Published On: Tue, Sep 3rd, 2013

Italian Red Wine: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

It is often mistaken for being from Abruzzo, but this lesser-known Italian red wine from a village in Tuscany is an absolute gem, as Paul Pettengale discovers…

Tuscany is, as any wine lover will attest, one of the most important of Italy’s wine-producing zones, especially when it comes to the reds. The various Chianti wines – such as Classico and Rufino – are world renowned and your local supermarket shelves are groaning with the stuff. And very good some of it is, too. Then there’s Brunello di Montalcino, a personal favourite (if expensive), and the original ‘illegal’ wines – the so-called Super Tuscans – that fetch stratospheric prices.

Indeed, Tuscany is a hotbed of quality red wines. But there is one that is all-too-often overlooked. One that is even utterly misunderstood. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (and its little brother, Vino Rosso di Montepulciano) is not from Abruzzo as many would think, and it’s most certainly not made with the Montepulciano grape variety. It is, in fact, a very fine wine from Tuscany made in and around a village that happens to share the name of the ubiquitous tipple from the east of Italy. Made using a clone of the Sangiovese grape variety, Vino Nobile is a robust, heavyweight of a wine – one that ages well and is perfect for special occasions. Not as expensive as Brunello, it is nonetheless similar in structure, offering ample dark fruit flavours and lots of tannic backbone. Ideal with roasted red meats, it’s one of Tuscany’s lesser-known treasures.

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Valdipiatta70pxItalia! discovery of the month

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2009, Valdipiatta

From Liberty Wines

www.libertywine.co.uk

Price £21.99

It is widely accepted that any wine can only be as good as the grapes from which it is made. But we’d go a stage further and insist that a wine can only be as good as the people who are making it. And in this case, not only are the grapes quite exceptional, but the team at Tenuta Valdipiatta are at the absolute top of their game. Miriam Caporali has headed up the outfit since her father handed her the management in 2002. She had the good sense to draft in a top oenologist from Bordeaux (who also works for Latour and Lafite, among others), Eric Boissenot. Between them and their team, they are producing utterly stunning wines, with this Vino Nobile di Montepulciano arguably their best. Made with 85 per cent Sangiovese and 15 per cent Canaiolo, it has dark fruit aromas with an abundance of spice. There’s plenty of body that’s heavy on the blackberries and a lovely vanilla and oak finish. This is a world-class wine that deserves to be drunk with a well-roasted leg of lamb.

Great with…

Lamb cutlets stuffed with Pecorino cheese, Parma ham and sage leaves.

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Carbonaia70pxVino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008, Carbonaia

From Waitrose

www.waitrosewine.com

£12.81

Combining three grape varieties – Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile, see the box opposite), Colorino and Mammolo – this wine imported by Waitrose is typical of its type. There’s a whole heap of cherry aromas; it has a complex, medium-bodied texture and it loads on the oak smokiness with herb flavours on the finish. Essentially, it ticks all the right boxes, and at a very reasonable price. Definitely worth giving a go.

Great with…

Lamb cutlets stuffed with Pecorino cheese, Parma ham and sage leaves.

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Cecchi70pxVino Nobile di Montepulciano 2009, Cecchi

From Enotria

www.enotria.co.uk

£13.85

This fine wine is named a ‘meditation wine’ by importers Enotria. One not to drink with food, but on its own, with friends and very little in the way of conversation. Ruby red in colour, it has vanilla and violets on the nose and fills the mouth with distinctive cherry fruit. It’s very dry with a finish that is long with hints of oak and tannin. While not the best Vino Nobile going, it’s a great way to explore the wines of Montepulciano.

Great with…

Try it with red meats – especially lamb – or simply drink it on its own.

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Duca di Sasseta70pxVino Nobile di Montepulciano 2009, Duca di Sasseta

From Tanners Wine Merchants

www.tanners-wines.co.uk

£8.50

Marco Barbanera heads up this rapidly growing winery in the hills near Siena, constantly investing in equipment, people and space to grow grapes and make wines. His Vino Nobile is a thoroughly modern wine, with clean acidity and moderate tannins. Plenty of fruit to the fore – cherries and some blackberries for good measure – and it has a spicy, oaked finish that will have you coming back for more.

Great with…

Try this one with a roasted leg of pork, or a selection of hard cheeses.

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la Braccesca70pxVino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008, La Braccesca

From Berkmann Wine Cellars

www.berkmann.co.uk

£15
As well as the Prugnolo Gentile grape, this wine features 10 per cent Merlot – an interesting addition that adds tremendous body and a very distinctive character. It has a richness to it that is uncommon, although its body remains medium-weight rather than heavy. Dark cherries abound, although a gentle acidity and a slightly mint finish keep it tasting fresh and lively. A good choice for special occasions.

Great with…

This wine is great with steak – ideally a thick cut of sirloin served rare.

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LaCasella70pxVino Rosso di MOntepulciano 2007, La Casella

From Club Vini Italiani

www.clubviniitaliani.co.uk

£16.95

Despite falling into the Vino Rosso (rather than Vino Nobile) di Montepulciano classification – which is considered inferior to Nobile wines – this 2007 example from La Casella is a great expression of the Sangiovese grape variety. It smells and tastes fresh for its vintage, thanks to a cheeky touch of acidity to counter its considerable tannins. Cherries, raspberries and a touch of mint all add to its character. It’s organic, too.

Great with…

Pasta dishes with red meats. Or try roast duck for an extravagant touch.

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Poliziano70pxVino Nobile di Montepulciano 2009, Poliziano

From Great Western Wine

www.greatwesternwine.co.uk

£22
We’re moving into heavyweight territory here, at least in terms of price tag. This is the flagship wine for the revered Poliziano wine producer, and considerable levels of effort have gone into crafting it. It’s a big, bold beast of a wine with cherry and forest fruit aromas, a full mouthful of black cherries and ripe plums with a vanilla finish. It’s extremely well balanced, the oak neatly countering the firm tannins. Oh, and it will age well.

Great with…

Roast rib of beef or dark, sticky lamb stews on a winter’s evening.

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ATTACK OF THE CLONES

Throughout this feature we’ve been talking of Vino Nobile and Vino Rosso wines as being made (predominantly) from the Sangiovese grape variety. But we’ve also been dropping in the name Prugnolo Gentile. So, what gives? Prugnolo Gentile is a sub-variety of Sangiovese grown only in the area around Montepulciano, and is known as a clone. Prugnolo Gentile, much like the Brunello Sangiovese clone used in Brunello di Montalcino, is quite simply an old, isolated type of Sangiovese that is grown in one region. In the case of Brunello di Montalcino, only the Brunello clone is permitted within the wine, whereas Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines are permitted to use a small percentage of other grape varieties, including ‘foreign’ varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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