Allegrini 2024

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the past and the future. Vintage 2021 and 2020 Riserva in the glass

WineNews’ best tastings at "Anteprima Vino Nobile 2024". 2021 earned 4.5 stars out of 5, and 2020 Riserva confirms its depth

The territory has been famous for its wine since the mid-sixteenth century, as the writings of Sante Lancerio, bottler for Pope Paul III Farnese have recounted, and who defined Montepulciano a “gentlemen’s” wine. And, the writings of a much more famous person, the highest ranking doctor, naturalist and biologist at the Medici court as well as a famous academic, Francesco Redi, who in 1685, in, defined it “the King of all wines”, in his “Bacchus in Tuscany”. Further, the wording “Noble wine” was found for the first time in a document dated 1766 from the Jesuit Archive of Montepulciano, now in the State Archive of Florence, and rediscovered in the historical study of the architect Riccardo Pizzinelli of the Historical Society Poliziana. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Noble Wine of Montepulciano, is the landscape and economic cornerstone of an area in which the vine has been existed since Etruscan times. Now, Italy’s first DOCG (it has received and has maintained the first label of its kind ever), generates a turnover of around a billion euros. And, it is looking to the future. Just a few months ago it received the mention of the term “Tuscany” on the label, while in the next few months it will receive the wording “Pievi”, the Additional Geographical Units chosen by the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Argiano, Ascianello, Badia, Caggiole, Cerliana, Cervognano, Gracciano, Le Grazie, San Biagio, Sant’Albino, Vallardenga and Valiano), which will enhance the uniqueness of the wine’s territory. These are the main topics, together with tasting the new vintages, at the Vino Nobile 2024 Preview, which, like the territory, has changed its look.
In 1994, the producers of Nobile di Montepulciano met for the first time to tell the media and buyers about the vintage, using a completely different format from the current one. They began a journey that now, 30 years later, has placed the Poliziana denomination among Tuscan wine’s main players. Evidently, many things have changed over the years. In 1994, production reached 3.4 million bottles of Vino Nobile and 156.400 bottles of Rosso di Montepulciano. Today, the figures have soared to 6.9 million bottles for Vino Nobile (+98.8%) and 2.6 million bottles for Rosso di Montepulciano (+1562%). The number of wine producers has also changed. In 1994, the Consortium counted 44 members, today there are 81 members. And, over the past thirty years, all the companies have grown as well. Several companies now have 80 employees and several over 60. In any case, the average size company in Montepulciano is 15 employees, compared to just under 6 employees when they started out. Growth is also the merit of the investments they have made since the beginning. 40.9% of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano companies have invested more than 5 million euros in thirty years, while instead 50% have invested less than 5 million euros. 86.4% of the investments have been used to improve the sustainability of the company, 68.2% for innovation, and 72.7% equally for hospitality and promotion.
Promotion has grown as well over the last 30 years. At the beginning, 18.2% participated in an average of 4 events a year, in Italy and abroad; 13.6% in three events a year; 9.1% in two a year, and all the others in one event. Today, several companies participate in up to 30 events a year. The average is 7 events, compared to 2 at the beginning. One of the values that characterizes Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is “tradition”, which is without a doubt the most iconic (72.7% of companies chose this term to define their wine). There are also the terms “territory” (63.6% of companies) and “sustainability” (18.2%). Over the past few years, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano system has grown, and the producers’ sentiment is also optimistic for the future; that is, 95.5% say the denomination will continue to grow. Growth will be mainly identity and value, 54.5% said for both terms, followed by growth on the market (50%) and the brand (45.5%).
Moving on to the heart of the event at “Preview Vino Nobile 2024”, Nobile 2021 and Riserva 2020 (rated five stars according to the Consortium’s rating), were put to the test in the glass. The 2021 vintage was given a rating of 4.5 stars, introducing for the first time the specification of “a half point” in this type of evaluation, at least for Tuscan wines subject to this evaluation (and the idea, in the future, of evaluating the vintage in hundredths, which the entire wine world, and beyond, is now more familiar with, and which obviously allows for more nuances, ed.). The 2021 vintage was characterized by a climate trend that produced extraordinary climactic events, attributed to climate change, which unfortunately brings about critical issues at these latitudes as well. The total annual rainfall was 510 mm, which is quite low, 25% less than the average annual rainfall in the area. Regarding temperatures, the months of March and especially April were very different from the averages of the period, registering especially low minimum values. In April, on the night between the 7th and 8th, night temperatures dropped below zero for many hours, as low as -7°C in the valley floors. These temperatures caused critical issues in the bud opening phase of the new shoots. Budding occurred between March 28th and April 27th, flowering between June 2nd and 15th, and veraison between July 27th and August 26th. The grape harvest took place between mid-September and early October.
At the challenge in the glass, the 2021 vintage, while maintaining its imprint of a warm vintage, also gave flashes of fragrance and clarity, thanks above all to the terroir of the Nobile, famously expressing good levels even when the temperatures rise in the vineyard. The 2020 vintage, not surprisingly, is more complete, once again confirming it is one of the most intriguing in the entire Tuscan wine region. Caterina Dei’s Nobile di Montepulciano 2021 is well profiled, has clean and airy aromas and a savory and inviting taste. Impeccable, as usual, Nobile di Montepulciano 2021 by Poliziano. In this specific version it offers a textbook aromatic finesse, accompanied by a lean and smooth flavor. Nobile Vigna Le Caggiole 2021 by Tiberini has aromas of earth, red fruits and undergrowth; lively and stimulating in the mouth. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2021 of the Redi della Vecchia Cantina brand is well balanced, precise in its aromatic definition and pleasantly contrasted in the mouth. The Nobile di Montepulciano 2021 by Le Berne is fine and full of character, to which Bindella’s Nobile di Montepulciano I Quadri 2021, equally rich in personality, acts as a “counterpoint”. Canneto’s Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2020, is bold, has intense aromas and a solid and complex taste. Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2020 by Le Bertille has nuances of aromatic herbs and small red fruits on a spicy background with a persistent and fresh mouth. Among the Nobile that will come out three years after the harvest, De’ Ricci’s Nobile di Montepulciano 2020 stands out for its fruity and refined taste. Godiolo’s Nobile di Montepulciano 2020 is fine and almost whispered, lean, lively and perky.
These were the best tasting wines, according to WineNews, of a territory that in numbers, shows Nobile di Montepulciano is worth 1 billion euros in asset values, turnover and production. Sixty-five million euros is the wine production average annual value, while it is important to mention that 70% of the local economy is directly related to wine. This is a substantial figure for an area that totals 16.500 hectares of municipal area, where 2.000 hectares are planted with vines; that is, approximately 16% of the municipal landscape is vineyards. Of these 2.000 hectares, 1.102 hectares are registered Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, while 214 hectares are registered Rosso di Montepulciano DOC. More than 250 winemakers cultivate these vineyards (there are approximately 90 bottlers, of which 81 are associated with the Producers’ Consortium). One thousand permanent employees work in the wine sector in Montepulciano, in addition to the same number of seasonal workers. In 2023, in line with the numbers of the last several years, 6.9 million bottles of Vino Nobile and 2.6 million bottles of Rosso di Montepulciano were placed on the market.
As far as wine sales go, 2023 marked another year of growth in value for the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano market. Starting from the year of the Pandemic, the domestic market has been continuously developing and growing in numbers. Last year, exports represented 66% (in previous years they had reached 78%), while the remaining 34% is marketed in Italy. The growth trend in recent years continues also in company direct sales, which, in 2023, was more than 30%. Furthermore, on the National market, top sales are registered in Central Italy (61%) and specifically, Tuscany, at 42%. Thirty-three percent is sold in the North and 6.30% in the South. As far as foreign countries are concerned, the pie is divided in half between Europe and non-EU countries. 35% of exports go to America (between North and South), and 29.2% to Europe (excluding Italy). Germany continues to be Nobile’s number one market at 38% of the export share. The United States is continuously growing, compared to 2022 as well, and counts 27.5% of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano exports. It has been successful also in the Asian, Balkan and non-EU markets, registering more than 3% of exports. The growth trend in Canada has continued, which alone is worth around 5% of exports. The organic brand of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has registered a truly significant market share figure, which on the Italian panorama is worth 44.7% of sales, while on an International level it is more than 70%.
In the meantime, the “Pieve” Consortium project is proceeding rapidly. On August 3, 2023, the National Wine Committee gave the definitive approval to the text of the Regulations of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano “Pieve”, the new typology, which will be on the market starting January 1, 2025, with the 2021 vintage. After it has been published in the Official Journal, and therefore registered in the Register of European Appellations, the project for this new typology will be fully operational. The production forecast of the Pievi (there are 12: Argiano, Ascianello, Badia, Caggiole, Cerliana, Cervognano, Gracciano, Le Grazie, San Biagio, Sant'Albino, Vallardenga, Valiano), according to the Consortium’s initial estimate, will include 10% of the total production of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
The idea of creating Vino Nobile di Montepulciano with the “Pieve” mention originated following a systematic path that included the consensus and participation of all the producing companies. The study path was within the denomination where meetings, discussions, and collective analyses were held, which led to the creation of a unique “vision” of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, supported by research. On one hand, since the 1990s the Consortium has taken to heart the geological and pedological topic (the Nobile Consortium was one of the first in Italy to “zone” its production territory); on the other, the historical in-depth analysis, through research in libraries and archives, leading to the Leopoldino Land Registry of 1800. Nobile di Montepulciano Pieve will be a wine with its territory (and sub-areas) center front. The blend will be linked to Sangiovese and only ancient local cultivated vines and grapes produced exclusively by the bottling company. The historical study of the geology and geography of the territory has led to identifying 12 areas, defined in the UGA production specification (Additional Geographical Units), which will have the term “Pieve” on the label. The term refers exclusively to territorial toponyms traceable to the ancient parishes into which the territory had been divided in the Lombard era

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