VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO DOCG is one of Tuscany’s three most renowned Sangiovese-based red wine-only denominations, the others being Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and Chianti Classico DOCG. Vino Nobile became a DOC in 1966 under Law 930, and a DOCG on 01st July 1980. The last revision of the DOCG’s rules came in November 2010 (see below for full details). The delimited area for the wine is township (‘comune’) of Montepulciano in south-east Tuscany, bordering Umbria. Vino Nobile’s earlier released sibling is called Rosso do Montepulciano DOC.
IMPORTANT NOTE | The red wine grape called Montepulciano and which is grown most notably in Abruzzo has absolutely no link with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG red wine or with the town of Montepulciano.
THE ‘VINO NOBILE’ NAME
Titus Livius mentioned wine being made here in his ‘History of Rome’, published 2,000 years ago. Use of the term ‘Vino Nobile’ is ascribed to 1549 when the cellarmaster Pope Paul III (Farnese), Sante Lancerio, praised the wines from the Tuscan town of Montepulciano as “perfect whether in winter or in summer, perfumed, not aggressive or too deeply coloured, wine for gentlemen,” meaning as being fit for “noblemen”. The famous Italian classical scholar and poet of the Florentine Renaissance, Poliziano, spoke of Vino Nobile. In 1685 Francesco Redi, using Bacchus as a mouthpiece wrote “pour the manna of Montepulciano…Montepulciano is king of all wines.”
Another interpretation regarding the Nobile name suggests it derives from the Nobile family who lived in town of Montepulciano and left their name on buildings in town. The Nobile family’s land and vineyards were located all around the hill of Montepulciano, close to the town and thus not spread far out into the countryside. Such proximity made it easier for the owner to check personally the quality of the wine, rather than rely on the workers as would have been the case if the vineyards had been more spread out and located further afield. The resulting high quality of the Nobile family’s wine may explain why their name became attached to Montepulciano.
In 1759 Voltaire praised Montepulciano in Candide. The use of the word Nobile is well documented in the books of Montepulciano’s cellars from 1829 or 1830. In his ‘Statistica Agraria’ della Val di Chiana, Libro Quarto (1830) Professor Giuseppe Giuly (a lecturer at the University of Siena and member of the Accademia Economico Agraria ‘I Georgofili’ in Florence) gives detailed descriptions of the grape varieties, vinification and ageing methods for Vino Nobile production, meaning Vino Nobile was already being used as a denomination distinct from Aleatico, Moscatello and so on.
An expense account dating from the late 18th-century details Giovan Filippo Neri, Governor of the Royal retreat of San Girolamo sending wine from Montepulciano and Vino Nibile as a gift for the removal of Suor Luisa Sisti to the Convento of S Petronilla in Siena: “to reimburse the cook of Casa Morscichi, Vino Nobile taken as a gift to the Conservatorio known as the Conventino…’.
At the 1870 Winemaking Exhibition of the Provinces of Siena and Grosseto participants included some Vino Nobile wines made by various wineries in Montepulciano. Increasing distinction was being made between Vino Nobile and other wines made in Montepulciano eg. andante or mediocre, comune or ordinary, scelto or selected. Vino Nobile began to denote a wine of higher quality.
In the contemporary period Vino Nobile has been eclipsed by its near neighbour, Montalcino of Brunello fame whose wines tend to be more powerful and more longer-lived, and have the advantage of only ever being made 100% from a single grape (Sangiovese), unilke Vino Nobile which requires only 85% Sangiovese and permits up to 15% other grapes (of which more, below).
TERROIR | The production area was under the sea until 2 million years ago, and then was pushed upwards out of the sea. This left layers of sediments of varying composition and geological origin.
PRODUCTION ZONE | The DOCG rules delimits the production area as being the township (comune) of Montepulciano, excluding the area of the Valdichiana, and limited to vineyards between 250-600 metres (820-1,968 feet) above sea level.
VINTAGE REPORTS, WINE PRODUCTION & SALES DATA | See here.
VINO NOBILE WINE STYLE
Vino Nobile can be bottled both as a 100% Sangiovese (called ‘Prugnolo Gentile’ here) or with up to 30% other grapes authorised for the Tuscan region. These may be of Italian origin in the case of Canaiolo, members of the Colorino family, Mammolo, and Malvasia Nera di Brindisi or of French origin in the case of Merlot and Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon. Until the late 1990s a Vino Nobile made from 100% Sangiovese was not officially allowed, the then rules taking account of the fact local vineyards comprised a majority of Sangiovese but interplanted with other Tuscan grapes like Colorino, Mammolo and so on. The then law was respectful of the tradition here, which was that the vineyards were mixed.
Compared to Montalcino, analytical and phenolic ripeness coincide more easily in Montepulciano due to colder winters and a shorter growing season, Montepulciano having no direct sea influence unlike Montalcino which does, being nearer the coast. Montepulciano’s colder winters also allow vines complete winter dormancy. The cooling influence of Lake Trasimeno plays only a minor role here.
WINEGROWING & WINEMAKING RULES / The maximum yield is 8 tons per hectare for Vino Nobile. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines must age and be bottled in the commune of Montepulciano. Vino Nobile must age 2 years from 01st January following the harvest in one of three ways:
- 24 months in wood, or
- 18 months in wood beginning before April 30 following the harvest, and 6 months in other ageing vessels (eg. cement tanks, stainless steel tanks), or
- 12 months in wood beginning before April 30 following the harvest, 6 months in other ageing vessels, 6 months in bottle.
- Riserva wines must age 36 months of which 6 months must be in bottle.
VINO NOBILE VINTAGES | See here.
VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO WINERIES
CERTIFIED ORGANIC, BIODYNAMIC PRACTICES | Avignonesi.
NO CERTIFICATION | Antico Colle. / Antinori. / Barbanera. / Bindella. / Boscarelli. / Canneto. / Cantina Chiacchiera. / Cantina del Giusto. / Carpineto. / Casa Vinicola Triacca. / Casale Daviddi. / Contucci. / De’ Ricci. / Dei. / Fanetti. / Fassati. / Fattoria del Cerro. / Fattoria della Talosa. / Fattoria La Braccesca. / Fattoria Santavenere. / Gattavecchi. / Icario. / Il Macchione. / La Ciarliana. / Le Badelle. / Le Bertille. / Lunadoro. / Metinella. / Montemercurio. / Nottola. / Palazzo Vecchio. / Podere Le Bèrne. / Poliziano. / Priorino. / Tenuta Gracciano della Seta. / Tenuta Santagnese. / Tenuta Trerose. / Tiberini. / Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano. / Villa S Anna.
Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Via San Donato, 21 / I-53045 Montepulciano (SI = Siena), Italy / Tel+39 0578 757812