2008 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Riserva, Palazzo Vecchio

2008 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Riserva, Palazzo Vecchio 1600 1200 David Rosengarten

wine for the weekend

“The weekend? That’s five days away!” PRECISELY! Every Monday from now on I’ll be offering you in this space one of the amazing, food-loving wines I’ve chosen to import (after significant globe-scouring)!
The wine will take a few days to arrive at your house—so order now, and next weekend’s parties are set! Please note: I will also continue to recommend great wines to you that are not my imports…every Wednesday, right here, on WINE WEDNESDAY!


2008 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Riserva, Palazzo Vecchio, Tuscany, Italy ($45)

TLAstudio.comThe gorgeous old town of Montepulciano, in the southeast corner of Tuscany (a town with roots back to the Etruscans in the 4th century B.C.), has, in modern times, given its name (and a nominal attitude!) to the most famous local wine: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (the DOCG was firmly set in 1992). Forget that. A wine like this has been around for centuries and centuries; like many venerable Tuscan reds, its principal grape variety is Sangiovese (locally known as Prugnolo Gentile). One difference concerns the supporting grapes (only 70% Sangiovese is allowed) that are part of the DOCG blend in Vino Nobile: Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo, and a few others are allowed.

I’ve always felt that, at its best, Vino Nobile is a VASTLY underrated wine. I often taste anonymous bottle of it at events in Italy, with other Tuscan reds, and often find it MORE to my liking than Super-Tuscans, big Brunellos and Chiantis from prestigious regions and producers. And, because consumers don’t know it as well…the price is anything but “nobile!” This is a great Tuscan value!

About two years ago, in winter, I journeyed to Montepulciano to see if I could find a winery that had the magic—particularly the magic in aged vintages ready for U.S. export.

Bingo! (Binga? Whatever!)

The first night of the visit, the lovely gentleman who runs the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano consorzio set up a tasting for me, before dinner, in the historic old-town Montepulciano building that houses the consorzio. There were about 25 Vino Nobiles di Montepulciano, from about a dozen producers. We tasted blind. An hour later, I said “Thomas! I like above all #12 and #19.” Thomas smiled, and said, “That’s very interesting. They are both from the same winery.”

Yes! Consistency!

Further, I discovered that the winery, Palazzo Vecchio, is in a very special little corner of the Montepulciano countryside. There are only three wineries in those Argiano hills, and one of them—Avignonesi—is without question the ONE Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that Americans know and value. “Palazzo Vecchio, said Thomas, “is right near Avignonesi. So is another winery called Lunadoro. And that’s it. That trio rules the roost in that little corner of Montepulciano!”

Next question, of course: “Can I visit them tomorrow, Thomas, Palazzo Vecchio and Lunadoro both?”

Answer: “Certo! What time do you want to go?”

To make a long story short: I visited both the next day, I LOVED the little region, I LOVED the wines, and I LOVED the families involved. I have since dined in Italy with the Palazzo Vecchio family (near Verona, last spring, on a Vinitaly night), and these folks (along with the Lunadoro family) are exactly the kinds of folks I want for my partners.

More later as more Palazzo Vecchio and Lunadoro wines come into our country. Suffice it to say now that their position in southern Tuscany allows for riper harvests, adding a little extra richness and velvet to the red wines. But the chilly hills never let the wines go OTT; they are among the most elegant and balanced of the richer Tusan reds I’ve tasted. And they age beautifully!

This particular wine, with 6 years of age, is a pretty medium-garnet in the glass, with just a touch of lightening at the rim. Gorgeous, unified, very Central Italian nose. You will find all of the following elements in it, with not one sticking out: beets, cranberries, cherries, plums, chocolate, licorice, spices (like cinnamon-clove). On the palate, the panoply makes the transition well—but also picks up some riper hints, like raisins, and a late-palate earthy note (from the age). Simply delicious, a great balance of clinging young fruit, lively acid, and incipient tertiary favors. A very velvety roll in the mouth, without any threat of heaviness. Long, exhilarating finish, unimpeded by any scrape of tannin.

Looking for an “Italian-tasting” serious red to go with Italian food? You’re home. I would recommend this wine for ANY meat dish that’s:

1) a little past rare, and

2) involved with herbs

So…let’s season up some lamb chops with salt, then sprinkle on a fluff of, say, marjoram leaves all over, then get to frying in very hot olive oil. When the chops are crispy on the outside, still a bit rare on the inside…these babies will explode with 2008 Palazzo Vecchio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva!

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