Degustazione is the word to watch for on the winery signposts along the various wine routes in Tuscany. This means that you can taste the wine produced at that vineyard and if you like it, you can buy a few bottles. You might also want to keep your eyes open for an enoteca – this is an establishment, usually in a town, where you can sample wines from a wide variety of local wine estates.
The noble wines of Montepulciano
Montepulciano is one of the most popular wine destinations in the southern part of Tuscany.
The small medieval town sits enthroned high above the Chiana valley, with its white cattle and the extinct volcano Monte Poliziano, to which the town owes its name. In the Montepulciano area, a variety of the Sangiovese grape called Prognolo Gentile is the backbone of the wine appreciated as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
The wine growing history of Montepulciano dates back to medieval times and is closely connected to the historical and political events of the time. During the wars between Siena and Florence, Montepulciano supported the powerful, Florentine Medici family which later as a token of appreciation transformed the little mountain village to a centre of art. It’s not difficult to imagine how the Nobile wine was served amongst the nobles and rich and gained its good reputation.
In the 16th century it was even subject to papal appreciation, as the popes Paul II and Sixtus V called it the “most perfect wine of Italy”. It’s unclear whether it derived its name from the noble customers or from the selection of superior grapes, but wineries continue to refine the wine and make it even better. Vino Nobile is usually more full-bodied and has a higher alcohol percentage than Chianti, mainly due to the more beneficial climate of the Montepulciano area. That being said, it can’t quite compete with the neighbouring Montalcino, home of the Brunello.
Despite its power, Vino Nobile appears rather fruity and leaves the taste buds with an impression of a wine, that fits in between Chianti and Brunello. We tasted 3 different, organic wines at the Enoteca of the winery Croce di Febo, situated in the historical centre of Montepulciano. Croce di Febo also produces organic olive oil and grappa and different tours at their vineyard can be arranged.
The town itself is also worth a visit, if not only to check out the medieval Town Hall Palazzo Comunale, built as a small replica of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Because of this similarity, it has also been used as backdrop for the historic TV-show Medici – Masters of Florence and as stand-in for Volterra in the vampire movie The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
While the ascent to Piazza Grande and Palazzo Comunale is a bit steep, especially from the northern car parks, it’s a lovely walk through the streets. We recommend a trip into the Citta Sotterranea, an underground city, located under 5 noble palaces along the Via di Gracciano nel Corso on your way back down.
Enter through Cantina Ercolani and descend into gothic and renaissance cellars, interconnected through ancient passages. You can find an Etruscan tomb, 3 small museums with relics related to farming, viticulture and torture and many barrels that guard the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vin Santo, where they rest to complete the delicate process of aging.
The visit is fun and free and afterwards you have ample chance to buy some wine, cheese, truffle and many other Tuscan delicacies. You can also taste different wines and have them ship your favourite right to your doorstep.
With all the enotecas and wine bars in the historical center of Montepulciano, you won’t leave thirsty.. or you might not want to leave at all!
- The Wines of Montepulciano Official website
- Montepulciano Official Tourism website
- Croce di Febo
- Cantina Ercolani
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano on Wikipedia
- Wine Touring in Tuscany – Montalcino