Italy in Nine Parts - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

With visits to Contucci, Boscarelli, and Avignonesi


I last left you walking out of the Albergo Duomo in Montepulciano. I had just taken a left on the Via Ricci, and was making my way to the Piazza Duomo, where one can find the cellars of Contucci. That’s right, conveniently located, for visitors at least, and smack in the middle of town, one can find the historic cellars of the family Contucci.

Among the original producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, dating back to at least 1773, and certainly one of the historic houses of the region, Contucci has built a reputation for quality within the walls of Montepulciano. Unlike many producers, they reap the benefits of an accumulation of knowledge and intuitive talent that spans centuries.

What to expect: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Vino Nobile is a wine based on Sangiovese that allows for the inclusion of the same blending grapes as Chianti. Due to Montepulciano’s location, Southeast of Chianti and just to the East of Montalcino, the wines exhibit a bit more richness than is commonly associated with Chianti. In fact they seem to straddle the wine between the styles of Chianti, and the richer Brunello di Montalcino. Much of the soil of Montepulciano is rich in clay and marine fossils giving the wines a structured feel with mineral tones to the fruit.

The Estates of Montepulciano offer a Wide Variety of Styles

The Boscarelli estate seems to be a work in progress. Now a lot of that work certainly has been completed, from the extensivebreplanting of the vineyards with select clones, to expanding the cellars, and expandeing them again, and maybe needing to expand them yet again. Ok so things are definitely a work in progress.

If there is any winery that could dominate the Vino Nobile segment in the US market it should be Avignonesi. They may not be the most prolific producer, but they have a multi-pronged approach that is sure to garner attention. First off, they may very well be best known for a wine other than Vino Nobile, their Occhio di Pernice.

The Contucci’s farm some 50 or so acres of vines, all planted with the varieties traditional to the area. No cabernet, Merlot or Syrah is to be found here, only Prugnolo Gentile, as their clone of Sangiovese is called, the blending grapes Colorino, Canaiolo, and Mammolo, as well as the white grapes Trebbiano, Malvasia del Chianti, and Grechetto which are used for a white table wine and Vin Santo.

The vineyards are at relatively high elevations of between 280 and 450 meters above sea level and are planted at a relatively sparse 3,300 to 4,000 vines per hectare, well below the current average of around 6,000. Part of this is due to the fact that there has been no mass replanting of the vineyards here. The Contucci’s prefer to keep things as they are, replacing individual vines as deemed necessary.

That conservative attitude extends to virtually every aspect of the operation here., and here is surprising. The “cellars” are spread over four floors of the Palazzo Contucci that date back to the 13th century, and served as the ancient city’s original inner walls. The fact that cellar operations extend over the floors is indeed surprising, though with that context the fact that the wines continue to be fermented in concrete vats, a technique regaining favor over much of Italy, and are aged in large, neutral wood barrels, seems entirely natural.

These somewhat tight spaces house all the elements of the Contucci winery from fermenting, to ageing and bottling. One element that really sets Contucci apart from many other cellars is their location in town, and the luxury that affords them. It’s no surprise that Contucci is set up to welcome guests, up to 300 on the busiest days, and looks forward to their visits.

If you visit Montepulciano this is a must visit. The wines will speak for themselves, but the convenience of the location coupled with the deep connections both the Contucci family and these cellars have with the history of Vino Nobile makes this a lovely part of your day.

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