The wine-driven Tuscan Renaissance in the lands of Siena

Tasting new releases in the Montepulciano wine area. Both Nobile and Riserva Montepulciano wines raise the bar for the 2018 vintage of fine Tuscan wines.

By Filippo Bartolotta
Mon, Jun 07

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A few kilometers south of Siena on a hill that rises to over 600 meters above sea level is one of the most beautiful and ancient towns in Tuscany: Montepulciano.

A true awe-inspiring terrace of wonders overlooking iconic Tuscan landscapes that never wears out the eyes, and seems to be the embodiment of a perfect country dream. Uncontaminated nature dotted by ancient farmhouses and villas, Romanesque churches and wonderfully-maintained Etruscan remains.

This area is one of Tuscany’s true wine-focused homelands, with local wine production existing for over 2,000 years.  Montepulciano finds its splendour once again during the Renaissance era, and today, the maniacally-preserved architecture of the areas tell this story from each curve and visual perspective.

While it can be a soul-enhancing experience to simply wander the town and get lost in its “enchanting spell,” it can be even more awe-inspiring to venture into one of the 16th-century historic wine cellars in the city center.  These real-deal cathedrals of wine attest to the fundamental role wine plays in this part of Tuscany.

If Montepulciano starts a travel buzz in your ears, Filippo has also ventured into the wine lands of Montalcino di Brunello - don't miss the video series exploring the Miracle of Montalcino, and get ready to have a long list of Tuscan sites to visit!
 

 

GRAPES OF MONTEPULCIANO WINES

A wine produced from the vineyards surrounding Montepulciano must be primarily made of Sangiovese (which in called Prugnolo Gentile in Montepulciano lingo).  Sangiovese grapes must account for at least 70% of the wines’ grape DNA.   

Other red grapes may be present, and can account for no more than 30% of the wines’ structure. We frequently find Colorino, Mammolo, and Canaiolo grapes.  Sometimes, you can find international varieties like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon taking their roles in the Montepulciano wine creation.
 

 

HOW MONTEPULCIANO AGES AND DEVELOPS 

The vinification and aging process of Montepulciano wine creation must be carried out in cellars within the Montepulciano wine territory.  Aging must be a process lasting at least 2 years, beginning from the start of January and following the harvest period.

Within the classic 2-year aging timeframe, producers have their own flexibility and approach to establish regarding aging.  The selection can be made to age their Nobile wines for 24 months in wood, or 18 months in wood and the remainder in other container materials. Further aging options include possibly 6 months in other containers and 6 months bottle aging.  Insomma, there’s a range producers can select from.

Following classic Montepulciano regulations, we also find a “Riserva” category of Montepulciano Vino Nobile wines.  Riserva wines have a longer aging period compared to the classic Vino Nobile vintages.  In this case, 3 years of aging in wood, with at least 6 months of bottle aging are standard-issue aging regulation timeframes.

You might have what it takes to become a master wine-maker.  And if not actual maker, definitely a wine-lover!  To learn all about how wine is made, and to further appreciate the work behind each and every delicious chalice of Italian wine you enjoy, don't miss the Wine School series that will lead you through the fundamentals of what wine is all about.
 

 

NOBILE’S NEW VINTAGE: PIEVI

In the midst of the Montepulciano Vino Nobile Anteprima where the elegant, finely balanced 2018 vintage was presented, some news emerged as well.

Following an extraordinary geological and geographic study of the Montepulciano territory, 12 individual zones have been identified.  Within these distinct 12 zones, following UGA (Additional Geographical Units) production regulations, the labels for wines produced within these zones will include a new identification:  Pieve will be included on all these Montepulciano Vino Nobile selections.

The decision to use ancient territorial toponyms is a clear reference to the area’s history and the Tuscan identity of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  Pievi refers clearly to the historic parish churches, where local territory was divided following late Roman and Longobard territorial markings.  Adding Pievi to the label is the result of an in-depth study of the Montepulciano’s study of history, landscape, and local wine production.

The local typology of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines is indicative of a physical reality with ancient historical wine roots.  This tie with the past is one of the typical characteristics of today’s  Poliziano territory.  This reality is echoed in the Leopoldine land registry throughout history, up through the early decades of the 19th century, which divided the territory into sub-areas delineated by toponyms.

From this study and decision, a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine that definitely reflects its territory will be available to the public beginning from 2024 - you’ll have to wait patiently until then!

The Pievi vintage is quite similar to the Riserva style in terms of its aging process.  The wine must be aged for at least 36 months in wooden casks.  Its grape structure is different however, in that the Sangiovese grapes used at its heart can only be blended with indigenous grapes found within the Montepulciano territories.

Let's get into the tasting.  Before we explore the Montepulciano options, don't forget to check out the Chianti Classico selections Filippo has explored for you.  A whole world of Tuscan fine wines await you!
 

 

VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2018 VINTAGE TASTINGS 

In the heart of historic Montepulciano, in the Fortezza di Montepulciano, along with approximately 60 of my fellow wine journalists, I was able to sample nearly all of the Nobile di Montepulciano 2018 vintage.

This year emerged as expressive of freshness, with hints of pleasant red fruits and a rather intriguing, important structural composition that can sometimes lead to wines with important tannins and robustness.

The 2017 Riserva vintage that I would have imagined as quite alcoholic, and filled with overripe wines in reality proved otherwise.  While bottles were few, they did a superb job!

Below is my list of Montepulciano Nobile wine selections that for my tasting experiences, expressed the most balance.  Additionally, I selected these labels for their ability to express the finest territorial elements.  Check out my choices - are yours the same?


 

Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2018
Strawberry and flowers. Intense red-driven fruit with a really juicy touch. Some important tannic structure with a bitter almond, liquorice, leather, and blackberry juice balance. 92/100.
Drink now-15 years

 

Il Molinaccio La Spinosa Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2018
Very ripe red fruit with an intriguing orange peel, broom flowers, and an iodine finish, with a slim personality. 90/100.
Drink now-8 years

 

Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2018
Rosemary blossoms, orange peel, and sour cherries. Bright, with sweet red fruit, juiciness.  Great balance with medicinal herbs and a floral finish. 94/100.
Drink now-8 years

 

Le Berne
Blue flowers, blueberries. Well ripened palate, cherries, mineral with some spices, very balanced, and plenty of fruit. 92/100.
Drink now-15 years

 

Bindella
Bright red fruit, well integrated with Mediterranean herbs and flowers. Tobacco, leather, and a great deal of velvet touch, with some gun flint finish. 94/100.
Drink now-15 years

 

Poliziano 
Prunes, gun flint, cigar boxes. A salty presence, some thyme and some earthiness. This wine needs some time to emerge, but it is a thoroughbred with so much aging potential. 95/100.
Drink in 2-18 years

 

Salcheto
Fresh bright red fruit, simple but well balanced, with harmony and elegance, and a great clean juicy finish. 92/100.
Drink now-8 years

 

Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano Argo 
Herbs, red cherries. A good tobacco and liquorice complexity. Very well-made, with some cinnamon, and a touch of linden flowers. 90/100. 
Drink now

 

Want to know what Filippo sees in the Brunello wines?  Be sure to check out the Italian Wine Review series to find some new favorites, as guided by the reliable Filippo!
 

 

Nobile Riserva 2017 

Boscarelli 
Bloody awesome. Without a doubt, one of the most inspiring and well-executed Riserva that managed to get clean fruit, minerality, elegance, and power. 94/100.
Drink now-25 years

 

Fattoria della Talosa
Intense, extractive, and powerful Riserva with tobacco, wet clay, forest floor, black fruit, and a balsamic touch. Important structure with some tougher tannins at the beginning: wine to age a bit. 91/100.
Drink 3-18 years

 

Il Molinaccio la duemiladiciassette
Red fruit-driven, very light and uplifting-stye Riserva. I like this idea of bright, refreshing hints of fruit on the cusp of maturity. Perhaps not a keeper for decades, but a Nobile showing character, drinkability, and happiness. 93/100.
Drink now-15 years

 

Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta 
Bravi! I like this wine with its bursting energy, red fruit character, orange peel, sweet, reactive fruit and sapidity. Good balance, length, and harmony, with some oak spices on the finish. 92/100.
Drink 3-18 years
 

Carpineto 
Good sweet fruit, some oak spices, extractive structure, black fruit  and seductive character. 91/100.
Drink now-12 years
 

Tenuta Trerose Simposio 
Yes! I love the gun flint and iodine complexity, the oriental spices combined with Malden salt, balsamic herbs, blue fruit with some serious length. Juicy blood orange and leather on the finish. 96/100.
Drink now-25



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