The “TreMonti” New Vintage Report: Part 3 Montepulciano

Montalcino, Montefalco and Montepulciano
Text, Reviews and Photos by John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Each year, wine regions throughout Italy organize tastings to showcase the latest vintage released to market, called anteprime, the Italian equivalent of Bordeaux’s en primeur tasting, with the one difference being that in many, but not all cases, wines are already finished and in bottle. This year I report on the anteprime from Montalcino for 2011 Brunello (by law, Brunello must be cellared five years before release), 2012 Montefalco Sagrantino, and 2013 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The reports are posted in three parts for easier access.

Part 3: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Like Montalcino, Montepulciano lives on wine. The industry drives 70% of the local economy. Some 2200 hectares under vine are farmed by over 250 growers (1300 registered for Vino Nobile), and bottled by 90 companies. Average production per estate is higher than in Montalcino, with 7 million bottles of Vino Nobile reaching the market in 2015. But exports are higher, representing 80% of turnover, of which a modest 2% is sent to Canada. Vino Nobile also celebrates its 50th year as an appellation in 2016, first official defined as a wine with “ruby red colour, dry, slightly tannic taste, a scent of violets, and alcohol content of not less than 12 degrees” (now 12.5%).

Vino Nobile had the toughest gig among the various anteprime this year, presenting the challenging 2013 vintage. The contrast was especially stark since my last visit to the Fortress of Montepulciano in 2013 when the excellent 2010 vintage was on offer, atasting provided some of the most memorable wines of the year and some of the best surprises, particularly when value is factored in (Vino Nobile sells for about half the price of Brunello).

Sunset over the rolling hills below Montepulciano-4186

Sunset over the rolling hills below Montepulciano

But cool and rainy 2013 is another story, despite the 4 star rating awarded by the consorzio. In the words of one producer, the wines are “crudo”, literally raw, in other words, lean, sinewy and sometimes downright sour and sharp, short on flesh and charm. Yet as always, producers with the best sites and the most attentive viticulture produce consistently admirable wines even under challenging conditions.

Styles are highly variable in Vino Nobile, given the legal addition of up to 30% of grapes other than prugnolo gentile, the local biotype of sangiovese. And the list of recommended or authorized red grapes in Tuscany is long. Some wines are marked by the telltale colour and aromas of the cabernet family of grapes, while others hew much closer to the classic pale garnet, savoury-earthy character of sangiovese. It’s a question of knowing your producer. Yet one of the most appealing and pervasive features of Vino Nobile in general is their notable salinity, more common than in either Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino.

Below are my top, finished and bottled picks out of the 44 wineries who presented at the anteprima; the top barrel samples are listed separately, followed by the top 2012 riservas, also presented this year.

Buyer’s Guide: Top 2013 Vino Nobile di Montpulciano and 2012 Riservas

2013 Tenuta Vallocaia Bindella “I Quadri” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

From the southern sector of the appellation, this parcel selection including 15% colorino, canaiolo and mammolo aged in tonneaux, is a nicely rustic, succulent, blood-iron driven wine with marked salinity on the palate. Tannins and acids work in tandem to create firmness on the palate; length and depth are better than the mean. Solid. (90 points.)

2013 Le Bèrne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The hillside vineyards of Le Bernè (from the Etruscan term verna, or ‘hillock) yield a subtle but classy pure sangiovese with old wood (large cask and 40% barrique) bright red fruit, and light cinnamon spice aromatics leading, while the palate shows real depth and elegance. Tannins are fine but firm, acids succulent, juicy, and balanced, and length and depth are genuine. This should be very fine in 2-3 years, and hold at least another half dozen after that. (90 points.)

2013 Palazzo Vecchio “Maestro” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The wine from the majestic hilltop property of Palazzo Vecchio in the eastern part of the zone wine shows more ripeness and depth than the average in 2013, sappy and fruity, but also savoury, with a genuinely salty taste on the palate. Superiore length and complexity, too. I like the range of savoury, earthy-resinous notes. Quite distinctively salty. Sangiovese with 10% cannaiolo, 5% mammolo. Best after 2019. (90 points.)

2013 Antico Colle Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Evident wood spice and herbal-cabernet family aromatics lead off, despite just 5% merlot blended in– such is the delicate nature of sangiovese – but it works nicely nonetheless. The palate is mid-weight, juicy, with solid depth, length and ultimately complexity. This is juicy and pleasant, less aggressive than many of the 2013s. (89 points.)

2013 Gattavecchi “Parceto” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Gattavecchi is one of the historic names in Montepulciano, and the cellars in the center of town date back the Etruscan period, but the style is thoroughly modern. The Parceto selection is a riper, more forward and darker fruit-scented than the standard range from Gattavecchi, still in a more modern style, but with solid flesh and fruit extract to match firm acids and tannins. Length and depth are good to very good. Give this a year or two for toasty wood notes to better integrate. (89 points.)

2013 Lunadoro “Pagliaretto” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

This is fine and fleshy, relatively soft (but still very sangiovese-esque), with succulent acids and a nice volatile lift on the finish. I like the fruit character here, the fleshy morello cherry flavours; a touch of acetic acid adds complexity and lift. (89 points.)

2013 Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Boscarelli is a relatively small, 14.5ha estate established in 1962 on the celebrated Cervognano hill in the southern sectore of the appellation. The 2013 is a pretty, bright, red fruit-led expression, with fleshy, better-than-average depth on the palate. Tannins are still firm and puckering, but riper than the mean for the vintage. Classic sangiovese character (plus 15% canaiolo, colorino and mammolo), with solid length. Best after 2019. (88 points.)

2013 Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The Gracciano hills north of Montepulciano are one of the area’s historic crus, and the estate’s history stretches back to the early 19th century. In 2011 Marco, Vannozza and Galdina della Seta acquired the property from their grandmother and have embarked on conversion to organics and a low-intervention approach in the winery the results of which are already noted. The 2013 is attractive and bright, with tart red fruit, succulent acids and good to very good length and complexity overall. A firm, honest, balanced wine, if not expansive or overly complex. (88 points.)

Narrow lane up to the main square, Montepulciano-4194

Narrow lane up to the main square, Montepulciano

Promising 2013 cask samples

2013 Fattoria della Talosa Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

This was one of the properties that most impressed me on my last visit to Montepulciano, and happily quality is still among the top in the appellation. Talosa was indeed among the first wineries to focus on quality, established in 1972 by Angelo Jacorossi, with historic Etruscan cellars right under the town’s main square. Attentive farming, simple winemaking and ageing in large old cask express the region faithfully. The 2013 is certainly quality wine, succulent, balanced, fresh and spicy, unusually fleshy for the vintage with very good length. (90-91 points.) There’s also an excellent 2012 Riserva in the pipelines from Talosa, still in cask.

2013 Tenuta Valdipiatta “Vigna ‘d’Alfiero’ Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Fullish, fleshy, concentrated and quite ripe, with abundant, still rough and sandy tannins that should integrate in time. Fruit slips seamlessly between red and black, and wood is not a significant flavour influence. Long finish. Tidy wine. (91-92 points.)

2013 Montemercurio “Messagero” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Another promising sample, fleshy and fruity, like a fresh morello cherry, black cherry, succulent and juicy, Alcohol spikes a touch but the fruit holds on. Tannins are slightly drying, but I think there’s enough fruit extract to hold it together. (90+ points.)

2013 Salchetto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

A promising result here in 2013 from Salchetto, firm in the vintage style, but not hard or shrill. There’s fine, fleshy fruit, mostly red, and limited barrel influence – this is all about the savoury red berry character. (90-91 points)

2013 Fattoria del Cerro “Antica Chiusina” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

A heavily toasted barrel-influenced version, crafted in a modern, forward, coffee-inflected style. Fruit is ripe and verging on jammy/candied, and the palate is thick. Concentrated to be sure, but certainly not excessively overdone, In a forward style nonetheless. This will appeal widely no doubt. (89-90 points.)

Top 2012 Riservas

2012 Avignonesi “Grande Annata” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Avignonesi is the biggest player on the DOCG with over 200 hectares, all the more impressive that owner Virginie Saverys has undertaken biodynamic faming since acquiring the property in 2009. Although the 2013 did not particularly impress, the 2012 riserva is a terrific wine, ripe, classy, complex, succulent and silky yet finely woven and taught. I love the firmness, the juicy acids, the savoury fruit character, the excellent length. Best after 2018. (92 points.)

Sunset over the rolling hills below Montepulciano-4197

Sunset over the rolling hills below Montepulciano

2012 Lunadoro “Quercione” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

Resinous and closed off the top, but the palate is fleshy, succulent and deep, with expansive flavours and very good length. This is fine wine, best in another 3-4 years no doubt. (91 points.)

2012 Fattoria La Braccesca “Santa Pia” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

Antinori’s Montepulciano outpost, La Braccesca’s large, 330ha vineyard borders Umbria in the east sector of the DOCG. The Santa Pia Riseverva is generous and ripe, fruity and toasty example, modern in style but full of pleasure, with ripe tannins and marked but balanced acids. Wood could still use a couple of years to fully integrate, but this shows lots of promise for those seeking a more immediate and generous style. (90 points.)

2012 Il Conventino Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

I’ve been following Il Conventino for many years now, always a reliable name in the region, organically farming 25 prime hectares in the southern sector. The 2012 riserva is still somewhat closed on the nose, but the palate is nicely weighted, juicy, firm, without obvious wood influence, and mostly tart red and dark berry fruit and good to very good length. Solid. (90 points.)

2012 Le Bernè Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

A markedly woody wine on the nose, resinous, with little fruit currently on display, but the palate picks it up with considerable salinity and juicy acids. This comes across as a Rioja-like wine, woody, but light on its feet. Length, depth and complexity are indeed quite good. (90 points.)

2012 Tenuta Gracciano della Seta Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva

A fleshy, mid-weight, succulent and juicy Riserva here, with old world styling, firm and crunchy acids, and very good to excellent length. This is a solid mouthful, authentically rendered, with solid complexity and expansiveness. (90 points.)


The “TreMonti” New Vintage Report: Part 1 Montalcino
The “TreMonti” New Vintage Report: Part 2 Montefalco

Italy New Vintage Report Part 4: 2012 Amarone and 2014 Valpolicella

If you are the Canadian Agent for any of the wines mentioned, please send us a note to [email protected] with availability and pricing and we’ll gladly update our site.