Category Archives: Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

NOBILE aka Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Many years ago, a wine writer said that the problem with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is that it is “caught in the shadow between Chianti and Brunello.”

Six of the top producers of Vino Noble decided to do something about this so they to banded together to form an Alliance to promote the wine. They presented their wines at a tasting in NYC followed by a seminar with a representative from each winery.

Albiera Antinori – La Braccesca

Lucca de Ferrari- Poderi Boscarelli

Luca de Ferrari – Poderi Boscarelli

Federico Carletti – Poliziano

Caterina Dei – Cantine Dei

Luca de Ferrari – Poderi Boscarelli

Michele Manelli – Salcheto

Virginie Saverys – Avignonesi

Virginie Saverys – Avignonesi

“Individual humility and collective pride is probably the best definition of nobility,” is their slogan. They believe that now is the time to elevate and preserve a wine of true nobility. In addition to their regular wines each winery presented a new wine called “Nobile” made from 100% Sangiovese from the 2015 vintage. I was able to taste these wines. They show promise, but they are still too young( one was a barrel sample) to be judged.

The panel discussed the following:

Vino Nobile can only be made from grapes grown around the town of Montepulciano in the province of Siena in Southeast Tuscany in the hills around the Chiana Valley. The soil here is sandy and rich in clay with many rocks and the climate is temperate.

The wine is made mostly from Sangiovese known locally as Prugnolo Gentile (at least 70%) and other approved red varieties. It was mentioned by the panel that recently many producers are making the wine from 100% Sangiovese.

Vino Noble is aged for a minimum of two years, including one in oak barrels or casks and three years total in order to be called a Riserva.

There is a wine from Abruzzo named Montepulciano d’Abruzzo made from the Montepulciano grape. It should not be confused with Vino Noble di Montipulciano, made in a different region from different grapes.

In order to highlight Vino Nobile di Montepuliciano’s significant personality, bring the wine up to date and avoid any confusion, the Alliance producers will refer to their wines simply as “Nobile” instead of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. They believe it is a renaissance of this Italian classic.

The panel also discussed the problem of how Vino Nobile often falls in the shadows of its Tuscan neighbors Chianti and Brunello. It was pointed out that Vino Nobile was the first DOCG to appear on the Italian market and is a renowned red wine that stands on its own.

There were between 25 to 30 wines at the tasting and I have to say that the Alliance members have been among my favorite producers of Nobile (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano). I have visited over the years 5 of the 6 wineries.

Just to list a few of some of the wines at the tasting: Grand Annata 2012 from Avigonesi, The 2004 and 1995 Vino Nobile Asinone from Poliziano– that proves the wine can age. The 2012 Riserva and the 2013 Il Nocio Nobile from Boscarelli whose wines may have been my introduction to Vino Nobile many years ago. La Braccesca Santa Pia Nobile Riserva 2012, Dei Vino Nobile Riserva 2007 from a Lt. 3.0 and the Vino Nobile 2011 Riserva from Salcheto.



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Filed under Avignonesi, Boscarelli, Dei, La Braccesca, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

New Discoveries


Speaking about the wine

Riccardo Gabriele introduced me to a group of Italian wines that he represents and asked me to speak about them to a group of wine writers.   The Trattoria dell’Arte was the perfect spot for the luncheon and tasting. Some highlights were a wine made from pre-phylloxera grapes and another made from Tempranillo grapes – both from Tuscany!

It was an exciting opportunity for me to taste and discuss these wines with other wine writers. IMG_5362

Manicardi “Vigna Ca del Fiore” DOC 2013 Lambrusco Grasparossa Castelvetro 100% Grasparossa. There are 2,600 plants per hectare and the training is cordon spurred. Fermentation and maceration is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Second fermentation is by the Charmat method–cold maceration is in pressurized temperature controlled tanks and grapes must be stored under pressure and at 0ºC. This is a dry Lambrusco fruity and low in tannin, high in acidity which goes very well with the rich food of the Emilia region, such as cotechino, zampone, bolito misto, Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto di Parma.

In a restaurant outside of Parma I discovered a very simple but excellent end to a meal: a perfect ripe pear, walnuts, a wedge a Parmigiano-Reggiano and a glass of dry Lambrusco. I have been a fan of dry Lambrusco ever since.

Lambrusco is a family of kindred grapes. The three best quality sub-varieties include Grasparossa (red stem), the darkest in color and the most robust.   It comes from the village of Castelvetro, south of Modena, and is the one that I prefer. Sorbara, the most delicate, and pricy comes from the village of the same name. Salamino, meaning little salami, is so called because of the sausage-shaped bunches, comes from the area around the village of Santa Croce. The wine is not imported in to U.S.IMG_5363

Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG “Madonna della Grazie” 2008 named for the church close by the winery. This producer only grows Sangiovese grapes. The winery is just northern of the town of Montalcino. The vineyard is at 400 meters with a northern exposure. Soil is sandy and rich in minerals. The training is spurred cordon. They use biodynamic methods but are not certified. The wine rests on the skins completely still in Allier oak vats for the first two days as the temperature slowly rises naturally to 30 degrees after 5 days. Fermentation takes between 20 and 22 days. The wine remains in oak barrels of 26HL for 41 months (Slovenian and Allier) and is released after 5 years, including 10 months in bottle. This is a traditional Brunello and will last for many years. 2008 was an excellent vintage. $55IMG_5364

Pagani de Marchi “Principe Guerriero” 2009 Montesuadaio DOC 100% Sangiovese. Casale Marittimo, Pisa. The vineyard is 3 hectares and it is 200 meters above sea level. Soil is sedimentary clay, calcareous, and rich in potassium. The training is guyot, age of vines is 15 years and there are 2.2 hectares of Sangiovese. Exposure is south, southeast and southwest. Vinification is in 50Hl stainless steel tanks, traditional pumping over andmalolactic fermentation is in oak barrels. Natural yeast. No chemical weed controlAging is for 12 months in oak barrels 30% new, 12 months in bottle before release. A small Etruscan necropolis on the property and an Etruscan warrior’s tomb gives the wine its name. $35IMG_5365

Colle S. Mustiola “Poggio ai Chiari” 2006 IGT Tuscany. Made from 100% Sangiovese from a four hectare vineyard near Lake Chiusi in Tuscany. The exposure is northeast and the vineyard is at 300 meters. Flood soil with pilocene sand. There are 10,000 vines per hectare. The harvest takes place the second week of October.       Maceration lasts for 40 days with submerged cap fermentation. There is spontaneous malolatic fermentation. The wine spends 36 months in barriques and a small part in Slovenian oak barrels of 20hl, followed by 24 months refinement in bottle before release.

The winery made a selection of 28 different clones of Sagiovese of which five were pre-phylloxera – not grafted on to American rootstock. There is now one vineyard with 10,000 per phylloxera vines. $40  IMG_5366

Podere Boscarelli Vino Noble di Montpulciano Riserva 2009 DOCG. Usually 86% Prugnolo Gentile, 10% Merlot and 4% Colorino. Rolling hills at 300 meters going down to the river Chiana. Soil is silt and clay. The vines are 6 to 35 years old and are selected from clones from their own vineyards. There are 6,000 plants per hectare, selection at harvest by hand into small crates 2/3 of capacity and another selection in the cellar. Fermentation is with the stalks and after a soft pressing the grapes ferment in little vats of steel and oak–only to 3/4 of capacity. Fermentation lasts for one week at 28/30º C. Maceration for 5 to 8 days. Only natural yeasts are used. Aging is in 350/2,000 liter barrels of Slovenian oak or French Allier. A little filtration is carried out before bottling if necessary. $45IMG_5367

Podere La Chiesa “Sabiniano di Casanova” 2008 IGT Tuscany 60% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot.

The vineyards are located in Podere la Chiesa in Cassanova.       The vineyards face southeast and southwest growing on a clay soil rich in fossil shells, typical of the area.

Each grape variety is vinified separately. There are 2 to 3 pumpovers a day which protects the cap from oxidation. The training is cordon spur and there are 4,500 per hectare, which are hand harvested. Natural yeast is used and temperature controlled fermentation takes place in stainless steel. Maceration is for 12/15 days, 12 months in French barriques and 18 months in the bottle before release. Not imported.IMG_5368

Beconcini “IXE” is the Tuscan pronunciation for the letter X. The letter X stands for unknown vines which turned out to be Tempranillo. The IGT is Tuscany Tempranillo. This wine is made from 99.9% of Tempranillo and a touch of Sangiovese. The winery is located in the town of San Miniato. The vineyard is 3.5 hectares and the grapes are all from the new vineyards planted in 1997 using a massal selection from buds taken from the century old vines of Tempranillo from the Vigna alle Nicchie. The training is spurred cordon. Soil is sandstone with marine fossil formation, well integrated with abundant clay. 100/150 meters above sea level and there are 7,000 vines per hectare. Harvest the first 10 days of September. The grapes are dried for 4 weeks and they obtain a total yield of 70%. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled glass lined cement vats, maceration is for 3 weeks. Aging lasts for 14 months in 70% French barriques and 30% American oak barriques of second passage. 6 months in bottle before release. First passage in barriques is for the wine from the grapes of the historical vineyard Vigna alle Nicchie that goes into the wine of the same name.

In the early 1950’s, 213 vines of unknown species were found in the vineyard which were called X vines. With help from the Ministry of Agriculture these vines were declared to be Tempranillo a few years ago. In June of 2009, Tempranillo N nero was enrolled in the Tuscan register. As far as I know Tempranillo was never cultivated before in Italy.

The Via Franchigena was an old Roman road which was used by pilgrims in the 17th century to make the pilgrimage to and from Santiago de Compostela (Rioja) in Spain to Rome. This road passed close to the town of San Miniato near where the winery is now located. Spanish pilgrims may have carried the Tempranillo seeds and actually sewed them in the vicinity of San Miniato as was the custom of the time. Scientists have determined that the vines were from seeds, not cuttings. Legend has it that a local priest tended the vines not knowing their origin. Not imported.




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Filed under Brunello, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, IXE, Uncategorized, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

The Return of “Grifi”

Avignonesi has always been one of the top wine producers in Montepulciano with their Vino Noble di Montepulciano Grandi Annate, the Vin Santo di Montepuciano and the Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano.  I recently attended a tasting of the wines from Avignonesi and one of the reasons I went was to find out what had happened to a wine that they used to produce called Grifi .


The speaker was Giuseppe Santarelli, North American Manger for Avignonesi.  He said that the winery was founded in 1974 and remained in the same family until 2009 when Virginie Saverys purchased it.  Ms. Saverys is a believer in organic and biodynamic viticulture and hopes to get organic certification for the winery by 2016.  She also wants the wines to express the terroir and is using fewer new barriques.  This was evident when I tasted the wines.  All the grapes are estate grown.

The Wines


Rosso di Montepulciano DOC 2011  made from 90% Sangiovese and 6% local red varieties. The grapes come from five different vineyards. The soil is sub-alkaline to alkaline, with layers of clay, sand and silt.  The vineyards are at 279 to 330 meters. The vines are bush and cordon-spur trained and are between 10 and 35 years old. In the older vineyards there are 3,300 vines per hectare and in the younger ones 7,158. Harvesting took place between September 10 and 20. The grapes were selected berry by berry by use of the optical technology of Vistalys (sorting the grapes by machine). The grapes were lightly crushed and transferred to temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for a 3-day-prefermentation maceration. The alcoholic fermentation proceeds naturally with indigenous yeast.  A combination of delestrage (two step rack and return process) and remontage (pumping over) is used to manage extraction from the cap.  Malolactic fermentation takes place in oak. The wine was aged for 6 months in barriques (second and third passage) and large oak casks of 150hl. This is an easy drinking wine with a nutty character and hints of cherries and violets. It is a good food wine.   $19


Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 DOCG made from 100% Sangiovese. The fermentation is like the Rosso but with longer skin contact. The wine spends 18 months in oak, 70% in barriques (30% new) and the rest in large oak casks 150hl. The wine is aged in bottle for a minimum of 7 months before release. Giuseppe said that up to 30% of other grape varieties can be used in Vino Nobile but they chose not to do so. This is a wine with hints of wild cherries red currants, rosemary and a touch of spice. $30


Merlot “Desiderio” DOC 2010 made from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot comes from the Paggino vineyard of La Selva estate and the Cabernet from the Selva Nuova and Selva Vecchia of the La Selva estate, which is located in the Cortona DOC appellation.  Giuseppe said that the soil is different here than in Montepulciano. In Cortona there is more clay and limestone, and is better for Merlot and Cabernet. The vines are at 250 to 300 meters and the exposure is south, southwest. The vines are 12 to 22 years old, they are bush trained and there are 7,158 vines per hectare. The Merlot was picked on September 27th and the Cabernet on October 10 and 11. There is four weeks of temperature controlled alcoholic fermentation with maceration on the skins in stainless steel tanks.  Malolactic fermentation was completed in French barriques. The wine is aged for 16 months in French barriques, 35% new and 65% second passage. This is a complex full bodied wine with hints of blueberries and strawberries and nice acidity.  $57

When I saw the Grifi being poured I said to Giuseppe, “I thought that they stopped producing this wine.”  He said yes, they had stopped producing it in 1997 because the demand for the Sangiovese for the Vino Nobile was so great that had to use it there. However, with the recent purchase of new vineyards they were able to bring it back into production and the 2010 is the first vintage.


Toscana IGT “GRIFI” 2010. Made from 60% Sagiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sangiovese comes from the vineyard parcel “Poggetto di Sopra” of I Poggetti Estate and the Cabernet from the parcels “Selva Nova” and “Selva Vecchia” of the La Selva Estate. The La Selva has a north-south exposure and the I Poggetti Estate western. There are fluial origin clay and sand layers at the La Selva Estate and a matrix of clay sand and silt at the I Pggetti Estate.  The vines are 8 to 12 years old and bush trained (7,158 vines/hectare) at the La Selva Estate and 39 years old and guyot trained (2,564 vines /hectare) at I Poggetti. The vines are at 270 to 300 meters. The Sangiovese is hand harvested on September 29 and 30 and the Cabernet is machine harvested on October 10 and 11. Separate fermentation for each in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration on the skins lasts from 20 to 24 days, depending on the vintage. The malolactic fermentation was completed in French barriques. The wine is aged for 16 months in French barriques, new oak for the Cabernet and second and third passage for the Sangiovese. The wine has aromas of fresh red fruit, a hints of cherry, raspberry and spice with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste- it was as good as I remembered it! $57

Giuseppe said that the La Stella parcel of one of the vineyards is in front of the old Le Capezzine winery and is very unique. What makes this parcel unique is that the bush trained (alberello) vines are planted in the settonce system, hexagon shaped. Ancient Roman military engineers invented this system to give the vines maximum exposure to the sun and circulation of air.  Each vine is in the center of a hexagon surrounded by six other plants, equidistant from each other. None of the vines cast a shadow on another vine. I have seen the settocne system in Southern Italy but never in Tuscany. Giuseppe said that they are the only producer to use this system in Tuscany.

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Filed under Avignonesi, Brunello, Desiderio, Grifi, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

Italian Red Wine Under $20 for All Seasons

Over the past few months I have tasted a number of Italian red wines for under $20. The first two, on the list which I tasted last week at an event called Piemonte Land of Perfection’s I have had many times before and have always enjoyed. The last two on the list were a new discovery.

Dolcetto “D’OH”  2011 Piedmont Dolcetto  DOC 100% Dolcetto Clavesana  Fermented is temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a fresh fruity wine with hints of cherry that is to be drunk young. It is traditional Dolcetto.  $11

Barbera d’Asti DOCG “Vespa” 2011 100% Barbara Cascina Castlet  The vineyards are at 300 meters and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. The soil composition is clay and limestone. Pruning and harvesting (the middle of October) are done manually. The must is left in contact with the skin at controlled temperatures for 6 to 8 days. There is frequent remortgages and racking is followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is bottled and released after a few months. It is a fresh fruity Barbera with aromas and flavors of cherry and blueberry and good acidity. $14

Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2010 100% Sangiovese Poggio Stella. There are 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare. The training system is guyot and spurred cord, and the grapes are hand harvested. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then refined in Slovenian oak barrels for at least three months. The wine has red berry aromas and flavor with good acidity. $13.99

Vino Nobile Di Montepulicano DOCG 2008 Poggio Stella made from 90% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) and 10% Canaiolo.  The vines are grown on hillsides and the soil is mostly crumbled rock with good skeletal content. The plant density is 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot and spurred cord. The grapes are hand harvested; fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel. The wine is aged in Slovenian oak barrels for 24 months. $19.

Marche Rosso “Picens” IGT  2006 Domodimonti The wine is made from 25% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil in mainly clay. The vineyards are south facing, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is condon with spur pruning. The harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. The wine is aged in second passage French barriques for 5 to 6 months. There were flavors and aromas of dark fruit with hints of blackberries and a touch of leather. $16

Ciró Rosso Classic Superiore “Liber Pater” DOC 2009 Ippolito 1845 (Calabria) The wine is made from 100% Gaglioppo grapes.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel. This is a rustic wine with deep red and black fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of leather. It has a long finish and a distinctive aftertaste. $16

Rosso Piceno Superiore 2007 DOC ”Vigna Montetinello” Montepulciano 70 % Sangiovese 30% Saladini Pilastri
The vineyard is at 200 meters and the exposure is west- east. The cultivation system is vertical shoot positioned trellis and there are 2,000 plants/ha; the average age of the vines is 30 years. Harvest takes place at the end of October. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged for 18 months in French tonneaux. This is a wine with nice red and black fruit, with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. $17.99

Aglianico IGT 100% Aglianico. Donna Chiara. The soil is clay, training system is guyot and there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the second week of November. This wine does not see any wood. The wine is aged in bottle for 6 months. This is a very aromatic wine with wild berry aromas and flavors and hints of blueberries and cherries. $18

I could not believe the price of the next two wines after I tasted them. They are true bargains. I believe that both of them were awarded three glasses by Gambero Rosso, their highest award.

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “Vignafranca DOC 2007 Fratelli Barba100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The vineyard is at 70 meters and the soil is alluvial, sandy silt and lightly calcareous. There are 6,000 vines/ha, the training is double guyot and the exposure is southwest. The harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation is in wooden conical base vats for 18-20 days.  The wine is aged in French barriques, 50% new and 50% used for 14 months. The wine has aromas and flavors of cherry and spice with a hint of pepper. 14.99

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “I Vasari” Old Vines DOC 2008 Fratelli Barba 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Colle della Corte vineyard is at 70 meters and has a southwest exposure. The soil is alluvial, sandy silt and lightly calcareous and the vines are 30 years old. There are 6,000 plants per hectare, the training system is double guyot and the harvest takes place in the middle of October, fermentation takes place in wooden conical base vats for 18 to 20 days. The wine is aged in French barriques, 50% new and 50% used for 14 months.
This is an intense wine with flavors and aromas of black cherry blueberry and plum with a hint of spice. $18


Filed under Aglianico, Barbera, Chianti, Ciró, Clavesana, Dolcetto, Domodimonti winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano, wines under $20

Sangiovese and Bistecca alla Fiorentina


I believe that wines made from the Sangiovese grape are some of the best wines to drink with food. Their red and black fruit aromas and flavors, the touch of violet, and above all their good acidity give them the ability to combine with food without overpowering it. I am speaking of those wines that taste and smell like the grapes they are made from and the terroir in which the grapes are grown.  I do not mean the big oaky international style wines that steamroll over everything, including the person drinking them!

A Mural at The Leopard at des Artistes

Wines like Chianti and Vino Noble di Montepulicano can be drunk and enjoyed with pasta, salami, pizza, etc. but what is often overlooked is that they go perfectly with meats, game, and all sorts of hearty dishes.

The Leopard at Café des Artistes is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in NYC.  The kitchen is best known for the foods of Southern Italy.  When I was invited to a lunch there by Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano , chef Vito Gnazzo matched their wines with typical Tuscan dishes,  I wondered how it would work out.  Chef Gnazzo made two dishes that were perfect combinations with the wines and could not have been better if I had them in Montepulicano!

The pappardelle al ragú di cinghiale e funghi di stagione (pappardelle with wild boar and seasonal mushroom sauce), wide strips of fresh pasta were cooked “al dente” and married perfectly with the rich boar and mushroom ragu.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina con Patatine Fritte

When they brought out the plates of Bistecca alla fiorentina con patatine fritte it was quite a sight! The sliced Florentine steak was perfectly prepared and complemented by the best thick-cut fried potatoes I have had in a long time.

The Vecchia Cantina Di Montepulicano is the oldest cooperative in Tuscany established in 1937. There are over 400 supplying members. The wines we had with lunch were produced under their Poggio Stella and Cantina del Redi labels.

Mr Ugo Pagliai, the enologist for Vecchia Cantina Di Montepulicano spoke about the Montepulicano area in general and what effects  rainfall and temperature have on the vines and  the harvest. He also spoke about the different clones of Sangiovese, such as R24, which I believe is the most popular.

Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2010 100% Sangiovese Poggio Stella. There are 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare. The training system is Guyot and spurred cord and the grapes are hand harvested. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then refined in Slavonic oak barrels for at least three months. The wine has red berry aromas and flavor with good acidity. $13.99

Vino Nobile Di Montepulicano DOCG 2008 made from 90% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) and 10% Canaiolo.  Poggio Stella. The vines are grown on hillsides and the soil is mostly crumbled rock with good skeletal content. The plant density is 3,500/5,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot and spurred cord. The grapes are hand harvested; fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks followed by maceration in stainless steel. The wine is aged in Slavonic oak barrels for 24 months. $19.99

Vino Nobile Di Montepulicano DOCG 2006 “Briareo” Riserva Cantina del Redi made from Sangiovese and Canaiolo. The altitude of the vineyards is 340/400 meters and there are 4.000/5.000 vines per hectare. The training system is Guyot and spurred cord. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks followed by maceration on the skins for 8 to 10 days. The wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barriques, 12 months in large French oak barrels and 6 months in bottle before release. $29.99


Filed under Chianti, Italian Red Wine, Italian Restaurants, The Leopard at des Artistes, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

Kevin Zraly and “Sangiovese!”

“Sangiovese!” Kevin Zraly shouted, and everyone in the room responded, “Sangiovese! Sangiovese! Sangiovese!” The master class entitled “The Waiting Game: Age Worthy–Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello dI Montalcino” had begun, featuring Mr. Zraly assisted by a panel made up of the presidents of three consortiums:  Ezio Rivella – Brunello di Montalcino (Formerly with Castello Banfi), Marco Pallanti – Chianti Classico (I had lunch with him the next day at Manzo), and Federico Carletti – Vino Noble (The owner of Poliziano).


The Italian Wine Masters was a daylong event in NYC that included master classes given by Kevin Zraly and a grand tasting of the wines of the four Consortiums that sponsored the event: Chianti Classic, Vino Nobile, Brunello and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Mr. Zraly is the founder of the Windows on the World wine course and author of the book by the same name. I took his course over 30 years ago and it was interesting to see that he had the same energy and style that he had way back then.

Kevin Zraly

  Kevin moved around the room talking, making sure everyone was following his directions and asking questions of the audience and of the panel. At one point he had everyone in the room stand up and look down at the glasses in front of them.  He asked about the color of each wine and said that if you can see through a red wine, it is ready to drink.  He also said that all of the wines had very good acidity and this is what made them good food wines. It is not only the tannins that make a wine age well, but also the acidity.  Kevin added that Italy is the only country were the term Riserva is defined by law.  If it is a riserva, it means the wines have to be aged longer.

 Kevin looked at the panel and said that 2007 was not a just a wonderful vintage, but an exceptional one, and all the panel members nodded in agreement.  He introduced Chianti Classico by first speaking of the flask-shaped bottles covered with straw. He said the wine was popular because everyone wanted to use the empty bottles as candle holders as they had seen it done in Italian restaurants. My wife, Michele, remembers buying candles that dripped in different colors specifically for those Chianti flasks!  We all thought it looked very romantic.

 Mr. Zraly quickly added that we have come a long way since then and spoke about the changes in the laws for Chianti Classico including the elimination of white grapes from the blend.  He asked Marco Pallanti about the grapes used in Chianti Classico today and the Black Rooster (Gallo Nero). Mr. Pallanti replied that Chianto Classico must have a minimum of 80% to 100% Sangiovese and 20% or other recommended red varieties such as Canaiolo, Colorino, and Malvasia Nera which are traditional, and/or international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

  Mr. Pallanti added that before 2005, Chianti Classic producers did not have to display the “Black Rooster”, the symbol of the Consortium, on the neck of the bottle. Now the Black Rooster trademark has been added to the Italian government’s bottle seal and is compulsory on all bottles of Chianti Classico. Both Consortium members and non-members have it on every bottle of Chianti Classico.

 The WInes

 Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 2007 La Madonnina  Chiocchio 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 5% Colorino. I liked the aromas and flavors of fresh red fruit with hints of cherry, good acidity, and a touch of bitterness in the aftertaste. $20

 Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva “Vigna del Sorbo” 2007 Fontodi  Panzano in Chianti 100% Sangiovese. This is a big wine with aromas and flavors of cherry. The wine was very concentrated and the oaky toasty flavor was not my style.  $60

 Chianti Classico DOCG 2007 Castello di Ama Gaiole in Chianti 80% Sangiovese and 20% Malvasia Nera, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Nero. This one had the most red fruit flavors and aromas and was very well balanced. $45

  Vino Nobile does not get the respect that it deserves in this country. It is caught between the more famous Chianti Classic and Brunello, and does much better in Italy and in other foreign markets than in the U.S.

  Kevin asked Federico Carletti to speak about Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. He said the grape used is a local clone of Sangiovese called Prugnolo Gentile. The wine must be a minimum of 70% Sangiovese and a maximum of 30% of other red grapes such as Canaiolo, Colorino and Merlot, recommended or authorized by the region of Tuscany.

 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2007 Salcheto 100% Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile) This wine had very good fruit with hints of blueberries and a nice mineral character. It had good acidity and is a very good food wine. All of the Vino Nobile that I tasted this day had an undertone of violets.  $35

 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2007 “La Braccesca” Marchese Antinori  90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Merlot. This is a big wine with red fruit, minerality, tannic with good acidity. This is a wine that will age. $27

 Vino Nobile di Montepulicano DOCG 2007 Poliziano 80% Sangiovese 20% Colorino, Canaiolo and Merlot. This is a rich concentrated wine with fruit, more than a hint of violets, leather, and a touch of toasted oak.  It has nice finish and aftertaste. $31

 Ezio Rivella said that they did not want the grape for Brunello to be called Sangiovese Grosso anymore but just Sangiovese. He added that Brunello is made from 100% Sangiovese.

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Pinino 100% Sangiovese, I felt this wine was a little too oaky in the finish and aftertaste and not my style of wine. Since Brunello should not be drunk in my opinion until at least 10 years after the release date, it may get better with age. $60

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Castelgiocondo 100% Sangiovese, this is a wine  that I have been following for some time and it did not disappoint. $65.

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2006 Uccelliera 100% Sangiovese. This is a great Brunello with good red fruit, leather and undertones of eucalyptus. It is powerful and elegant at the same time with a very pleasing finish and aftertaste. $75

 Kevin made a point of saying that there was a noticeable difference in taste between the three types of wine. He said they are all based on the Sangiovese grape but they all have their own charteristics.

 The Older Wines                                                                                                     

 Chianti Classico DOCG 1999 “Riserva Don Tomasso” Principe Corsini-Fattoria Le

Corti 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino and Canaiolo. From Magnum- $150 for the magnum.

 Vino Noble di Montepulciano DOCG 1999 Riserva Dei 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo Nero $145

 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1991 Col D’ Orcia 100% Sangiovese. $ 200

 After we finished tasting the older wine, Kevin looked at the audience and said that the three older wines are all drinking very well and the audience and the panel all agreed.

I also agreed, they were drinking very well and not showing their age.

 The title of the Seminar “The Waiting Game: Age Worthy Chianti, Vino Nobile and Brunello” proved its point. Sangiovese can age and the reward is worth the wait.

  There was also a grand tasting of the wines which included the four Consortiums that sponsored the event: Chianti Classic, Vino Nobile, Brunello and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

 In a room called the “Sommelier Cellar”, there were older vintages of Chianti Classico and Brunello and selected bottles of Vino Noble and Prosecco. The 1990 Chianti Classico from Castello di Ama was drinking very well as was the 1995 Brunello from Barbi and the 2004 Brunello from Banfi.

 The 2008 Tenuta di Lilliano Chianti Classico and the Fattoria Le Corte 2007 Chianti Classico were two wines I enjoyed with lunch at Manzo in Eataly and they are great food wines.

 The Vino Nobile di Montalcino from Crociani, a very traditional producer, was one of my favorites and I liked all their wines. I was also very impressed by the 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulicano from Cecchi, which is also a great food wine.

Charles Scicolone On Wine every Wednesday at 6:05 Valerie’s

Join Roberto of Keste, Michele and I for a once in a life time pizza tour of Italy


Filed under Brunello, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine Masters, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano