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Taste Tuscany 2015: The Tuscan Wine Marathon-Montepulciano and Montalcino

Posted: Monday, 30 March 2015 17:55

Taste Tuscany 2015: The Tuscan Wine Marathon-Montepulciano and Montalcino

March 30: Taste Tuscany is a true wine marathon where one visits four of the major and most famous appellations of Tuscany-Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Benvenuto Brunello, changing both the cities and the hotels almost every night. It is exhausting and hard work, but for those of us whose job is tasting and writing about wine it is both exhilarating and informative, writes John Salvi MW

Click For Large ViewThe first part of the marathon- Chianti (added last year but expanded this year), Chianti Classico and Vernaccia di Sam Gimignano have been already covered by my friend Subhash Arora so I will jump straight to the tasting of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for which we were brought to our hotel Villa Ricci in Terme Chianciano near Montepulciano for the night after finishing Chianti Classico Tasting at Stazione Leopolda in Florence. The Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano had already organised a lavish dinner in the now fully restored and magnificent Fortezza, soon after our arrival.

Click For Large ViewThursday, the 19th February was a repeat of the Chianti Classico system of tasting with the wines of the Consorzio Del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano- tasting tables on the first floor and growers standing behind tables downstairs eager to taste with the visitors.  During the morning, and only in Italian, the 2014 vintage was presented by the oenologist, Umberto Trombelli, in the presence of the President of the Consorzio, Andrea Natalini, and the Mayor of Montalcino, Andrea Rossi. It was accorded only 3 stars, which as is little as is ever accorded and admits to a poor vintage. 

The Consorzio kindly lent me a computer, laid on a splendiferous buffet at midday and organised visits and dinners in the afternoon and evening.  My wife and I, by private arrangement, were picked up and taken to my favourite hotel in Brunello, the Albergo dei Capitani, with magnificent views over the valley.  After freshening up we were taken to a wonderful dinner at Col d’Orcia with Count Francesco Marone Cinzano.  We enjoyed a series of older vintages including magnums of 1990 and culminating with a 1963 in perfect condition, all accompanied by very fine Italian cuisine.

Benvenuto Brunello

Click For Large ViewNext day we were on the last leg of the marathon - Brunello di Montalcino.  The same tasting procedure was followed here, now under the auspices of the Consorzio Del Vino Brunello di Montalcino and entitled Benvenuto Brunello 2015.  It was open all day Friday and Saturday.  Tasting tables in one part of the simply enormous and now fully restored Chiostro Museo di Montalcino and growers’ tables were in another part.  It was almost a kilometre Click For Large Viewthrough the cold picture galleries to the toilets, so massive are the cloisters. 

Somewhere in the centre of them a vast and lavish midday buffet was served on both days.  I took a few moments out to go to a local trattoria and meet with my friend Candace Máté of Máté vineyards.  On the Friday evening was the Gala dinner that closed both the week and the marathon.  This was a regal and a sumptuous affair, organised again in the cloisters with the finest porcelain and glasses and a gastronomic repast.  I missed the presentation of the 2014 vintage due to an early departure. It was awarded 3 stars by their consultant oenologist, which is as few as have been awarded for a long time.

2014-the poor vintage for Tuscany

MOST UNUSUALLY I have not spent time this year describing the vintage in each of the places visited.  As always there are notable exceptions and they are the gilt on the gingerbread, but 2014 all over Tuscany was a relatively poor year and the awarding of only 3 stars in Montepulciano and Brunello is an honest admission of this fact.

To sum it up briefly the wine can be described as relatively light. There are vegetal notes in some of the wines.  They certainly do not conform!  It was a very mild winter with, in Montepulciano, only 5 nights with frosts and then mild ones.  Lots of rain during the winter and during the spring.  Early bud-break was followed by normal spring temperatures. Flowering started last week of May (25 May – 10 June) and early June temperatures shot up to the low 30s (°C) giving one of the hottest weeks of the year. 

Flowering was fortunately brief, but unstable weather followed with lots of those rains and unseasonably cool temperatures.  August was also cool, but much drier.  Because of all that rain the vine continued its vegetative growth longer than usual and longer than is good for maturation as the goodness from the roots continues to go into the foliage instead of the grapes. 

Finally, Veraison-the colour change on the berries, went relatively well (1-25 August), but ripening was slow.  Low brightness in September reduced the vines’ photosynthetic efficiency.  Very large grapes, some 25% heavier than usual, brought dilution.  It was a later- than- average vintage.  Whoever mastered all the negative elements would have made wine that is possibly elegant, but it will be early drinking and relatively short lived. It was a disastrous vintage for anybody who was truly a BIO producer.  Some growers treated and sprayed up to 14 times! This is almost unheard of and is also extremely expensive. 

Many growers of red wines do not expect to make Riserva for 2014.  I dislike writing negatively but it is the duty of a journalist to be honest and it is impossible to praise the 2014 vintage.  Elegant wines, even if light and well fruited, will be very much the exception. 

Congratulations to all the organisers and Consorzi for a wonderful job done in organising the programmes and co-ordinating.  Perhaps not great Tuscan wines in 2014 but a great hospitality at the Anteprime in 2015!

John Salvi Master of Wine

Video- Montepulciano tasting with producers

Video- Subhash Arora chats with Count Cinzano of Col d’Orcia  in Montalcino

Gallery : Montepulciano         Montalcino

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Tags: Taste Tuscany, Tuscany-Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Benvenuto Brunello, John Salvi MW, Chianti, Consorzio Del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Umberto Trombelli, Montalcino, Consorzio Del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, Montepulciano, Brunello

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