During the concluding comments of my Vino Nobile Report Part 2, I mused about where Vino Nobile was heading. Now, three articles down and some 30+ wines later, I’m not really sure that I know. For certain, quality wines from the DOCG have never been easier to find. Producers are stressing quality and developing more wines of special character hailing from single vineyards. This should be applauded.
However, despite this, it is still easy to stumble upon a weak wine. And for a region trying to reinvent itself, that isn’t helpful. Montepulciano has long been in the shadow of Montalcino and as I wrote at the outset of this series, that’s not warranted or even an apt comparison. However, as prices for the best wines rise, that analogy will continue to be made.
Readers need to discern where value lies. And there is a lot of it to be found in Montepulciano. Now let’s get started.
In Part 2, the entry level wine from Salcheto was impressive. This organic and biodynamic winery is run by the Manelli family since 1997 when they restored the property from its sharecropping roots.
The 2016 Salcheto Vino Nobile Vecchie Viti del Salco boasts a very dark color. Deep garnet leads to violet reflections and a slight tinge of iodine at the rim. Black cherry, fresh tobacco and dusty clay mark the pretty nose. Very dusty on the palate. I love it, but it’s unique. Loads of black cherry fruit dominate from front to back. This is very primary but oh so gorgeous. Is this 100% Sangiovese? (it is) The smooth tannins are almost absent throughout. A lovely hint of dark chocolate and fennel appear on the finish. Unfortunately, not at all cheap. About $69. 95 points. Find this wine.
The Vigna Grande lies directly adjacent to the Nocio Vineyard on the Boscarelli Estate. Replanted in 2000 with massal selections from Nocio, the vineyard is comprised of clay, sand and red tufo. This 20 year old vineyard is densely planted to 7,000 plants per hectare. As a result, the vines fight each other in their struggle for nutrients. Consequently, they produce complex, flavorful grapes.
The 2016 Boscarelli Vino Nobile Costa Grande is 100% Sangiovese and a deep ruby color throughout. Fresh flowers, crushed red berries and wild herb aromas are fragrant and perfumed. In the mouth the wine struts its full bodied flavors with tannins to match. This is huge! Juicy flavors of wild cherry dominate with hints of dried herbs. The tannins shorten things up a bit right now but that doesn’t concern me too much. Needs meat or time in the cellar but this is very well put together. Again, not exactly inexpensive. About $50. 93 points. Find this wine.
Maurizio Comitini produces organic wines at his Croce di Febo estate. I profiled his Amore Mio Vino Nobile in Part 1 which was 100% Sangiovese. His “entry level” blue label Vino Nobile is a different expression of Montepulciano all together.
The 2016 Croce di Febo Vino Nobile is a deep violet color in the glass. With vigorous “swirlitude” some aromas lift from the glass. But this is tightly wound. Dark cherry, hints of vanilla and little else make their appearance. On the palate, massive! Tight. This is gargantuan in tannin, acid and fruit. Lots of cherry character is backed by spice and hints of vanilla. Needs years to better express itself. This is difficult to judge at this stage. About 90-91 points but I could see it going up. Try in 2025. The blue label is a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Colorino and Mammolo. It spends 2 years in barrique and 6 months in bottle before release. About $25. Find this wine.
While discussing the “Celeste Project” in Part 2 of this report, I mentioned the following:
“From this clay, the team employed a skilled, local Potter to fashion an Amphora from this blue clay. Celeste, nursed the creation of the amphora and the team nurtured the eventual Sangiovese that went into it. The name of the wine? No, not Celeste. It’s a 2017 100% Sangiovese called Nabit Wall. Not Another Brick in The Wall.”
Cue the Pink Floyd music..
The 2017 Avignonesi Nabit Wall is a brilliant, shimmering, bright violet color. This 100% Sangiovese is completely vinified and aged in blue clay amphora. Primary. Lovely. Pure pure pure. Aromatic. This is stripped down Sangiovese with no embellishment. Cherries. Berries. Dusty. It’s completely neutral, juicy and fresh. Medium bodied with a long, fruity finish. I’m not sure this would be very age worthy, but it’s really pretty. 93 points. Contact the winery if you’re interested in finding some.
The Gracciano Estate is owned by the della Seta Ferrari Corbelli Greco family and covers about 20 hectares. Production averages about 100,000 bottles per year of their 4 wines and since 2018, the estate is certified organic. The vineyards are divided into 4 separate blocks and average from 15-40 years in age. The oldest vineyard provides the fruit for the family’s Riserva.
The 2015 Tenuta di Gracciano Vino Nobile is a deep ruby with some violet highlights. Lots of tertiary notes on the nose. Pepper, cherries, menthol and spicy meat. The palate is mineral driven with dust, shale, iron and crushed red fruit. A little bit too austere for my liking but it’s nice enough. 88 points. Good value around $18. Find this wine.
The next segment is devoted to Avignonesi’s Terroir Project, its Single Vineyard series. The following four wines are essentially the same on their face. They are all 100% Sangiovese and treated identically in the cellar. To that point, they spend 22 months in oak including Slavonian Botte plus new and used barrique. The primary difference that the winery is attempting to highlight is driven by the Sangiovese clones interacting with the different soils.
The 2016 Avignonesi Banditella Vineyard Vino Nobile is a deep ruby to garnet color. The nose is striking immediately and features wild strawberry, fresh flowers and sapid herbs. On the palate, this is juicy, fresh and elegant. Medium to full bodied, it is the most elegant of the 4 Cru wines and also the most approachable. Really pretty Sangiovese that will drink well over the next 8 years. 91 points.
The 2016 Avignonesi Le Badelle Vineyard Vino Nobile is ruby to violet and deeply colors. Wildly aromatic with flowers, berries and new suede on the nose. Full bodied and masculine on the palate. Loads of cherries are joined with leather, minerals and shale. Juicy with iron and blood character. This is a huge wine. The tannins assert themselves at the end but this is really special. 97 points.
The 2016 Avignonesi Caprile Vineyard Vino Nobile is a dark, medium ruby. Bright flowers, fresh baking spices and sapid cherry marks the nose. Theres’s also an interesting hint of aquamarine. On the palate, wonderful fresh berries are accented with fresh crushed clay. There’s a mineral driven saltiness that is mouthwatering. Unique. This is really cool. Elegant and feminine. Very different from the monstrous Le Badelle. I love it. 95 points.
The 2016 Avignonesi Oceano Vineyard Vino Nobile is a deep ruby to garnet color with striking violet highlights. The aromas are fragrant and forward with Mediterranean scrub herbs, wild flowers and fresh crushed berry. Really makes an impact aromatically. On the palate, this is broad shouldered and full bodied. Waves of crushed berry, mineral laced herbs, crushed stone and tobacco power through to the finish. This is second in stature only to Le Badelle. 94 points.
Located outside the heart of Montepulciano, the Lombardo Estate was started in 1972 by Antonio Lombardo. Today, his two sons principally run the property which spans 35 hectares of vineyards planted in the area of Caggiole. Elegance is a hallmark of the Caggiole terroir and the Lombardo showcases it wonderfully.
The 2016 Lombardo Vino Nobile is a beautiful deep ruby color. Bright and reflective. Cherry, mulch and tobacco mark the nose but where this struts its stuff is on the palate. Bright berry fruit is backed by spice and a hint of vanilla. This has more structure than a lot of 16s yet retains its elegance. Ripe and sapid, it stays fresh throughout. Approachable now but will cellar well for 5+ years. A solid effort. 93 points. Find this wine.
Poliziano’s entrant to the Alliance Vinum project is a massive.
The 2016 Poliziano Le Caggiole Vino Nobile is a deep ruby color with violet reflections. The nose is penetrating with fragrant flowers and crushed berries. So fresh! Ripe black cherry dominates the palate. This is full bodied and juicy with a huge core of fruit and tannins to match but the latter turn dusty toward the finish. Big, big wine. Needs time to settle and come together. A bit more reminiscent of a 2015 than 2016. 100% Sangiovese. Try in 2024. 94 points, but not an inexpensive wine. Find this wine.
Santavenere is the Montepulciano winery of the larger Triacca Group. When the Triacca family acquired the property in 1990, only 6 hectares of vineyards existed on the estate. Today, the family have increased that to 36. A new decagonal cellar was built and connected via an underground passage to the older buildings on the estate. The property may be visited without appointment.
The 2016 Triacca Santavenere Vino Nobile is a deep ruby trending to garnet. Great color. This juicy Sangiovese shows all the lovely hallmarks of the vintage. Flowers, dark cherry and new leather mark the nose. The flavors echo the palate with freshness and juiciness. Iron and mineral notes add complexity at the end. Really long finish is bright and fresh. 100% Sangiovese. 93 points and a great value. Available directly from the winery who are running a promotion now for $12. Find this wine.
Finally, the Dei Estate debuted in Part 1 of this coverage with its Cru wine. It’s workhorse is the grey label Nobile. Run by Caterina Dei for the last 20 years, the winery is now fully sustainable and organic. In Caterina’s own words: “I didn’t always know that wine would be my path. I am a music lover and, for years, I thought about a career in the art world. However, my father had a dream, that of top-quality winemaking and a modern, sustainable winery. That dream swept me away and captured me. It’s been my passion now for more than 2 decades.”
The 2016 Dei Vino Nobile is a beautiful ruby color with violet reflections. Expressive, beautiful nose of lilac, lavender, crushed wild cherry and new leather is amazing. On the palate, this has it all. Juicy and mouthwatering berry fruit is center stage with hints of cured meat, soft dusty earth and a touch of spice. This is a beautiful Sangiovese and an incredible value. Predominantly Sangiovese with a touch of unspecified grapes in the blend. Aged for 24 months before release, 18 of which are in large oak barrels. 93 points. About $23. Find this wine.
There will be some additional Vino Nobile data points in the coming weeks that will be reserved for newsletter subscribers. For now, what did we learn from this report? If anything, it’s that the wines from Montepulciano are better than ever. With rare exception, the wines tasted for this report were fresh, lively, concentrated and complex. Many of them are available direct to consumer so consider that option for the smaller production wines.
What didn’t we like? The trend of (much) higher prices for some of the premium wines is alarming. As I wrote in Part 1, I loathe to make any comparison to Brunello. However, people will inevitably do so and when Nobile’s prices exceed Brunello by $20, $30 or even $40 per bottle, I see that as a real problem.
Open your mind and taste. Seek some of these out. Hopefully I’ve shone a light on a few producers that are new to you and who may soon become staples in your cellar.