Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Difference Between Montepulciano & Montepulciano

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are Sangiovese-based reds that are frequently
delicious, sometimes long-lived, and usually cheaper than wines from nearby regions
When I first began studying central Italian wines, I was confused by these Montepulcianos. One was a grape, and one was a place, but which was which?

If you’re relatively new to Italian wines, here’s the deal. The wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, is an appellation in southern Tuscany that is based around the city of Montepulciano. These wines are made from Sangiovese (a local clone called Prugnolo Gentile). 

The grape, Montepulciano, is not from Tuscany, but it is widely planted in its native Abruzzo region, a vast area that spreads from the Adriatic coast to some rugged inland mountains. Wines from this region are bottled under the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo denomination of origin.

I recently spent an afternoon with representatives from two wineries, one from Montepulciano (the place) and one who produces Montepulciano (the grape) d'Abruzzo. Andrea Di Properzio was touring the East Coast to promote his Abruzzo employer, La Valentina, and David Redondi was representing Poliziano, a producer of respected Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. 

I’ve written in the past about the high quality to price ratio of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines, and that is certainly the case with Poliziano. This well-known estate dates back to 1961, when Dino Carletti purchased about 50 acres in Montepulciano. Carletti named his winery after the 15th Century humanist poet Angelo Ambrogini, known as Il Poliziano, who was born there. Dino's son Federico now runs the winery, which has expanded and now holds about 300 acres, including some sites further west, toward the coast, in the Maremma and Cortona appellations. 

La Valentina is doing some really cool things with the Montepulciano grape in the Adriatic coastal areas of Abruzzo. This winery is located in Spoltore, a village near the central coast of this region. All La Valentina grapes are estate grown, and all the reds are made from Montepulciano. This producer’s lineup is a great window to understanding this grape. They bottle several interpretations, sourced from different vineyards and produced in different ways, from the light and easy-drinking entry-level wine to the massive, heady Binomio. La Valentina really is an ambassador for the Montepulciano grape.

Below, I’ve pasted my notes from a lovely tasting.

La Valentina

2015 Fattoria La Valentina Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo - Italy, Abruzzi, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
This rose of Montepulciano has a very floral nose, lots of strawberries and peaches. Pure and vibrant but some impressive body and creamy texture. Bright but plenty fruity, fresh cut peaches and wild strawberries topped with some sea breeze and white flowers. Lovely stuff, especially for the price. (87 points)

2013 Fattoria La Valentina Montepulciano d'Abruzzo - Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Fresh, juicy, pure and berry-driven aromas. Fresh black cherries and raspberries on the nose with a slightly chewy but velvety mouthfeel. Nice spice accents, this is approachable and fresh but not too simple. All estate fruit aged in cement, stainless steel and 20% oak. This is a new release, as the wine is aged 18 months in bottle. (86 points)

2011 Fattoria La Valentina Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva Spelt - Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Much deeper and more concentrated aromas. And the palate sews a similar thread, with concentrated black cherries and blackberries, but the tannins are smooth around the edges while offering plenty of structure. Complex tobacco, sweet spice and graphite elements. The mountain fruit above the Binovio vineyard, this is aged in stainless steel, Slovenian cask and French barriques. Really impressive stuff, especially for $20. (90 points)

2010 Fattoria La Valentina Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Bellovedere - Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Smells dark and saucy but so juicy as well, with elegant fruit topped with violets and hints of sea salt. Great structure and concentration on the palate with deep plums and black cherries. Round but muscular, with intense focus, minerality and freshness. From a single-vineyard site not far from the Adriatic sea, this is fermented in Slovenian oak cones. (91 points)

2011 Binomio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva - Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Deep, massive aromas but elegant, too, pure, floral. Huge palate (15.5% alcohol) with structured tannins. A bit extracted, with some lower acidity, this is an extremely modern Montepulciano. These descriptions sound over-the-top, and the wine is surely a brooding one, but I find some elegance and velvety aspects to the wine as well. Dark cherry, blackberry, topped in graphite, cocoa, anise, charcoal. Very full and modern, but the quality of the fruit is quite something. A joint venture between La Valentina and Stefano Inama. A single vineyard site at about 1,500 feet, rocky and clay soil, planted in 1971. Aged 15 months in French oak, half new. (91 points)


2014 Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano - Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Rosso di Montepulciano
Fresh and vibrant aromas, bright roses and cherries. Soft and fleshy on the palate with bright cherries and strawberries. Simple, fresh, a perfect value-driven lunch red. Fermented in stainless steel and aged mostly in cement with 30% French oak. Includes 20% Merlot. (86 points)

2012 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Smells rich and velvety with dark cherries, earth and tobacco. Firm but velvety, with rich flavors of black cherry, plum skin. I also get earthy, tobacco, lovely spice flavors. A blend of some 40 different parcels, which are picked and vinified separately. During the 60s and 70s, this was the only wine this house produced. I’m glad they’ve expanded, but, at the same time, I’m glad this classic wine is still so solid. Aged 16 months in French oak. Lovely stuff, but it'll improve a lot with age. (88 points)

Poliziano's crown jewel is the Asinone vineyard. Credit: Poliziano
2011 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Vigna Asinone - Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Smells of deep currants and dark berries but it’s also suave and elegant; I also get some notes of smoke and violets. On the palate, this is smooth but so structured, grippy but elegant. Dark currants, black cherries, laced with earth, black tea, iron and tobacco. The oak is integrated quite well. Beautiful stuff, but I’d love to bury it for five or six years. From a single-vineyard site first planted in 1963, the wine spends about 18 months in French oak and a year in bottle before release. (91 points)

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