Highly-touted as one of the finest red wine styles of Italy, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is made with Sangiovese grapes grown around the rural hillside town of Montepulciano in southern Tuscany.
The history of vineyards in the region has been traced back 1200 years. In the 1 685 A.D., poet Francesco Redi wrote of the noble flavors of the wines from Montepulciano. But it wasn’t until the 1920s, when Adano Faretti began applying the term “nobile” to the wines he made that the name caught on for the full-bodied red wines made by producers in the area.
After becoming an official Denominazione di Origin Controllata (DOC) in the mid-1960s, Vino Nobile di Montalcino went on to become the first winegrowing region to receive the elite Denominazione di Origin Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status granted by the Italian government on July 1, 1980.
Leading up to harvest, the grapes are grown in high-elevation vineyards with variations of sand and clay-based soils. After the fermentation process is completed at harvest, the wines are required to be aged in barrels for a minimum of one year and three years in bottle before being released. Reserve style wines are aged longer in a barrel. And in more recent years, more emphasis has been put on making more single-vineyard designates and estate wines like the Grandi Annate by Avignonesi, a complex wine made with fruit from the historic I Pogetti Estate.
The other popular wine from the region is the Rosso di Montepulciano DOC wines, which are modeled after the Vino Nobile but with less aging in the barrel to preserve the freshness of the fruit.
Reds: The main grape grown around Montapulciano is Sangiovese, which is called Prugnolo Gentile by locals. Canaiolo and Mammolo are the other main red grapes that can be used in a small portions with the blends of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG and the Rosso di Montepulciano DOC wines.
Wine geek notes: Although it was named after this famous hillside city, it’s important to note that the Montepulciano grape variety is not grown in region. Instead, the hearty red grape is planted mainly in the neighboring provinces of Abruzzi, Marche and Umbria to the east. So rest assured: Sangiovese remains the prized grape of Montepulciano and Tuscany!
Red Wines: In general, the Rosso di Montepulciano is meant to be enjoyed young. On the palate, the flavors are bright and expressive with notes of ripe red fruits, earth, leather, mineral, and supple tannins. On the flipside, the Vino Nobile di Rosso di Montepulciano wines are complex and need time to open up. Admirable traits include elegant aromas of black truffles, violets, ripe berries and licorice; persistent flavors of blackberry, black cherry, plum, black olive, dark chocolate, dried herb; and following through with firm tannins, smooth texture, and a long, lingering finish.
Dessert Wines/Spirits: Most of the flavorful Vin Santo and Occhio di Pernice sweet wines are also made with Sangiovese grape. Same is true with the local grappas, which are made with the remaining pumice from the clusters used to make the still wines.
The Rosso di Montepulciano DOC is great with grilled veggies, gourmet sandwiches, lentils, pizzas, mushroom ravolis, and grilled meats. To match the concentrated flavors of Vino Nobile di Rosso di Montepulciano, try roasted eggplant, pasta with rich sauces, slow-cooked pork, juicy steaks, and rack of lamb.