Montepulciano is a medieval town in southeastern Tuscany. Picture endless rows of Italian cypress trees lining vineyards that crawl up and down steep hills, as the vines cling to the clay and sandy soils under the hot Tuscan sun. You know that image of golden sunlight and red-tiled roofs surrounded by grapevines that you think up when you picture a classic Italian villa? Yeah, this is that place. But when it comes to finding wine from these sun-soaked hills, things can get a little tricky.
We therefore couldn’t blame you for thinking that Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano were similar wines, but in reality they have as much in common as a Coke and Pepsi. Montepulciano actually has two meanings, which is where things get confusing. It refers to both a town in Tuscany as well as a wine grape varietal. The town of Montepulciano has been famous for centuries for its local wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – or, more simply, Nobile. Nobile is primarily made with the Italian Sangiovese grape. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, on the other hand, is a wine predominantly made of Montepulciano grapes in the region of Abruzzo, miles away from Tuscany on the Adriatic coast. Furthermore, the regions are vastly different in size and yields. Nobile’s Montepulciano region is six times smaller than Abruzzo, producing about half the yield per acre, making Nobile look like a boutique vineyard compared to its much larger countryman. While this does mean Nobile can be slightly more expensive, to this day it is one of the best-valued fine wines in Tuscany.
While in the ’80s Nobile became the first official DOCG (known as a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) to be sold on the Italian market, it has actually been produced for hundreds of years. It can even be tracked with some of Italy’s highest profile figures dating back to the Italian renaissance. It was the favorite of the Italian aristocracy (in Italian, nobile means noble) and, more recently, of Thomas Jefferson. This long love affair with Nobile has made the wine as synonymous with the country as Tuscany itself, rivaling the classics like Chianti, Brunello and Super Tuscans.
So, what exactly goes into this “king of all wines”? A bottle of Nobile is predominantly made of Sangiovese, at least 70 percent. It must age in oak and bottle for a minimum of two years of which one in wood at least. Nobile has an outstanding ageing ability, while still being smooth, refreshing and very easy to enjoy in its youth.
All of this careful crafting leads to a very unique and well-balanced flavor profile. A glass of Nobile is characterized by an elegant, medium body with gentle tannins. It’s a lot like a fruit basket full of all-red and black fruits, like cherries, strawberries and plums. The more you age this wine, though, the more these fruit punch flavors give way to a more leather-and-tobacco vibe. In reality, there’s never a bad moment to open up a bottle of Nobile. You can easily enjoy it alone during movie night or while hanging out on the roof of your new apartment, or you can impress your dinner party guests by pairing it with anything from a traditional Italian pizza to Asian take out to a veggie plate! No matter the occasion, this is a wine is versatile enough that Nobile is always game.