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Tuscany Taste: Celebrating 50 Years of DOC- Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG

Posted: Tuesday, 01 March 2016 13:02

 

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Tuscany Taste: Celebrating 50 Years of DOC- Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG

March 01: Although the Tuscan Appellation of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano earned the DOCG status in 1980, it was one of the first 10 wine appellations in Italy that earned the DOC status that became legal through the government decree, in 1966 when the system was initiated, writes Subhash Arora who has been visiting Montepulciano for the Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in this centuries-old prime wine producing area for several years and visited again on February 17-18

Click For Large ViewMontepulciano is relatively a very small production area, about 110 km from Florence and 65 kms equidistant from Siena and Perugia. It has a classified vine surface area of 1300 hA (about 3200 A) of Nobile including Riserva and 570 hA (about 1400 Acres) of Rosso. This was one of the first 10 wines to be granted a DOC status by the Italian government; the Nobile was awarded the coveted docg status in 1980. It produced over 6.9 million bottles of Nobile in 2015 and 2.81 million of Rosso which is perhaps the best value- for- money, quality Tuscan red.  About 80% of its production is exported with Germany (46%), USA (20%) and Switzerland (17%) being the principal importers. About 90% of the wineries numbering 76 are the voluntary members of the Consorzio, out of which 44 of them participated in the event this year.

The signature grape of Tuscany holds the fort in Montepulciano although the Sangiovese is known as Prugnolo Gentile here. A minimum of only 70% is required to be used here in both variants. The balance of 30% may be any red varieties prescribed by the Consorzio. Nobile may be released at least 2 years after the harvest, beginning January 1 of the year following. Thus 2013 vintage was officially releasable on January 1, 2016 though some producers would still keep it for a longer period before selling to give more complexity and balance.

Click For Large ViewThe Anteprima Tasting as it is called, is handled like a well oiled machine at Montepulciano and the programme is packed with a punch. Earlier we used to travel from Florence; now it is a one-day sojourn at San Gimignano after the Chianti Classico Collections Tasting. Departing San Gimignano by coach at 4 pm and arriving at the city of thermal baths-Chianciano Terme- we arrive at around 5:30-6:00 pm. The city adjoins Montepulciano and has better hotel facilities. After checking in and a bit of well-deserved rest, we are driven about 5-6 kms to the Fortezza di Montepulciano where I have seen the tastings and offices of the Consorzio move gradually over the last few years. The dinner here gives you the opportunity to taste over 80 wines, including Rosso , Nobile and Vin Santo di Montepulciano (the famous Tuscan dessert wine).

Early next morning, you are driven back again to the magnificent Fortezza which towers over the city and beyond. There is a sommelier-assisted Tasting which may be optionally ‘blind’ or with the producer names and wine details known. Known as Ante Prima del Vino di Nobile Del Montepulciano, Nobile 2013 and Nobile 2012 Riserva were the protagonists this year. As always, the producers dress up their tables in one of the long halls of the Fortezza where the journalists can taste and interact with the producers at will.

Click For Large ViewAs every other year there was a meeting at 11 am where the Mayor Andrea Rossi and the Consorzio President Andrea Natalini presented the stars for the latest vintage 2015. Based on the opinion of the well-respected oenologists, 1-5 stars are awarded to the wine of the previous vintage-2015 in the current event. Till a few years ago, this was done in the common hall where the sit-down tasting with sommelier-at-the table, starts at 9 am. But starting a couple of years ago, the venue has been changed to a separate hall, perhaps not to interrupt those who want to focus on the tasting only. Celebrating 50 years, the Consorzio has modernised its logo that was unveiled by Mayor Andrea Rossi and Andrea Natalini, President of the Consorzio. As was anticipated, 2015 vintage received 5-stars with a wine offered for taste.

Packed with a punch implies that Post-lunch the tasters have a choice of visiting up to 2 wineries before they are brought to St. Agnese Church for the onward journey to Montalcino for the final leg of the Tuscany Tasting. This year 16 wineries had participated in the programme- I used my charm (I know I am not being modest but only factual) to opt for Salcheto and Dei both of which had been heavily overbooked.

Salcheto

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I have visited the boutique winery twice in the past not only because I believe that you get the best view of downtown Montepulciano (Fortezza et al) from here. They avoid using  Sulphur and use only indigenous yeasts. The winery is underground with only natural light and battery panels so no electricity is used inside the winery. I remember visiting the winery in the afternoon when there was natural light. The owners are so conscious of the carbon footprints that they use very light and the most ecological wine bottles available in the market. (I was reminded of Krsma which uses the heaviest bottles for their Cabernet Sauvignon!)

Click For Large ViewThe winery is around 30 years old but their current winemaker Michele Manelli joined in 1997 and when I heard about the vertical tasting of every vintage  from 1997-2015 (19 vintages)- I knew I had to be at the winery again before going to Dei in the evening, even if it meant leaving the Fortezza an hour earlier at 2:30pm.

Click For Large ViewTheir Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has only 100% Sangiovese (think Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino!). At the 150 acre-site 93% of vineyards are dedicated to Sangiovese; only a bit of Merlot is also grown. 35% of the wines are Nobile and 20% are Rosso di Montepulciano, rest are IGT and Chianti wines. (Montepulciano falls under the Chianti area and unlike in the Chianti Classico region, one can produce Chianti as well). They added the iconic Salco wine of the estate, named after the single vineyard, in 2005.

In lieu of the regular Nobile, we were treated to Salco for the 2006 and 2007 vintage. The tasting will be covered in more details in a future edition but it was the highlight of the visit and a talking point for the 30 people who had been quick enough to reserve for the tasting which was organised in the restaurant that serves charcuterie and wines for tourists-the view from the restaurant can also be mesmerizing depending on where you are sitting.

Cantina Dei

Click For Large ViewMontepulciano boasts of being at the forefront of women being progressive in winemaking in Tuscany. When one talks about women of wine (Donne del Vino) in Montepulciano Caterina Dei’s name comes up at the top. The first time I visited the winery was over 12 years ago when I was studying Italian language in Perugia on a scholarship and decided to visit the winery with some younger friends. I had met her father who has been a highly successful stone merchant and had amassed enough wealth to dream of a new, modern winery for which he was able to get one of his daughters Caterina Dei to quit her successful singing career and coaxed her to look after the winery business. (She has a sister but no brother).

From that first time when I didn’t meet her but he was kind enough to have me and my friends taste their wines with him, I had been frequently meeting him and always her every year and saw the dream of the new, modern winery gradually turn into reality with the modern ecological winery taking shape. I visited the winery a few times, the last being 2 years ago. When I was told it was finally complete in all respects, I knew I owed it to myself to visit during the first year of its operation.

Click For Large ViewIt is similar in size and the philosophy of wine-making in the underground cellars is to exploit the renewable energy- primarily geothermal. The winery has been built exclusively from the travertine-a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs and a part of the family business. Replete with religious verses from various religions, one may find Sanskrit shlokas inscribed in stone on the wall which I had seen a few years earlier during the construction that has taken over 5-6 years.

Click For Large ViewThe dinner was curated by a young Chef Katia Maccari-perhaps another symbol of woman power in Montepulciano. Not only could we drink Rosso 2014, Nobile 2013 but there were Martiena igt 2014, and Vino docg Riserva 2010 and 2007 from their prized vineyard Bossona. Besides a host of other wines in between, the dessert was paired with the Vin Santo di Montepulciano 2009, to which only half hA has been dedicated.

Click For Large ViewInterestingly, the family owns a total of around 52.6 hA (130 acres), a majority of which (over 43 hA) is classified as Nobile. They produce around 200,000 bottles a year (18,000 cases)-less than Salcheto in volume but perhaps higher in volume because of Nobile. Caterina tells me that they don’t propose to add many more bottles in production but will focus on quality improvements because of better hygiene (near perfect) and modern technology at their door step and of course better vineyard control.

Caterina is very bullish on India and would like to enter the Indian market one day when there is a better appreciation of Tuscan wines like hers and when the tax laws will allow the wines to be feasible for more discerning wine connoisseurs and in bigger volumes.

Till then, I hope to taste Salcheto, Dei and several other distinguished and Nobile wines of Montepulciano and write about my experiences for as long as possible.

For some of the earlier related articles, please visit:

Taste Tuscany 2015: The Tuscan Wine Marathon-Montepulciano and Montalcino
Gallery : Taste Tuscany 2015: The Tuscan Wine Marathon-Montepulciano
Tuscany Taste 2014: Sangiovese Rules the Noble Montepulciano
Anteprima Montepulciano: Day in the Diary of a Tasting Journalist
Wine Feature: Three Red Aces of Tuscany
Tuscan Tasting 2011: Wine Women of Tuscany
Tuscan Montepulciano vs. Abruzzi Montepulciano
Ante Prima Tasting: Montepulciano vs. Montepulciano
Wine Travels :The Tuscan Tasting Troika

Subhash Arora

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Tabs: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, DOCG, Italy, DOC, Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Montepulciano, Nobile, Rosso, Tuscany, Sangiovese, Prugnolo Gentile, Anteprima Tasting, San Gimignano, Chianti Classico Collections Tasting, Fortezza di Montepulciano, Vin Santo di Montepulciano, Nobile 2013, Nobile 2012 Riserva, Mayor Andrea Rossi, Andrea Natalini, Montalcino, Salcheto, Dei , Michele Manelli, Rosso di Montepulciano, Chianti, Salco, Caterina Dei, travertine, Katia Maccari, Bossona, Tuscan wines

       

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