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Delhi Wine Club
Tuscan Montepulciano vs. Abruzzi Montepulciano

Posted: Friday, 04 March 2011 15:19

Tuscan Montepulciano vs. Abruzzi Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a small Tuscan town known for its red wine- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano made from Sangiovese clone known as Prugnolo Gentile whereas there is an indigenous grape varietal Montepulciano that is grown in the region of Abruzzo and other regions of Italy like Marche where it makes interesting blends with Sangiovese. Subhash Arora who visited Montepulciano recently, reflects.

Dr Carletti speaking at the inauguration of the professional tasting
As Dr. Federico Carletti, President of the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and owner of a premier winery Poliziano was inaugurating the Tasting for professionals at the newly refurbished Fortezza (fortress) and telling the audience of a good 2010 in terms of sale of their ‘king of wine’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano after a disastrous 2009, my mind drifted for a moment to India and wondered how many people really knew the difference between this docg appellation and the grape variety- many Italians are quite confused too.

Montepulciano grape

Perhaps the grape varietal is known more in India, thanks to the less costly Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC. In fact, whereas Sangiovese is the most dispersed Italian indigenous grape variety, Montepulciano is the second such variety, with 20 of the 95 provinces in Italy using the grape in DOC wines (except one appellation which is docg). The other region using it judiciously is Marche where Rosso Conero DOC and Rosso Piceno DOC use the grape as a blend-with majority being this varietal. These wines are already being imported in India and are quite affordable. However, there is no comparison or similarity except the colour, with the noble wines of Montepulciano.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

As the name suggests, this is a noble wine and is made from Sangiovese. It was the first red wine to be released by the Italian appellation system, as DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in 1980. Unlike Brunello or Rosso di Montalcino, only 70% of the grapes need to be Prugnolo Gentile- as the local clone of Sangiovese is known as, in this historical city, known as Pearl of Tuscany 400-500 years ago. Balance 30% can be any recognised Tuscan grapes- like Canaiolo. Of course there are restrictions on yield –like 8 tons/hA, 2 years of maturation in wood (min 18 months) and bottle, min solid extract of 23g/l (the weight of solids left if all the liquids are evaporated) etc.

Rosso di Montepulciano

The younger brother of Vino Nobile, the noble wine, is allowed the same proportion and blend although higher yields of 10 tons/hA and lesser requirement of 21 g/l minimum dry extract is needed. It does not also need much aging and can be released in March in the year following the harvest. Interestingly there is a provision to declassify Vino Nobile to Rosso within a specified period, making it really a younger and less age-worthy brother of the top wine from the relatively small appellation with 1400hAs of registered plantation which enjoys a world recognition as one of the favourite Tuscan ‘brands’. 

State of Health

Tasting;s in Session
The appellation and the wines have suffered a setback like most premier wines in 2008-09 during the recent recession. ‘But the current state of health is very good and we are coming out of recession slowly,’ said Carletti with a cautious optimism, adding that the Riservas were the worst hit adding, ‘we could make 95000 but are making only 56000hL.

Montepulciano is a beautiful and picturesque town with a lot of history and is a highly recommendable place to visit, especially for wine connoisseurs  and fans of Italian wines It was heartening to hear Carletti say that they propose to make it a free Wi-Fi town within this year.

Think Noble- Drink Rosso

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is more expensive than Chianti Classico but almost half the price of Brunello di Montalcino. An age-worthy wine it makes great choice and value-for-money quality Tuscan wines, though not as popular as the Chianti Classico and Brunello. But Rosso di Montalcino, the young wine makes an even better option, especially in India.

Made from the same grapes Rosso di Montalcino doc is a lot cheaper and costs barely 35-40% of Vino Nobile. With the unbearable heavy taxes, it makes a much more economic sense to drink this wine. Secondly, as most wines are drunk young in India, it would be ready to drink by the time it is imported and released in the market. It does have a shelf life of 3-5 years so that the importer or the consumer does not have to worry about the wine dying in the bottle.

Rosso also makes it a darling for the vegetarian drinkers as the tannins are softer and the acidity is generally quite crisp and refreshing on the palate and ethey would find it delicious with their meals or snacks. It was not by coincidence that at the traditional lunch, all wines served were Rosso di Montepulciano and devoured by the visitors and producers alike. Of course, it would be no substitute at a serious dinner with rich cuisine or with dishes incorporating red meats like lamb, mutton, steaks or game.

It is unfortunate that the Indian market is generally devoid of this wine. If imported with careful selection, it may be made available in retail for Rs.1500-2000 which ought to be acceptable level for discerning drinkers as a choice for regular drinking.

Harvest of 2010

Although an issue not so important for the fledgling Indian industry, for the sake of academics and real connoisseurs, the harvest was rated a 4-star vintage. It was a rainy year with heavier rains in the vegetation period making flowering later than usual. It was also a colder year with slightly more acidic and fresh than usual. The increase in temperature during the last stages made it an interesting, quality vintage.

Wines Tasted

One of the most interesting features of events such as this is a gala dinner where one can meet the producers and taste several wines  from a varied choice (here the option was from over 150 wines). Dinner at Montepulciano where I was privileged to sit at the table with Dr. Carletti, and the Mayors of Montepulciano and Chianciano Terme- the neighbouring wellness city  where we were cooped up in a small hotel, and the governor of the Province of Siena.

It appeared that there was less number of participants this year for the tasting-perhaps because of the difficult economic times. But out of the wines tasted from all the producers, I found the following wines more interesting with my short and quick tasting notes:

Click For Large View
At the wine tasting-Over 150 wines to choose from

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008

Boscarelli- spicy aromas, juicy, with acid on the back palate with medium length-but could be longer. Med body, dark cherry red colour turning brick, tannins well rounded
 La Braccesca-  med bodied, elegant, balanced , juicy and crisp
Poliziano – clean, fresh, juicy, light and elegant and feminine wine-long too
Bindella – Well structured wine with berries and spices on the palate, juicy and crisp
Le Berne- Lovely aromas, flavours are nice but a bit of bubbly zinginess is affecting  elegance of the wine, quite long and persistent taste, full on the mouthfeel
Contucci - First attack is acidic but nice and crisp, light on the palate, feminine in flavour  and elegance- rounded tannins

Riserva 2007

At the wine tasting dinner with Federico Carletti, President of the Consortium
Dei Riserva Bossona- elegant bouquet and aromas, well balanced food wine, soft tannins, can also drink by itself.
La Berne- good balance, firm tannins, long and spicy, elegant but not feminine like some other wines
Avignonesi Riserva Grande Annate- good drinkable, pleasant, elegant, good balance, juicy, but the end is a bit short and unimpressive
Contucci- elegant, balanced but the back palate is weak, giving it a bit of emptiness-but after swallowing, the impression is long
La Braccesca- Riserva - dark cherry red, well balanced, nice and juicy end, spicy, very fresh too
Talosa- nice and elegant, slightly disappointing at the back palate

Riserva 2006

Boscarelli- Bouquet not outstanding, dark choc turning g to Brick red , end too not so hot,  great balance and juicy wine with plenty of black fruit on the palate.

Subhash Arora



Thomas Francioni Says:

Dear Arora, I read you article posted last Friday. I was impressed  of your perfect analysis of our Area, Town, Noble Wines (Vino Nobile), Easier wines to drink(Rosso di Montepulciano), The "ancient mistake" of Montepulciano Town and Montepulciano grape variety.Regards.Thomas Francioni, Consorzio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Posted @ March 07, 2011 17:34


Subhash Arora Says:

Dear Mr. Busani, I did not forget you-it is the third time I met you including the one time at the Park Hotel in Delhi. I know you are making organic wines and good quality wines and that you have a beautiful agri-tursmo which I regret I could not visit once again due to lack of time. But my article focussed primarily on clearing the air about the region vs the grape and the choice of Rosso di Montepulciano over Nobile. Federico did mention in his speech that there are 10 organic wineries now-that includes yours too. Unfortunately, this fact has not much relevance for the Indian consumers at the moment. And my Tasting Notes are about only a few wines out of those that I tasted in the tasting room, that scored above a certain level. Dont worry, keep up the quality and you will be famous one day soon. All the best. Subhash Arora

Posted @ March 05, 2011 11:02


Aurelio Busani Says:

Dear Mr Subash,reading your article you forgot to mention our company Cavalierino organic winery,we are not famous jet,and we are new in the Montepulciano wine producer,but i believe we cannot be totally forgotten

Posted @ March 05, 2011 10:45



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