Trade Show #1 – Treasures of Montepulciano

First in a series.

“Treasures of Montepulciano” is first in a series focusing on wine trade shows. Essentially, a trade show presents a crash course on wines to retailers, writers, travel professionals and wine educators. Usually focusing on a specific region within a wine-producing country, the event offers exposure to wines either already available in this country or conversely wine producers looking for an American importer. As the world-wide wine market continues to expand, these shows often highlight lesser known regions hoping to be lifted by the rising market. In the case of two of the events to be covered in this series, these regions have been overshadowed by more illustrious neighbors. Wine producers who once settled for making bulk wines, now want a market share of the more lucrative individually bottled wines and so modernize their wineries and adopt more rigorous prctices. Everyone benefits: the producers by embracing a more profitable business model and consumers with increased access to well-crafted wines.

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Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape in Italy and arguably the finest examples of the grape can be found in Chianti. However, in neighboring  Montepulciano where Sangiovese is known as Prugnolo Gentile a campaign has been  underway to better acquaint  the wine-drinking public with the wines produced there. In Montepulciano, three iterations of the grape are expressed – Rosso di Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva. “The Treasures of Montepulciano” presented by the Conzorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at the Colonnade Hotel included a walk-around tasting featuring the wines of thirteen producers. In addition, the program included  a travelogue promoting the “eno-gastronomic and cultural” attractions of the area –  history, archaeology, art, architecture and cuisine. At the tasting, over forty iterations of Sangiovese were offered . Though the rules governing the production of the three Montepulciano wines are specific, individual winemakers produce a extremely diverse lot – one grape yielding multiple expressions.

Of the three wines, Rosso di Montipulciano is the most casual. Made with what might be considered lesser fruit, the wine is fresh, approachable and ready-to-drink. Though not a serious wine – think “picnic wine” – it can be delicious – fruitful and fun. We particularly enjoyed the Rossos from Dei and La Braccesca Marchesi Antinori.

As we tasted our way through the Vino Nobile and Vino Nobile Riserva, two winemaking styles emerged – wines with a spare, elegant style which we deemed traditional and those done in a more international style which at times even bordered on brawny. Though the regulations of the various wine appellations are based upon tradition, tradtion has a way of evolving to meet the tastes of a dynamic wine market. Various vintages of each were offered, some of which we thought not quite ready for consumption-  further cellaring would be in order. Stand-outs among the Vino di Nobile Montepulciano were  the ’08 from Il Macchione, the ’09 Poliziano and the ’06 “Salco Evoluzione” from Salcheto. In the Riserva category, we were impressed with ’07 Riserva  again from Il Macchione and the ’06 “Santa Pia” from Antinori. Afterwards, I wondered if Antinori stole the show. Not only were their wines from Montipulciano outstanding, we were also offered two additional wines – both 100% Syrah – from a neighboring appellation, both of which were excellent.

And as we always have an eye out for pinks, we did find two amidst all the serious reds of which the ’11 Salcheto Rosé – 100% Sangiovese – was wonderful.

To compliment the wine and entice the travel professionals, the kitchen of the Colonnade offered a wonderful selection of Tuscan treats. Kudos to both the kitchen crew and the especially gracious banquet serving staff.

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