Montepulciano. It’s a six-syllable word that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue – unless maybe if you’re fluent in Italian – but it does comes up a lot, especially when we’re talking about Italian wine.

There’s a grape known as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that is used to make a red wine of the same name in the Southern Italian region of Abruzzo.

Montepulciano is also the name of a wine producing area in Southern Tuscany. Tuscany is prime winemaking territory. It’s the site of Chianti, Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino, and Brunello di Montalcino production- some of the world’s most famous red wines.

Montepulciano has its own red wine star and it’s known as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano means “noble wine of Montepulciano.” It’s a stellar wine that garnered Italy’s first D.O.C.G., but so far it hasn’t gotten the attention a wine of its caliber deserves. It could be partially because of its name. After all, two different red wines, from two different grapes, produced in two separate regions, that both bear the name Montepulciano, can make things confusing. It could also be because Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is from Tuscany, where a number of fantastic and heavily promoted red wines are made.

Daniele Cernilli, aka Doctor Wine, hosted a tasting of
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in New York City for members of the Gruppo Italia and other wine media.
We tasted Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from nine different producers. Doctor Wine’s selections and the order in which he had us taste them showcased the wine’s broad spectrum of flavors and styles, as well as each producer’s unique interpretation of her or his wine.

The experience convinced me that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano deserves to share the spotlight with the other fine reds of Tuscany. Each producer used predominantly a single varietal (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano must contain at least 70% Sangiovese) from the same general locale (Montepulciano in Southern Tuscany), and came up with distinctly different wines. It just goes to show you how much factors including variations in a particular vineyard’s soil content (such as sand, clay, and silt), the size and type of oak barrel used in aging (Slovenian oak or French barriques), the climate (was the season dry and hot, or cool and wet), as well as what aspects of the grapes the winemaker chooses to highlight when making the wine, matter, when it comes to creating wine.

The soil in the wine producing area of Montepulciano is comprised mostly of sand and clay. The elevation of the vineyards is on the high side at around 1500 feet. Vineyards at higher elevations yield grapes with greater acidity and freshness because the temperature is comparably cooler than vineyards at lower altitudes. Montepulciano enjoys a warm and temperate Mediterranean climate.

If a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano producer wants to have their wine labeled as a DOCG ( Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), they have to follow a number of rules about grape content and provenance, minimum aging requirements, and other facets of production. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano labeled DOCG are among the region’s finest. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG has to be made of at least 70% Sangiovese. The Sangiovese used to produce Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has to have been sourced from Montepulciano. Sangiovese can be combined with local red grapes like Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo ( Mammolo gives some Vino Nobile di Montepulciano aromas of violets ), and even white grapes such as Malvasia.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano can contain up to 100% Sangiovese and some producers choose not to blend their wine.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano must be aged for at least two years (one year in oak). Add a year of aging to qualify as a riserva. Producers can decide to make a riserva if they feel their grapes from a particular harvest are of a particularly good quality.

Pour a glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the first thing you’ll probably notice is its bright ruby color. Take a whiff of it and you’ll take in aromas of raspberries, currants, and cherries, as well as violets and delicate spices.

You’ll taste fresh acidity, along with mixed berries, dark cherries, and red plums. There can also notes of cinnamon and pepper, wood, and earth. You’ll also find light to medium-bodied tannins (these continue to round out with age), and, sometimes, mint or menthol hints at the end. In older Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, you will likely find a fuller-bodied structure, well-rounded tannins, and ripe or even preserved red and dark fruit, scented wood, coffee, and leather notes.

Here’s a rundown of the nine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano we tasted at Il Gattopardo Restaurant:

A trio of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from the masterclass
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Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2018

Bright acidity. Notes of juicy cherries and raspberries. Young tannins.

Le Berne’
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2018

Soft acidity. Notes of fresh red and dark fruit. Light-bodied tannins.

Gracciano della Seta
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2018

Bright acidity. Aromas of fresh berries, red fruit, and violets. Notes of raspberries, currants, cherries, and spices. Rounded tannins.

Tenuta del Cerro
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Silineo 2018

Fragrant aromas of dark berries, cherries, tobacco, and oak. Lush notes of ripe red fruit, blood orange, vanilla, and cinnamon. Hints of menthol at the end.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017

Bright acidity. Aromas of dark berries, earth, and herbs. Supple notes of black cherries, quince, plums, and leather. Smooth tannins.

Fanetti Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Tenuta Sant’ Agnese Riserva 2017

Bright acidity. Aromas of dark fruit, leather, and earth. Notes of black cherries and plums, oak, and tobacco. Bold tannins.

Carpinetto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2017
Soft aromas of red fruit, and violets. Elegant notes of fresh berries and plums. Light-bodied tannins.

Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Poggio Stella 2016

Complex aromas of flowers, raspberries, and tobacco. Elegant notes of concentrated red berries and dark fruit, orange, and spice. Light-bodied tannins.

Trerose Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Santa Caterina 2016

Attractive aromas of ripe berries, cherries, and oranges. Round notes of black fruit, licorice, and delicate spices. Well-rounded and balanced tannins.

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