Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: July 13, 2023

A Beginner’s Guide to Montepulciano Wine

Perhaps you’ve heard of Montepulciano wine and want to know more, or maybe you’re new to this variety. 

We talk history, grapes, wineries, and more in our big guide to the famous red!

Montepulciano: The Noblest Wine of All?

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano may not be the best-known wine of the Tuscan region but it can certainly give many of its rivals a run for its money.

This fine red’s name translates as “Noble Wine from Montepulciano”, and indeed, it deserves such a title thanks to its fresh and exquisite flavor.

Don’t confuse this variety with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The name may be similar, but the taste is completely different.

The d’Abruzzo wine is made from Montepulciano grapes whereas the Vino Nobile is actually made primarily from Sangiovese grapes.

The Vino Nobile is still somewhat in the background when compared to its more celebrated neighbors from Tuscany – Brunello and Chianti – but don’t be put off by its more diminutive status.

If you’re looking for a perfect tipple to serve at your next dinner party, or simply to enjoy on a Friday evening in front of the TV, this distinguished classic from Italy won’t disappoint – it goes with absolutely everything!

What Should I Know About Vino Nobile?

Vino Nobile, although less well known than Super Tuscans, Brunello or Chiantis which hail from the same region, is still one of the most renowned reds from this part of Italy.

In fact, Nobile was the very first DOCG wine (the highest quality Italian wine) to be sold on the Italian wine market, and it has long been a favorite with Italian Presidents, Popes and Kings.

Its name hails from the fact that it has been celebrated for its entire history as a wine for noble people, and even Thomas Jefferson was supposedly a fan.

He is noted for saying, “For the present I confine myself to the physical want of some good Montepulciano, this being a very favorite wine, and habit having rendered the light and high flavored wines a necessity of life with me.” 

Montepulciano – Where is it?

Vino Nobile is produced from grapes which are grown around Montepulciano, a town located in the south of Italy’s Tuscany region.

A medieval town, Montepulciano is found on a hill in Siena province with sandy, clay-rich soils and a Mediterranean warm climate which offer up the perfect conditions for growing the grapes to produce this fine red.

The History of Winemaking in this Area

Winemaking was introduced in these lands by the Etruscans, but the first written testimonies date back to the Roman Empire.

Montepulciano wine was mentioned for the first time in 789 AD in a document attesting the legality of a vineyard to the local ecclesiastical authorities.

Since those early times, Montepulciano evolved, defining its body and bouquet. In 1937 was founded the first social winery which brought together the producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This marked a new beginning for the wine which received its Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC) certification in 1966.

In 1980, the beverage conquered the higher peaks and received its Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin (DOCG) certification. Montepulciano was the first Italian wine to ever achieve this prestigious title.

Along with this recognition came also the denomination of a new wine, the Rosso Di Montepulciano, which is made from the same grapes but obtain through a different production process.

Both Montepulciano wines are produced in the province of Siena, in the municipality of Montepulciano. Low altitudes, mild winters, and sunny summers contribute to defining the characters of these exceptional wines.

How Do They Make Vino Nobile?

There are actually Italian laws which regulate the way in which Vino Nobile can be made. It can only be made from grapes that are grown in the vineyards that surround Montepulciano.

Predominantly, the grape used to make this wine is Sangiovese (or Prugnolo gentile as it’s known among the local people) which makes up a minimum of 70% of this blend.

Many producers choose to make their very best Vino Nobile from 100% Sangiovese grapes, although others choose to blend theirs with up to 30% of other varieties.

A Vino Nobile wine must be aged for at least 2 years with one year to take place in an oak cask or barrel. To be labeled as a riserva wine, it must have been aged for a minimum of 3 years in total.

Grape Varietals Involved in Winemaking

Montepulciano wine is made from a blend of Sangiovese, locally known as Prugnolo Gentile, Canaiolo Nero, and a few other varieties cultivated in the region but excluding Malvasia del Chianti varietals.

According to the DOCG rules, Vino Nobile must contain at least 70% of Sangiovese, while Canaiolo and the other varietals can account for up to 20% each. When white grapes are involved, their percentage cannot exceed 10%.

Once fermented, the wine must undergo a maturation period of at least two years, starting from the first January following the harvest.

Aging can be conducted in various ways, and the chosen method will impact the organoleptic characteristics of the wine. In all cases is involved a maturation in wooden barrels of at least twelve months.

The highest quality of Montepulciano wine is represented by Riserva, a noble wine with a minimum alcoholic concentration of 12.5%. Riserva wine is aged for at least three years in oak barrels and for at least six years in the bottle.

What's so Special About Vino Nobile?

If you haven’t been convinced yet by our description of this fine red, here are just some of the reasons why you should definitely try Vino Nobile.

Although this wine has a long and illustrious history, it hasn’t really been discovered in the USA yet. While it does mean that it’s trickier to find in American stores, when you do find it, it’s a bargain when compared with many of its other Tuscan neighbors, and even better, you won’t be compromising on quality.

Young Nobile wines are deliciously refreshing and easy to drink. They offer up a vibrant aroma on the nose of red fruit paired with a slight spiciness that serves to add even more depth.

At first sip, you’ll note a medium bodied palate with a flavor of ripe, dark berries with tones of plum and notes of earthiness that won’t fail to impress. With its gentle tannins and bright acidity, you’ll find Vino Nobile a wonderfully versatile wine. You can enjoy it on its own, share it with your friends, or pair it with food.

Drink it while it’s young, and you’ll enjoy its fresh vibrancy. Allow it to age, and the flavor profile and aromatics will only evolve and improve with time. You’ll note secondary characteristics emerging such as candied fruit, leather and tobacco which add even more depth while maintaining the solid structure of this wine.

Montepulciano wine has a beautiful ruby color that tends to take garnet reflections with aging. The beverage has an intense, ethereal aroma, and a balanced, dry, intense, and persistent flavor. This harmonious complexity has hints of wood, jam, and red fruits.

This wine is best appreciated at a temperature between 64.4°F and 68°F. It’s recommended to decant the wine at least two hours before serving and serve in large red wine glasses that capture the bouquet of this fabulous beverage.

When is the Best Time to Drink Vino Nobile?

When it has recently been bottled, Nobile is fresh and vibrant when you pour it into a glass. Its color is a wonderful ruby red and its aroma on the nose is of red fruits.

Yet thanks to the prevalent acidity and solid structure of this red wine, it ages extremely well. Some of the best made examples can continue to improve for as long as 20 years.

What Pairs Well With Vino Nobile?

Thanks to the versatility of Vino Nobile, its cleansing acidity and light tannins ensure it fits perfectly with a wide range of foods. It works especially well with Italian food, but you’ll also find it an excellent match for Asian, spicy dishes or barbecued meats.

Montepulciano wine pairs with red meat and game, but also with noble poultry. Its incredible balance also makes it an inspired match with flavorful aged cheeses, such as pecorino or parmesan.

Or why not just drink it on its own for a delightfully relaxing tipple after a hard day! This wonderful wine won’t disappoint no matter what you choose to pair it with.

Notable Montepulciano Wine Vineyards & Cantinas

If you're ever in the region be sure to check out these awesome wineries.

Contucci Winery

Contucci is one of the oldest wineries in Montepulciano, producing Vino Nobile since the sixteenth century. The cellars are even older, dating back to the thirteenth century.

Contucci vineyard covers 170 hectares, 21 of which are located at altitudes above 1400ft. The wines are produced exclusively from native vines and the manufacturer’s wines are distributed on the international markets.

Preserving the ancient traditions and making wine according to the ancient methods, a visit to Contucci means a trip to the past. The cellars are open every day, including the weekends.

Triacca Winery

Triacca was born in 1897 when Domenico Triacca purchased the first vineyard in Valtellina. Passionate about winemaking, Domenico built his own cellars shortly after purchasing the vineyard, laying the foundation of Casa Triacca philosophy.

Over the time, the family dedicated completely to viniculture, extending their horizons to Tuscany. One of their first vineyards in the region was Fattoria La Madonnina, in the heart of Chianti. But fascinated by Montepulciano’s quality, the family purchased Santavenere estate in 1990.

Accounting for 36 hectares of vineyards, the Santavenere estate is renowned for its Vino Nobile. But the wine isn’t the only thing to appreciate in this place.

With a rustic architecture that blends seamlessly into the landscape, the cellar is equipped with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment and the wines produced here are aged for at least 18 months.

La Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano Winery

Founded in 1937, La Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano is the oldest wine cooperative in Tuscany. Located in a central position in the Montepulciano wine region, the estate boasts an impressive cellar, traditional warehouses, a store, and other facilities.

The winery is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that allows a close monitoring of the winemaking process. The vineyard extends on about 1000 hectares and the cellar is open for tours from Monday to Friday.

Bindella Winery

Another amazing winery to visit in Montepulciano wine region is Bindella. The estate covers 90 hectares divided between vineyards and olive groves.

The estate was purchased in 1983 by Rudi Bindella, who launched her first Vino Nobile in 1988. Since then, the estate evolved and incorporated new winemaking technologies while preserving the cultural heritage of the traditional production methods.

The winery is open for visits from Monday to Friday.

Salcheto Winery

Characterized by a distinctly modern touch, Salcheto is an organic and biodynamic winery. Its name is given by the willow trees who have a decisive impact on the taste of the wine.

The willow trees also create biomass energy which contributes to the autonomy of the cellar, and everything on this estate is related to environmental sustainability.

Besides the vineyards and winery, the estate incorporates a wine house with 9 bedrooms and a large socializing area.

Sleeping in the ancient building in the heart of Tuscany while sipping a glass of the best Montepulciano wine is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience.

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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