and for riservas the wines must be aged for 3 years with 6 months in the bottle for a riserva. The consorzio describes vino nobile wines characterists as ruby red in color changing to garnet with age. They have an intense and ethereal aroma. On the palate they're dry, balanced and persistent with spicy notes from the oak aging.
It always surprises me how much of the wine produced within Italy is exported outside. Especially in regions such as Tuscany that produce highly recognizable and valued wines in other countries compared to some of the lesser known, smaller wine producing regions. Vino Nobile exports about 78% of their production with the US ranking at the top of the charts of importation at 21% second to Germany at a whopping 46%.
Have you been to this region and what are you favorite wineries or wines that you've tried?