This is part two of my entries on the great Tuscan reds. I began with Chianti and will move on soon to Brunello di Montalcino and then Bolgheri.
VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO
The “noble wine” of Montepulciano is one of Italy’s most famous reds; the name came partly from the fact that the nobility owned the land and vineyards in this area in southeastern Tuscany and that the best wines were reserved for their use. Thankfully, today consumers can enjoy this historical red wine as well. (note: Montepulciano in this instance refers to the city of Montepulciano in Tuscany; this has nothing to do with the Montepulciano grape, most commonly found in the region of Abruzzo.)
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape, known locally as Prugnolo Gentile. The minimum percentage of Sangiovese in this wine is 70%; while it is allowed to produce a Vino Nobile completely from Sangiovese, this is rare. For blending, some producers favor the traditional local varieties such as Canaiolo or Mammolo, while others opt for international varieties such as Merlot, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine is released two years after the vintage date (at earliest); there is a lighter version called Rosso di Montepulciano that can be sold after one year. As with other Tuscan reds, oak aging can be in large casks known as botti grandi or in smaller barrels known as barriques.
Top producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano include:
- Fattoria del Cerro
While Vino Nobile was considered a great wine in the 1800s and the early 1900s, its image had diminished by the mid to late 20th century. Chianti had taken its place as far as popularity and Brunello di Montalcino had surplanted it in terms of quality and renown (this despite the fact that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was one of the first wines in Italy to be awarded a DOCG designation in 1966.) Over the past 20 years however, local producers have concentrated on making better wines, ones with greater depth of fruit and more refined tannins. Today, while Vino Nobile di Montepulciano still stands in the shadows of other more famous Tuscan reds, the wines are gaining new fame, especially cru bottlings such as “Asinone” from Poliziano, “Antica Chiusina” from Fattoria del Cerro and “Vigneto di Poggio Sant’Enrico” from Carpineto.
Most bottlings of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are made to be consumed within 5-7 years after the vintage date. The cru bottlings often drink well for 10-12 years, depending on the quality of the vintage. The best recent vintages include 1999, 2001 and 2004, while 2007 looks to be a remarkable vintage as well (the wines from 2007 will be released over the next few years.)
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano pairs well with poultry, game, veal, pork and lighter red meats. It also works well with many types of pastas, especially pici, a broad, hand-rolled pasta, that is a specialty of the local trattorie of the Montepulciano area.