Earlier this year I hosted a Blind Brunello tasting featuring three current vintage wines.  Immediately that got me thinking of doing a similar tasting of Brunello’s neighbor, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. 
Vino Nobile has long been championed as the equal of Brunello.  My tastings in the past have not borne this out.  Market factors,  most Vino Nobile are about $20-25, don’t bear this out.  This tasting, once again, did nothing to change this perception.   
Vino Nobile is made in and around the vineyards of the Tuscan hilltop town,  Montepulciano.  By law, it must be made from a mimimum of 70% Sangiovese, known locally by the clonal name, Prugnolo Gentile.  The balance of the wine may be Canaiolo or other local red grapes.   
We had three 2008 Vino Nobile. I had acquired them all and bagged them, but did not know which wine was which. We had 5 tasters.  The wines were opened an hour before dinner, but not decanted.

Blind Vino Nobile di Montepulciano awaiting tasting

Wine 1
The first wine was medium ruby in color, with a pretty red fruit aroma. Fairly simplistic on the nose. In the mouth the wine is medium bodied, very smooth, and straightforward.  There is minimal tannic grip, and I got the sense there was an almost aqualine essence to this wine that I did not care for.  I was rather surprised as I did not expect any of the wines to show something quite that odd.  84 points.
Wine 2
Noticeably darker in the glass.  A dark, crimson, blood color.  Ahh, the aromas are there this time.  Crushed berries, sweet tobacco and earth. In the mouth, the wine is round and ripe, with good acid and tannic backbone – lots of ripe cherry fruit with sage, flowers and spices. Really wonderful and I quickly grabbed more of this.  92 points
Wine 3
The third wine fit the theme but was not served “wrapped” blind.  However, my note that follows was written without me knowing what I was drinking as the glass was handed to me with instructions to “try this”.  The wine boasted a deep ruby color and a forward aroma of sweet berry fruit tinged with slight vanilla and dried herbs.  In the mouth the wine is medium bodied, with a solid core of cherry fruit, good acidity and balance. It’s slightly one dimensional but has more personality than #1.  It does not have the intensity or complexity of #2.  I thought maybe I was being tricked, but was pretty confident this was the third wine.  90 points.
The Reveal
The wines were revealed as follows:
Wine #1:  2008 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile
Wine #2:  2008 Poliziano Vino Nobile
Wine #3:  2008 Avignonesi Vino Nobile
I was very disappointed with the Fattoria del Cerro having liked the 2004 vintage a great deal. I have to say however, it was preferred to the Poliziano by 3 out of the 5 tasters with the explanation that it seemed “smoother” and “less aggressive”.  That wasn’t an issue for me – it was that aquarium like quality on the palate that really detracted for me.  The Poliziano was outstanding. It was the most complex and the ripest wine with great Tuscan character. The Avignonesi was steady and delicious. It’s never let me down, but didn’t quite reach the heights of the Poliziano in this tasting. 
Blind tastings are always humbling and while 2008 wasn’t the greatest vintage, I think these wines are well representative of what Vino Nobile is.  All three retail in the area of $22-$25 with the Poliziano clocking in as the most expensive of the three – but not by much. 

Poliziano & Fattoria Del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The bottom line?  I will surely buy more of the Poliziano and the Avignonesi.  They represent Tuscany well and are good wines to drink while better vintages of Sangiovese mature in the cellar.  As for the Fattoria del Cerro, I emerge a bit cautious after this and will perhaps limit trying this wine to only the better vintages.   
Vino Nobile may be a value compared to it’s cousin Brunello, but that’s the only place where the wines beat it’s hilltop neighbor.  On complexity, intensity, ageability and even wow factor, they simply are not on the same level.  As Brunello is a world class wine, this isn’t really a knock on Vino Nobile.  They are deserving of  occupying a corner in your cellar – and for me, that’s something I should remedy in the near future.


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