08 MARCH 2023By Filippo Bartolotta
The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Preview was back with a flourish this year at the mighty Fortezza di Montepulciano, with the presentation of the 2020 vintage Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the 2019 Riserva that will be coming onto the market this year.
A really hot vintage like 2020 was bound to hand over some pretty alcoholic wines with traces of over ripeness and sometimes a dash of rough tannins. We saw some of that during the blind tasting. But our focus was mainly on what we liked best, that is wines with an elegant a seamless tannic touch, a slender body and fresh fruit.
But how do you achieve that in such a dry year?
According to Susanna Crociani of Cantina Crociani Winery, there has been a gradual adaptation and better management in the vineyard.
“2020 was a brutal so we had to use the leaves of the plant as umbrellas to cover our berries all the way up to the last two or three weeks,” she explained.
She noted that the harvest took place on the first week of October – “like it did back in the day” and the grapes were fully ripe and healthy. “We have been learning this since the 2003 vintage but mainly from the 2012. Our plants are producing lower and lower yields – 4.5 tons per hectare – but we like the quality,” she said.
It is also a matter of soil composition according to Oretta Roberti of the relatively young Bertille winery (which was founded in 2000).
“Our tufaceous and clay soil of San Biagio (near the beautiful 15th century Temple of San Biagio) retained enough water to allow the vines to thrive all the way till the last week of September,” he said.
So which wines stood out?
Mediterranean herbs, graphite, raspberries some elegant earthiness. Leather, succulent plums with a smoky touch and a tobacco finish. An intense and very velvet driven Nobile with some serious ageing potential as well.
A yummy cherry driven nose, so clean and fresh. The palate has got a nice grip with a good structure and a great fruit driven and liquorice mouth. It’s juicy with a good drinkability and a pleasant tannic touch.
Acacia flowers, wisteria and cherries. Some leather plus a cranberry and dark chocolate complexity. Transparent, very sweet black cherries and vanilla on the finish. Easy and approachable Nobile.
Cinnamon and nutmeg with very ripe black berries. On the palate the wine shows some pretty good tension and a mineral quality with a lot of more black fruit and a very distinguishing spicy finish.
This is one of my favourite Nobile this year. It’s meaty and yet juicy, sweet but with an invigorating acidity; smooth but with a vibrant and saline mouthful. Lots of violets, sour cherries and a reactive and complex finish.
A dark matter Nobile still needing to open up and let some of its raw material go. Great black fruit, mineral driven style with pencil shavings and tobacco and a structured body built to last.
Red driven fruit Nobile with a wonderful pomegranate and redcurrant nose blending with some forest floor and mountains herbs. Very delicious on the palate with a pleasant refreshing touch.
Another wine jumping ups the glass with an enticing orange peel, sour cherries and licorice nose. The palate has got a serious structure but with a distinctive velvet mineral touch.
Moving from the readier and pulpier 2020 vintage to the more structured and deeper 2019 we came across some very intense Nobile di Montepulciano and a few more structured Riserva. Vino Nobile must go through a compulsory two years ageing but some producers prefer to age it extra year, while the Riserva Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva must age by law at least three-years.
Red berries, blue flowers and enticing aromas of wild berry, exotic spice and whiff of Mediterranean herbs and leather. Juicy palate, very well defined fruit and a pleasant crunch finish.
A seriously intense and clean nose. I love the cherries, the prunes, the leather and the balsamic touch. Fantastic volume with some rosemary notes unfolding a great aftertaste of spice and tobacco.
Red currants, dry goji berries and some medicinal herbs aromas. The palate is full of mineral traits, mountain herbs with a great juiciness and a saline long finish.
Sweet roots, oriental spices with an uplifting orange blossom and red currant nose. The palate is so refreshing and yet supple and complex. A great example of Sangiovese from this ancient wine land.
Dark fruit, extractive and yet joyfully juicy Nobile with some amazing power and elegance attitude. Prunes, truffles and flowers with an earthy and voluminous finish. Best Bossona ever produced!
One extra frisson of excitement at the 2023 Nobile En Primeur was the discovery of a rare parchment recording a wine transaction, that was dated 17 October 1350 – making it one of the world’s oldest documents to certify a wine transaction.
Originally found in Montepulciano, the rare sales contract is preserved in the Madonna de’ Ricci (crociferi) collection in the Italian National Archives in Florence.
However, despite its long winemaking history, the modern DOCG has become increasingly dynamic having obtained the Equalitas certification in 2022, making Vino Nobile di Montepulciano one of the first sustainable wine-making district in Italy. To achieve this, almost 76% of the estates in Montepulciano contributed their own resources and ensured their business activities worked towards achieving the certification.
At the same time, 98% of estates reduced their use of conventional treatments in the vineyard, whilst 59% implemented practices linked to what is better known as ‘integrated farming’. Almost 70% of the wineries chose to apply organic farming methods with 3% using biodynamic agriculture. Over the last five years, 84.4% of the vineyards have invested in awareness-raising and training programmes on safety and environmental issues. All the farms also stated that they had significantly reduced their use of chemical pest control and plant protection products in the field.
In addition, when water was scarce, 69.7% of the wineries in the area indicated that they had implemented specific practices to reduce the use of water resources for the winemaking process, whilst 97% stated that they had worked toward safeguarding biodiversity. Then, 75.8% of the holdings said that they had implemented practices to reduce climate-changing CO2 gas emissions, whilst 72.7% stated that they had also set up activities to recover or recycle materials from production waste.
The Equalitas standard, which was developed by the eponymous Italian company, a subsidiary of FederDOC, allows organisations including individual wineries, their products or entire Denominations of Origin, to receive sustainability certification.
One last important new project for this DOCG – Italy’s first ever conceived in 1980 – is the arrival of the ‘Pieve’ label.
Pieve are territorial toponyms, stemming from an in-depth study of history, landscape, and wine production, referring to the ancient Pievi (parish churches) used to divide the territory as far back as the late Roman and Lombard eras. The Pieve system effectively creates sub-zones based on historical and geological diversities, through the identification of 12 areas, defined in the production regulations as UGA (Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive or Additional Geographical Units), which will be preceded by the word ‘Pieve’ on the label.
More than 40 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano estates have selected one batch of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano to become the ‘Pieve’ wine for the 2022 harvest. Approximately 500,000 bottles per year are expected to be released for this first new vintage to be made available. This is about 7% of the entire Vino Nobile production.