Friday, April 29, 2022

Vino Travels Celebrates 9 Years with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

This month Vino Travels celebrates its 9 year anniversary!  It's hard to believe it's been 9 years since I started my journey dedicated to learn more about wine and the wine journey still continues on.  Although the focus still remains on Italian wine, as my readers know I'll occasionally break off and share wines from around the world.  The more you know the more you grow!   

I appreciate all the continued support from my readers that have stayed with me motivating me to continue on. Although I haven't been to a live wine tasting in years due to Covid, I hope I'll be able soon to increase the breadth of Italian wines that I can share with you as time goes on.   

To celebrate this year's anniversary I decided to see what I had sitting around from my travels to Italy that I have brought home from years passed and I decided to open a bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Azienda Agricola Ercolani. This winery is located in the town of Montepulciano, which is in the southeast corner of Tuscany also bordering the Umbria region.  

This area holds Etruscan origins and Vino Nobile was a wine enjoyed since Roman Times and whose name was established by the “nobleman” of those that enjoyed it during those times. The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG was one of the first DOCs to get elevated to DOCG in 1980. The territory primarily resides around Montepulciano, but also extends east to Valiano. 

The Territory ~ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The wines under the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG must be comprised of at least 70% Sangiovese, which in this area is also known as Prugnolo Gentile. There is an allowance of up to 30% of other Tuscan grapes such as Canaiolo, Mammolo, Colorino, etc but many producers produce their wines with a heavier percentage of Prugnolo Gentile. The wines must be at least 12.5% alcohol and age at least 24 months with at least 12 of those months spent in wood. For wines like the Riserva that I’m sharing today, there is an increased minimum requirement of alcohol from 13% with extended aging to 36 months with 12 of those months spent in wood and 6 months in the bottle. 

The Winery ~ Ercolani

Azienda Agricola Ercolani and the family’s history in winemaking dates back to the 1940’s with the great grandfather Ercolani, but the winery was officially established in 1988. Their estate occupies 370 acres of land of which 34 acres are dedicated to vines and the rest is shared with crops, sheep, truffles and olives.  

Montepulciano is a beautiful medieval town with quite a steep hill to walk up when visiting, but take the time to meander through the small alleyways and quaint shops on your way up to Piazza Grande. There is an underground city within Montepulciano and was what originally attracted me to purchasing this wine as I visited their cellar and shops in wandering throughout the town. Beneath the palaces underground you descend into tunnels and passageways and where the Ercolani cellars are located there are also ancient Etruscan tombs, wells, fountains and where the Ghibellines found refuge. Quite neat to check out! 

underground wine cellars of Montepulciano

The Wine

The 2009 Apostoli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva is grown on south facing vineyards that are said to be one of the oldest vineyards in Montepulciano located under the monastery of the Apostoli  located 1,300 feet above sea level. Although I couldn’t locate the technical sheet on this particular wine as their website only goes back to the 2012 vintage it seemed that many of the vintages spent 2 years in large Slavonian oak barrels and 1 additional year in Slavonian tonneaux and 1 year in the bottle.  

This wine was deeply garnet color with brick hues towards the edge. A very earthy, rustic nose with aromas of cherry and lots of green olive that also carried through to the palate. A dry, medium-bodied wine with firm tannins still holding on along with the acidity lasting through to a lengthy finish.

Ercolani recommends these wines with pecorino and goat cheeses, cold cuts, egg pasta with wild boar (one of my favorites), game meat including pot roast, roast lamb or pork along with truffle based dishes. Now if only I had time to prepare one of those this week, but I personally love drinking a bottle on its own and appreciating all the nuances.  

2009 Apostoli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

Please reach don't be afraid to reach out and share what you'd like to see more of, what you enjoy or just to say hi so I know you're out there.  I love hearing from readers!  You can reach me at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.   

Friday, April 15, 2022

Bring on Spring with Loire Valley Wines

Every time I join our Winophiles group focusing on the different wine regions throughout France I ask myself why I do not drink more French wine.  I have an Old World palate and every time I decide to jump in and try something new I add some new favorites to my repertoire.  This month we feature the Loire Valley hosted by Camilla of the Culinary Adventures of Camilla.  With spring upon us, the wines I’m sharing today couldn’t have been a better fit to welcome the season.  Let’s dig into the Loire Valley! 

The Loire Valley wine region is located in Central France and runs along the Loire River. The wine region is divided into 3 parts, two of which I’ll be sharing wines from today including the Upper Valley and the Central Valley. The region is rich with beautiful landscapes with chateaus and castles spread throughout and covers over 600 miles from east to west.  

Loire valley wine regions
Sourced from Wikipedia
There is nothing like starting a tasting with some sparkling wine, which brings us to our first wine, a non-vintage Bouvet Signature Brut. The winery was founded in 1851 by Etienne Bouvet and is located in the Central Loire Valley in Saumur. Bouvet is the 2nd oldest sparkling producer in the Saumur. This area became one of France’s largest traditional method producers and still stands to be one of the most respected sparkling wine producing areas in France. 

Saumur is an area that is known for its tuffeau caves that reside in the chalky hillsides. These caves help moderate consistent temperatures. There are actually hundreds of miles of underground caves dug out with the materials used to build castles and palaces found throughout the region. Bouvet actually has underground cellars that were excavated by St. Florence monks that used the material to build La Bella d’Anjou abbey. These underground caves about 5 miles long, in 2002, became recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site known as the Underground Cathedral.  

The Bouvet Signature Brut non-vintage I tried is made from 90% Chenin Blanc and 10% Chardonnay. The grapes are sourced from over 100+ plots of land that the Bouvet family has long established relationships with. These grapes grow on soils mostly comprised of limestone, which is fantastic for growing Chenin Blanc grapes, along with some clay that allow great drainage. The juice is pressed in the vineyard and brought to the winery and the lots are blended before secondary fermentation via the traditional method. Straw to yellow colored in the glass, this wine had a beautiful nose of citrus, green apple, stone fruit and a slight hint of vanilla. The bubbles were fine and the wine was quite airy with lemon zest and a tingly acidity carried through to the finish. I located this wine online at Total Wine for $11.99. Quite a steal! ABV 12.5% 

Bouvet Signature Brut NV

I’d love to say I prepared this gourmet French meal, but let’s keep in mind I have 2 small children and I may have been the only one eating it if I did. With the leftover ham we had from the prior night’s meal, I paired the Bouvet Signature Brut with a tortellini, ham and pea dish that went together quite well! The sauce had a slight creaminess to it that seemed to blend well with the bubbles. 

Tortellini Ham and Peas with Bouvet Sparkling Brut

The second one I sampled, a 2019 Michel Redde La Moynerie Pouilly Fume, hails from the Upper Loire Valley where the winery is located in the north side of the town of Pouilly-sur-Loire. This particular wine appellation is known for its Sauvignon Blanc.  

Michel Redde and his son, Thierry, operate the winery today along with Thierry’s sons. Winemaking has been in the origins of the Redde family since 1630. Michel from an early age always wanted to be in the wine industry and with his wife in 1950 started purchasing and clearing land and planting vineyards. Starting with 15 acres and growing to the present 85 acres, the vineyards are located on hillsides overlooking the Loire Valley. About 97% of their vineyards are planted to Sauvignon Blanc. They are slow progressing towards converting over to organic winemaking as well.  

The 2019 Michel Redde La Moynerie Pouilly Fume was my favorite of the two. Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc this wine is produced from 20-25 year old vines in diverse soils from limestone to marl and clay with flint. Unlike Bouvet, these grapes are estate grown. The wine was aged on the lees about 10-12 months in stainless and wooden barrels until bottled. A brilliant pale straw color in the glass. The wine was quite aromatic showing mostly apricots and grassy notes. Bright, lively acidity right up front with great body and texture. Mostly herbal and grassy notes along with some citrus and a hint of apricot towards the finish. Lots of minerality showing on this wine and I picked up a hint of warmth on the finish from the 14.2% alcohol, but not considerably noticeable. Great length! SRP $36. 

2019 Michel Redde La Moynerie Pouilly Fume

I went with a simple pairing for this one and wish I had added more of a sauce to the top that may have really married well to the dish. I prepared quinoa topped with baked salmon drizzled with some sesame oil. Still enjoyable, but I think a sauce would’ve turned this pairing up a notch.    

Salmon with quinoa paired with Pouilly Fume

Don’t stop now! The rest of our wine and food loving crew have great wine and food pairing suggestions on the Loire Valley to share.  Join us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST at #Winophiles as we chat more about the Loire Valley.  See you there! 

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.  Importer is Kobrand.