Monday, March 31, 2014

Sangiovese Sources -Part 2 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Wine with a Noble Heritage

Montepulciano. Photo Bob Fyke
 In my ongoing love affair with wines made from the Sangiovese grape, I regularly explore the various manifestations that different places produce. Each puts its own special mark on the Sangiovese personality, and provides nuances that make my pursuit even more pleasant. I keep arriving at the same conclusion; nowhere outside of Italy seems capable of bringing out the best facets of this gem. Tuscany, first and foremost, is perfect for Sangiovese, and vice versa, but other Italian regions too can illuminate its heart. Among them are Romagna and Umbria. I will keep looking elsewhere, and would love to find examples that disprove my conclusion, but for now Italy is the only place that captures Sangiovese's greatness.

The Author and His Lovely Wife in Montepulciano
In today's post I focus on Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the product of vineyards surrounding the beautiful Tuscan village of Montepulciano, a place no visitor to Tuscany should miss. Classically crowning a dramatic hilltop, its spectacular views and wonderful charms make for great romance and memories.

 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was the very first wine to receive Italy's coveted DOCG designation, today there are 73 DOCG wines, but it was the first. What placed it at the head of the line? To start, it has a long history, having been mentioned by name in documents dating back to 1350. Add to that the fact that it has a history of being preferred by "nobles" such as popes, poets, and kings, and one can see why it was bestowed this honor. And then of course there is the fact that it is a consistently fine wine.

The DOCG laws require that Vino Nobile be composed of a minimum of 70% Sangiovese, locally called Prugnolo Gentile, with up to 30% being composed of other permissible grapes such as Canaiolo Nero and Colorino.

Regarding the name, be careful not to confuse it with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, which is made from a different grape (Montepulciano), and in a different place (Abruzzo). Yes, it's a little confusing, but worth sorting out.

Generally speaking, Vino Nobile presents a Sangiovese of solid stature, with lovely aromatics of Earth, woods, and spice, and excellent balance. Many of them age quite well, and will reward patience, but it's not a wine that starts out backward or brutish. Rather, it can be enjoyed soon after release, or five, ten, or more years later. As is generally true with well made Sangiovese wines, they are best enjoyed with good food and good friends.

Here are notes from examples recently tasted at the Gambero Rosso event and seminar, "Italian Wine Tales", held in New York's Metropolitan Pavillion, in Manhattan.These are a small, but solid, sample of what wine lovers can enjoy from the eighty or so producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008 13.5% ABV,  $27
Here is a winery that takes environmental consciousness very seriously. Not only are they
certified organic / biodynamic,but they are completely off-grid as relates to electricity.
All electricity used in the production of this wine comes from
renewable resources, very impressive.
The wine shows no sign of being deprived in the production process. Serious, showing mineral and flinty notes, along with dried pine needles, all overlaying dusty dried black cherry. Later on the nose,
charred wood and meat fragrances came out. The palate is firm, showing roasted black cherry and lean,
finessed sweetness, on top of everything, that lends an elegant quality to the palate.The finish has some length with scents of sandalwood supported by sweet acidity and subtle tannins. Balanced and complete, this is impressive for a normale level Vino Nobile. 91Pts

Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010 13.5% ABV,  $27
Subtle dried herbs overlay dark Earthy cherry and leather. The acidity is understated on the soft textured palate that opens with round, spiced cherry preserves, followed by firm Earth and a good grip. Well structured and easy. 88 Pts.

La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva "Santa Pia" 2008  14% ABV, $36 
This single vineyard Riserva is raised in French Oak and shows it with its approachability.
The nose jumps out with dense black cherry fruit that is forward and full of flavor, with cappuccino aromas and faint toast hovering over the fruit. Also present are light, dried herb notes. The palate has a soft texture
and shows more of the coffee, ripe black cherry flesh, as well as dried underbrush. There's a woody finish
of some length, with tobacco surfacing late. 

Fine grained tannins and subtle acidity underpin everything. 89 Pts




La Ciarliana Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Vigna 'Scianello 2007 $37

Dark incense and charred sandalwood float atop the spare black fruit in this very traditional nose. Plenty of aromatic mineral and leather further enhance this lovely wine. On the palate, the sweet leather, Earth and brambles continue the aromatic personality. There are no gaps here as each phase transitions into the next. Quite brambly on the mid-palate, then aromatic dried cherry skins takes over and carry into the long finish where fine tannins, more leather, and a little tobacco finish things off. Finessed, but solid, with fine grained tannins that provide a big satisfying grip. 92Pts



Vecchia Cantina Redi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva "Briareo" 2007 $35

The nose shows green and black pepper notes over lean black cherry fruit with a bit of vanilla bean as well. Forward and a bit fragrant, with a little chocolate coming out later on the nose. The palate is straightforward, primarily showing dense blackberry with a little chocolate. The tannins are dusty and the acid understated. The finish shows a little incense and flinty Earth. 88Pts








Vecchia Cantina Redi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano VeCam 2010

Lovely spice and dried herbs up front on top of dried red cherry skins, mineral Earth. The attack on the palate is soft in texture with clean red cherry and raspberry, with fresh acidity, and subtle earth. Moderately long on the finish with the mineral and herbs lingering. Elegant and finessed. 89Pts


La Berne Vino Nobile di MontepulcianoRiserva 2004 14% ABV, $40

  There is a solid depth to the full black cherry fruit here, making a nice core that is accented by dried flowers, sweet tobacco, and coffee notes. The attack on the palate is soft and pleasant. with lots of character from start to finish. Aromatic wood and dried cherry fruit dominate, with juicy acidity and some stature. Solid and finessed at the same time, it seems to have plenty of life left. 91 Pts.



Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2001 14% ABV

Here is an excellent example of the complexity and beauty that can develop in Vin Nobile that has had time in the bottle. The nose starts with solid dark fruit, blackberry and dark cherry, with pretty dried herbs, tobacco, and some mint coffee notes. The palate is soft textured and complex with dusty black cherry skins, eucalyptus, pine, underbrush, organic Earth, and a touch of milk chocolate. Clean and fresh in character, with a long finish of mouth coating fine tannins and tobacco. 92 Pts.

Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Nocio dei Boscarelli 2009 14.5% ABV, $70

 This comes from the single Vineyard del Nocio, which was planted in 1972, and is 100% Sangiovese. Aromatic and savory on the nose, qualities of charred Earth and grilled meat come through, along with dried sage and dried red cherry skins. Fresh and juicy on the palate, with brisk acidity, clean red cherry flesh and black cherry skins, and leather. Balanced and quietly structured, it carries through the finish with satisfaction. 90Pts

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