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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, March 09 2010. 13:34

Tuscan Marathon 2010: Noble Wine of Montepulciano

Tuscan Marathon 2010 as Conte John Salvi MW describes the 1000-wine Ante Prima tasting organised by the Consortia of San Gimignano, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino last month is a 4-part series only an expert with decades of experience can illustrate. In this Part III, he takes you to Montepulciano. 

Photo By:: Adil Arora

Chianciano Terme and Montepulciano

We reached the Hotel Ambasciatori in Chianciano Terme about 18.00 and had time for a short rest before the traditional and monumental dinner offered by our Montepulciano hosts in the hotel dining room.  The dinner was gargantuan and magnificent, including huge grilled prawns and freshly made sushi as well as all the local specialities of charcuterie, pasta, meats, fishes and desserts.  Naturally it was not served until after 21.00, as in Chianti, and after many delicious nibbles. 

We enjoyed the same system of choosing our wines from a long list, which were brought and served by a smiling sommelier.  At our table we managed 25 and finished with 7 Vin Santo.  A good evening’s work!  We retired replete at around midnight.

Now it was Thursday and we enjoyed a peaceful breakfast after putting hotel stickers on our luggage for transfer to Brunello, hoping they would arrive safely and at the right hotel!  Around 09.00 the bus took us as far as it could into Montepulciano, but could not manage the narrow, twisty streets.  Those of us with sticks or gammy legs had to wait while they sent down cars, which they did with grace and charm. 

Then started something of a marathon.The President welcomed us warmly, but this was followed by a presentation of the 2009 vintage by an oenologist who is better not being named and who was totally uninformative.  None the less the 2009 vintage was awarded 4 stars, which it deserved, and I owe the following brilliant description of the 2009 weather and vintaging conditions to the superbly written and highly informative brochure that was handed out to us all. 

As in Chianti we had the choice of two options.  We could sit at the tables, choose wines from the list, and be served by the sommeliers, or we could go to the museum 100 yards down the road (this was a new venue) and walk round the tables talking and tasting with the producers.  My wife did the former and I did the latter.  I tasted every 2009 that was being shown, which amounted to 9. 

It is a pity that here, and elsewhere, so few people show the new vintage.  I perfectly understand this as it requires professional wine knowledge to taste wines so young and sometimes unfinished and growers are afraid of inexperienced journalists getting the wrong impression.  However, as a professional, I need this knowledge of the new vintage and need to write about it.

I tasted all morning until 12.30, when lunch was served upstairs on the 2nd floor, after a brief look at internet on the 1st.  A wonderful, copious and delicious buffet, once again of all the local specialities.  One of these was the superb lasagne and there was farro, fine cheeses and my favourite - pannacotta.  Downstairs, after lunch, we discovered a splendid tasting of Vin Santo, which nobody seemed to know about.  Pity! 

We had answered the many emails, with invitations that were sent to us before the visit, and arranged an afternoon visit to La Braccesca (Antinori).  Soon after 15.00 the wonderful Serena Storri drove us to their estate in Cortona.  I was worried about time but the tasting went very fast and lasted some 30 minutes with 7 wines.  The vineyard manager drove us back to Montepulciano and was a veritable fund of information as he had been there since the first vine was planted 11 years ago.  I learned a great deal in the short 20 minute drive.  At this estate, under the Cortona banner, Braccesca produces Syrah.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Vendemmia 2009

So what of the 2009 vintage?  Information, as I said above, is drawn from the Consorzio brochure.   It began here with a cold and very wet winter.  During January and February rainfall reached 150mm and temperatures were very low.  The slightly above-average minimum and maximum temperatures in the first half of March resulted in enlargement of buds in precocious varieties on shallow, sandy soil. 

This slightly early development was halted on 21st March by snow and a consequent sharp fall in temperature. The “bleeding” phase, consisting of partial recommencement of vine activity with opening of the buds, which had already begun in precocious varieties like Colorino, was thus stopped by this variation in weather conditions.

Temperatures in April were quite high with an average of 12°C minimum and 19°C maximum.  This created ideal conditions for bud break, which took place in all varieties in the first 10 days of April.  The hot weather in May (with peaks of 30°C-35°C), following the regular rainfall during the preceding months, accelerated the development of foliage (see Chianti) to about 10 days earlier than average, enabling flowering to be complete by about 29th May.  As for Chianti again, the lush foliage on the plants made it necessary for wine growers to thin shoots and to spray with fungicides, which these days are almost 100% efficient.

At the end of May some areas experienced slight hydric stress and foliage growth slowed down, especially on shallow, sandy soil.  Seasonal temperatures were unusually high and growers talked about drought.

The heavy rainfall and lower temperatures in early June set that right and created conditions for total recovery of foliage development.  Rain is very important for the formation of the fruit at this stage.  The 120mm of rainfall caused the grapes to swell with a sharp and substantial increase in average weight. 

The months of July and August had an almost total absence of rain and above average temperatures for the period, slowing down that slightly early foliage development.  Colour change began in July and ended around mid August.  Ripening developed gradually and evenly with a good accumulation of sugar and polyphenols, also aided by the warm September weather with sporadic rainfalls.  These conditions facilitated the harvest that took place, for Sangiovese, in the last week of September and the first week of October.

Bud break: first 2 weeks of April
Flowering: 21st – 31st May
Colour Change: 25th July – 2nd August

Sangiovese reached excellent levels of ripeness in terms of colour extraction and elimination of grassy aromas, starting from the last 10 days of September, when the sugar content reached medium-high levels and acidities were medium or medium-low.  This trend continued in the days to follow so that the wines that resulted showed a high alcohol level, medium-low acidity after malo-lactic fermentation and generally high pH.  The polyphenol content and colour were also average. 

The final result is that the wines are very good and worth 4 stars out of 5.  Lovely, clean, pure and vibrant Sangiovese fruit will give relatively quick developing wines of great charm.

Thank you Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for a great visit.

John Salvi MW


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