Among the Renaissance churches and buildings of Montepulciano with their fine works of art, there are still a number of working wineries. Contucci, featured elsewhere on these pages on Montepulciano is the most obvious and the one still in the hands of its originating family, but there are others. A little off the main commercial trail, one segment of the town from the Piazza San Francesco running south towards the church of Santa Maria dei Servi, has quite a collection of them. We managed to visit two, Cantina del Redi and the shop of Gattavecchi, though plenty of others.
Cantina del Redi matures the wine of the common grape grower in the historic cellar of an old aristocratic palazzo in the centre of Montepulciano. This cellar on four levels is now used by Vecchia Cantina, the largest cooperative in Tuscany, founded in 1937 and now with 400 growers. It has its vinification centre six kilometres away on the road to Montepulciano Stazione. But the wines which need ageing in wood are brought to the seventeenth century cellars on the lower floors of the Ricci palazzo. Of course this was previously the wine cellar of the Ricci family but has now been taken over by the better wines of numerous local growers. We do indeed live in democratic times!
The adopted name of the cooperative also picks up a strand of Tuscan wine history. Francesco Redi wrote the first literary treatment of Tuscan wine, Bacchus in Tuscany, a poem of 1685. (For the classicists among you, it is a dithyramb, a choral lyric sung to the god Dionysus.) The choice of name for this line of the cooperative’s wines sort of suggested itself as Redi calls Montepulciano the ‘king of all wines’: Montepulciano d’ogni vino é il re (ed. Danilo Romei, line 973, link)
Our visit was a somewhat hurried affair as we only dropped in on chance just before the cellars and tasting room were due to close on a hot summer’s evening. (Hence no pictures.) But we were warmly welcomed and tasted some wines.
Rosso di Montepulciano DOC 2010 – 80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, 5% Mammolo, aged in stainless steel: some vegetal notes above red and black berries, good fruit. Good.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2009 – 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, which has spent two years in large wooden casks in aristocratic splendour. Medium weight and concentration, good tannic structure, early drinking Vino Nobile. €10.50
Orbaio IGT Toscana 2007 – Sangiovese, Merlot and a dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon, ie a Super Tuscan, and hence the IGT category. Has been aged in reconditioned barriques. Less sour cherry and more plum and blackberry on nose and palate. The Merlot rounds out the fruit noticeably and does its magic with those demanding tannins. Quality fruit, fair value at €14, easy drinking.
Briareo, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2006 – the flagship wine of the whole enterprise, made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo and aged for a year in barriques and tonneaux, a year in large botti. and a minimum of six months in bottles. Pronounced blackberry and plum notes with tobacco and leather hints from the oak, very good integration of fruit and oak, round and full in the mouth and then good structure from the tannins and mouth cleansing acidity. Substantial rather than subtle.
We enjoyed these wines and would very much like to learn more about the way the whole cooperative works.
Our second impromptu visit was to the charming traditional wine shop of the 100 year old Gattavecchi family wine business. There is a similar pattern here: the production winery is in the countryside (vineyards mostly at Argiano, ie west of the town), while the best wines are aged in wood in the old town. We did not visit the cellar though the pictures on the website are impressive.
We tasted the following from a range of nine wines, mostly local but also some from San Gimignano:
Rosso di Montepulciano DOC 2010 – 90% Sangiovese, 10% other native grape varieties, aged for 6-8 months in wood; quite a closed up nose but then good fruit and a hint of tobacco, €8
Poggio alla Sala, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2007 – same blend as the above with the 10% said to be Canaiolo; richer, good wood notes, medium length, but again marked by quality fruit, true to type
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Riserva 2006 – excellent, fine perfumed nose, black fruit – blackberry, but some mulberry too – dried fruit, complex and balanced, €18.
We bought a 50cl bottle of the Poggio alla Sala, just right for that evening (is there one?) when you don’t want a full bottle of wine to share …. Gattavecchi may be playing on its traditional image as the label shows but these wines have a real future.
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Page created August 2012