As you might have noticed, Tuscany is a land of history going back to the Etruscan era and beyond. Winemaking can be traced back as far in history too. Often I have been talking about Chianti and Chianti Classico in my articles, but this time I will focus on Rosso di Montepulciano and Nobile di Montepulciano. This wine is produced in a small area around Montepulciano situated in the south-east of Tuscany. The particularity is that the grape used for the Montepulciano wines is the Prugnolo Gentile, i.e. a variety of the Sangiovese Grosso which is larger and has a thicker and darker skin. In this article I will tell you about when I visited my friend Nadia, who lives in Montefollonico, just a 10 minutes drive from Montepulciano. We did Montepulciano by night and tasted several lovely wines. Read on to get the whole story and the short interview with Daiana Masucci, the manager of the consortium’s wine shop…
On a Wednesday afternoon in early July I was taking the train, or rather taking a sauna on rails, towards Montepulciano where Nadia was waiting for me. This visit was long overdue, I had had a standing invitation from Nadia for a long time to come visit her, but never really managed to get there. I arrived in the late afternoon, and we headed directly to the wine tasting “Wednesday with Nobile” at the wine shop of the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in Palazzo del Capitano in Montepulciano. These Nobile wine tastings are organized every Wednesday evening during June and July. It is a popular event where you can meet local wine producers and learn more about their wine. Daiana Masucci, the wine shop manager, is leading the wine tasting both in English and in Italian. In fact, it is a popular event among tourists who are visiting the area.
We tasted six wines that evening, ranging from Rosso di Montepulciano to Nobile di Montepulciano and Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva. The descriptions here would be too long, so I will only talk more specifically about two of the wines we tasted. The wines were: Nobile di Montepulciano Valdipiatta DOCG 2011 and Rosso di Montepulciano Valdipiatta DOC 2013 from Tenuta Valdipiatta, Rosso di Montepulciano Fossolupaio DOC 2013, Nobile di Montepulciano Bindella DOCG 2011 and Nobile di Montepulciano I Quadri DOCG 2011 from Tenuta Vallocaia. And last, but not least, a Nobile di Montepulciano Valdipiatta Riserva Vigna d’Alfiero DOCG 2006.
The Nobile di Montepulciano Bindella 2011 is a very interesting wine. The blend is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Colorino del Valdarno, Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo. The vinification takes place in steel vats at a controlled temperature between 25 and 28 °C. The wine then mature and age 20-22 months in large oak barrels followed by at least 6 months in bottle. It is a ruby red wine with aromas of rose, red fruits, and a balsamic note. The tannins are well balanced and all in all, it is a full-bodied and elegant wine.
The Nobile di Montepulciano Valdipiatta Riserva Vigna d’Alfiero 2006 is named after Alfiero Carpini, the first vineyard worker at Valdipiatta. It is 100% Sangiovese. The aging takes place in 60 gallon Allier oak barrels during the first 18 months followed by another 12 months in bottle. It is a ruby red wine with aromas of flowers, such as violet, and wild berries. It has a taste of red fruit, black pepper, and vanilla. The tannins are quite firm. It is a very elegant and well-structured wine with a long finish.
A bit of history about the Nobile di Montepulciano
Montepulciano is believed to have been founded in the Etruscan period, and the first documentation of wine production in the area can be traced back to the VIII century. According to Luca Maroni, in Nobile, re dei vini, the wine from Montepulciano knew its splendor during the Renaissance (15th Century) with Poliziano, the official poet of the town. The definition Vino Nobile was mentioned for the first time in a document in 1787. However, the Nobile di Montepulciano as we know it today dates back to 1925 when a couple of local producers, among others Fanetti from the Cantina Fanetti, started outlining the parameters for how to produce Nobile wine. Together with the family Biondi Santi, historic producers of Brunello di Montalcino, they can be said to have innovated winemaking in the southern parts of Tuscany before World War II. In fact, they both presented their wines at the first wine exhibition for select wines in Siena in 1931. The Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was founded in 1965 with the aim to protect and promote the image of the Rosso di Montepulciano, Nobile di Montepulciano and their Vin Santo in Italy and abroad. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a period of revival of these wines thanks to some new EU regulations and the recognition of the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status in 1980.
The dramatic story behind the first Italian DOCG
Both I and Nadia remembered from our studying to become sommelier that Brunello di Montalcino was the first Italian wine to get the status as DOCG. So imagine my surprise when I at the “Wednesday with Nobile” was told that the Nobile di Montepulciano was the first Italian DOCG. I felt quite ignorant then, and me and Nadia, of course, picked up our smartphones straight away to do research. The DOCG status was instituted according to Italian law 930/1963, but it was only in 1980 that the first DOCG was conferred to a wine. Furthermore, the DOCG status is reserved for select wines having been DOCs for at least five years. (However, feel free to correct me if I have understood anything wrong here.)
So basically, according to the Presidential Decree of 01/07/1980, both Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano were conferred DOCG status on that same date. The first one had been DOC since 28/03/1966, while the second one had had DOC status since 12/07/1966. (See further the article by Marcello Leder.) This would mean that Brunello di Montalcino was the first wine to get DOCG status. However, it is not over yet. Nobile di Montepulciano was awarded the very first state recognition DOCG band, with batch code nr. AA000001. Do you see the nerve-racking situation here? So which wine was the first Italian DOCG wine? Well if we refer to the 5 year DOC rule, it is Brunello di Montalcino. However, Nobile di Montepulciano was first to have a bottle with the state recognition DOCG band out on the market.
3 questions to Daiana Masucci
1) How would you describe the Nobile di Montepulciano wine in three words to someone who has not come in contact with the wine yet?
Daiana: 3 words to describe the Nobile, that is not very easy! However, I would say fruity, full-bodied and elegant!
2) Do you have any particular anecdote to tell about the visitors to the enoteca? For example, a particular person you met, a comment, feedback or other.
Daiana: I love my work because I meet so many people from different places and cultures, italians as well as foreigners. Many come here for holiday, thus they are in general curious but relaxed. Often they come to do sightseeing in Montepulciano where they then discover the wine shop, others come specifically for the Nobile di Montepulciano and the wine shop and are fascinated by the small town. Some clients come to buy the wine and send it back to their home country. One American couple came here and bought wine to send back home for their Thanksgiving dinner, others buy the wine for special occasions such as the birth of their children or, as in the case of a couple from Milan, for their wedding. Then there are couples who come back every year. One couple, for example, came here when they were engaged, then they came back when they got married and after that when the wife was pregnant.
3) What dishes would you pair with a Nobile di Montepulciano / Nobile Riserva?
Daiana: In the afternoon, to start with, different kinds of cheese and cold cuts, but then you can continue all night long…
From wine tasting directly to dinner
After the wine tasting we hurried to the restaurant Osteria Acquacheta where Nadia had booked a table for dinner. It is a very rustic and lovely place, perfect to try some of the many typical Tuscan dishes (such as pici and bistecca). We were still high on all the amazing Montepulciano wines, but had no problem to continue with more red wine during the dinner. While beginning on our pici al ragú followed by coniglio con bietola saltata, the waitress asked us to make place for some other people at our table. Then three very nice Americans (Eric, Eran and Joe) sat down at our table, and we started chatting about everything from cycling around Tuscany (they were there to ride their bikes around the countryside), life in their home town Scottsdale, Arizona, wine drinking, and fun stuff in general. We continued the evening with chatting some more and drinking cocktails at a local bar in Montepulciano, before we all headed home to sleep. The day after we went to get some fresh air at Castiglione del Lago.
Have you been to Montepulciano, or are you planning to go there? The countryside around Montepulciano is lovely, a perfect spot to go for a walk or just sit down with a view over the hills sipping a glass of Nobile di Montepulciano. Please feel free to comment on your impressions of Montepulciano.