- Category: On the Road with the Grape Guy
(March 2021) ... Oh how I missed my February trip to Italy this year to taste Chianti, Brunello, Vernacchia and Vino Nobile - but Nobile decided to bring the fun to me (and a choice few others) for a sit-down virtual tasting that brought together writers and producers to discuss and taste the virtues of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano … virtually.
The Vino Nobile gets its name honestly, it dates back to the 8th century and was considered the wine for a nobility. Fast forward to 1965 and the Consorzio for Nobile was founded - and with the speed of a well-aged wine, 24 years (in 1989) Vino Nobile gained the first DOCG status in Italy. Today, 6 million bottles of Vino Nobile are produced per year, of which 78% are exported: Germany leads the way with 43% followed by the US (22%), Switzerland (14.5%), and Canada somewhere in the 3.5% range.
The rules of Nobile are fairly simple - the DOCG wines are a minimum of 2 years before release, while the Reserves (Riserva) need an extra year. The current vintages for these two wines are 2018 (DOCG) and 2017 (Riserva).
The regional vineyards sit between 250 and 600m above sea level and the rules of their makeup is based on a 70/30 approach ... 70% Sangiovese with the other 30% being made up of the allowable varieties, mainly: Colorino, Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot ... and there are a handful of others allowed as well.
“Vino Nobile di Montepulciano” is the full name of the wine, but because there is sometimes confusion with consumers about the term Montepulciano, which is itself a grape variety (Montepulciano) from a completely different region (Abruzzo) - the word "Toscana” will begin appearing on the label as of 2020 and the wines will be dropping their origin (Montepulciano) in favor of the more recognizable Toscana moniker along with “Nobile” or “Vino Nobile”.
Today we tasted eight wines with five from 2017 and three from 2016; 2016 has been described to me as “perfect”, while 2017, after a long explanation, is best described as "challenging".
The Wines ...
(ratings are out of five stars, and appear after the tasting note)
Cantina del Giusta 2017 San Claudio II
The acidity here is pretty big and it puckers the palate. Aromas are floral with a hit of alcohol heat ... The blend is 10% Canaiolo, 5% Mammolo aged in older oak and spent 8 months in bottle prior to release. There's some nice spice along with raspberry, strawberry and sour cherry notes, plus the acidity keeps it surprisingly fresh, yet there is still quite a bit of bite back on the finish from that acid punch. (*** ½+)
Fattoria del Cerro 2017 Silineo
This 100% Sangiovese Nobile is very leathery, smokey and earthy - from the start it seems to lack fruit aside from a little boysenberry, herbal and even some evergreen notes, followed by a touch of resin – I found that it was hard to enjoy. As it opens, there's a big savoury note and it's dusty on the tongue. Bottom line: if you like your Nobile savoury over fruity this is your wine. (***)
Il Molinaccio 2017 La Spinosa
Another 100% Sangiovese that shows menthol, savoury and leathery notes on the nose - the mouthfeel is silky, but with more woodsy notes than fruit ... This one is raised in smaller oak casts so it shows off the oak quite a bit, more than those wines aged in botte. (***)
Salcheto 2017 Vino Nobile do Montepulciano
These bottled grapes come from the 15-hectare Salcheto vineyard grown during the “hot dry” 2017 vintage - aged 18 months in a mix of large and small barrels and comes together in bottle another 6 months before release. First thing you'll notice is the wonderful acidity derived from the Sangiovese grape, then sour cherry and cranberry aromas give way to herbal, spices and dark fruit on the palate ... by the last swallow we're into smoked red fruits and that persistent acidity just helps clean everything up ... Great food pairing wine. (****) ... See the video review here
Tenuta Valdipiatta 2017 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
A Nobile that hit 14% alcohol using 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo, 75% in large barrels (25% new). The nose is very seductive with blackberry, cassis, olive and even some dried leaves ... The palate has a vanilla and mocha mix with notes of smoky and woodsy undertones on the back palate - this definitely could sit a few years to develop further and potentially pull out more of the fruit hidden behind the oak and tannins. (*** ½)
Podere Casanova 2016 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
From the wonderful 2016 vintage, and it shows; deep dark black fruit - both of the cherry and berry variety with coffee and smoky notes backing it up. The palate has a rich-smokiness of black fruit with licorice, graphite, tobacco and even some cocoa. There's a real freshness on the mid-palate and complexity to the finish, it's fleshy and has great structure; the tannins, while aggressive, are not assertive as to overtake the wine. This definitely needs a few years to mellow. (****+)
Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano 2016 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
A light and delicate version of Nobile from a very good vintage. Lovely raspberry notes with delicate savoury backing ... It's bright and fresh and very fruit forward; notes of blood orange and mocha / coffee ... This is a wine that really grows on you the more you sip on it. With its freshness of fruit: big notes of raspberry, strawberry, cherry and even some balsamic ... Perfect for food pairings. (****)
Carpineto 2016 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
There really is such an elegance to Carpeneto wines that I, as a consumer, very much appreciate, but as a writer and taster I also appreciate their complexity and structure: dark berries and dusty spices with graphite, mocha and coffee bean notes. Good tannins and spice on the finish with some bittersweet chocolate all balanced with good acidity and even a touch of smoke on the finish. (****+)