Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – Another Great Sangiovese Wine from Tuscany

Some of the great wines in Italy, and the world, hail from Tuscany.  Other articles have discussed Super Tuscans, and some of the great wines based on the Sangiovese grape including Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino.  In this article, another great Sangiovese based wine is explored:  Vin Nobile di Montepulciano. 

The name of this wine can be confusing.  Long ago these wines became the chosen wine of nobility hence the Nobile part of the name. 

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The last part of the name is because the grapes are from the vineyards surrounding the city of Montepulciano just to the east of Montalcino.  This city, however, has nothing to do the Montepulciano grape used in Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and other fine wines from the south of Italy.  Hence, the name means simply the Wine of Nobility from Montepulciano. 

Wine has been made in the area for centuries.  Even before the Romans, the Etruscan’s produced wine here. Sixteenth and seventeenth century poets wrote often about these wines.  Modern wine production got its start in the 1930’s with the founding of a few wineries still making wine today.  Once recognized as a DOC in 1966, Vin Nobile di Montepulciano, like Chianti, saw an increase in the production of mediocre wines.  Unlike Chianti, however, Vin Nobile di Montepulciano never became trendy in the contemporary marketplace.  Perhaps Vin Nobile di Montepulciano simply relied on its own reputation for too long.  While, historically, Vin Nobile di Montepulciano was seen as the better wine of Chianti and Brunello, by the 1970’s the wines lacked much and market share was lost.  In the 1980’s two quality oriented producers, Avignonesi and Poliziano, moved to the forefront. They had the financial wherewithal to produce quality wines and bring them to market.  With those producers leading the way, the 80’s and especially the 90’s saw a resurgence in Vin Nobile.  In 1980 Vin Nobile di Montepulciano was elevated to full DOCG status. 

Vin Nobile di Montepulciano is made from a clone of the Sangiovese grape named Prugnolo Gentile, the same strain as used in Brunello.  Under DOCG law, it must contain at least 70% Sangiovese.  In addition, up to 20% can be Canaiolo Nero and up to another 20% may be other authorized grapes (often the Mamalo grape).  The other authorized grapes may include up to 50% of sanctioned white grapes.  The wines must be aged for 26 months before being released, the Riservas for 35 months.  Vin Nobile di Montepulciano is smaller in size than Chianti or Brunello with about 2,500 acres under vine. 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.