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Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: One of Tuscany’s Oldest Wines

“Bella Arianna con bianca mano

versa la manna di Montepulciano…

Montepulciano d'ogni vino è Re!”

For those who like their wine with a side of history, holding a glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano puts over 1,200 years of wisdom and heritage in your hands.

The “noble wine” of Montepulciano is mentioned in documents as far back as far as 789. Francesco Redi, 17th century Italian poet, wrote an ode the legendary wine in which Ariadne and Bacchus themselves are imagined singing its praises: “Montepulciano is the king of all wines!”

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is produced with Prugnolo Gentile, a Sangiovese clone. Hinting at the wine’s scent, the word prugnolo is derived from the Italian word prugna, which means plum. Nobile di Montepulciano, from Sangiovese grape, where Montepulciano refers to the name of the town, should not be confused with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, where Montepulciano refers to the name of the grape.

Like all the great Tuscan reds, Nobile expresses the profound union between Sangiovese and terroir. It is produced exclusively in Montepulciano, which lies just south of Siena, and the vines should be cultivated at an altitude between 250 and 580 meters.

The production area is relatively small (about 670 hectares, or 1,655 acres). Unlike Chianti, Nobile’s original production area has not expanded much throughout the centuries, despite being widely celebrated since the Renaissance.

Its secret is the soil: an alternation of sands and clays creates ideal conditions for producing structured wines with good aromas and fine, soft tannins.

Nobile is characterized by an intense bouquet of plums, cherries, violets, spice, herbaceous and earthy notes. The freshness can be discreet and tannins are mostly fine and well balanced. The fruit plays with earthy and spice notes, but it is not as mineral and austere as Brunello. In fact, you will recognize it for the softness of the tannins and the classic "plum and cherry" fruit.

All Nobile Wine of Montepulciano is required to contain a minimum of 70% Sangiovese, Prugnolo Gentile, usually completed with Canaiolo, (up to 20%), and Mammolo, which adds a floral component, especially violet mammola. You can also find Montepulciano producers making 100% Sangiovese wines or blending Sangiovese with international grape varietals, like Merlot.

Before being put on the market, Nobile ages for a minimum of 2 years in the cellar, at least 12 months of which are spent in the barrel. Most producers choose to use a longer period in the oak.

The aging potential of Nobile reaches up to 15-20 years in great vintages, and I would advise at least 5 years from the harvest to let the aromas reveal themselves. It should be served at 18 degrees celsius (64.4 degrees fahrenheit) for mature bottles raise the temperature by a couple of degrees.

Our favorite samplings from these recent weeks:

  • Boscarelli Nobile 2006, 2012 - for elegance and aging potential

  • Cruciani Riserva 2012 - for the straightforward nature of the fruit with the earthy notes, and for its 14th century cellar in the center of Montepulciano

  • Salco 2011 (a Cru from Salchetto) - for its interesting minerality and eco-sustainable management of the winery

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