A “Noble” weekend in Montepulciano
Nobility is not just a legacy, but an attitude of the inhabitants of Montepulciano who are as proud of their origins as they are of their wine: the “Nobile” that “is the King of all wines!”, said Francesco Redi in 1685. In the following century, also Voltaire described the quality of the Montepulciano wine in his “Candide”. The long history and tradition of the wine of this mount that dominates the Valdichiana, Lake Trasimeno and the Umbrian lands, immersed in the extraordinary landscape of the Val d’Orcia, are attested to by what is found underground. In the town centre, which goes from the “Porta al Prato” gate up to Piazza Grande (if you get lost in the town’s maze of streets, follow the advice of the locals: “when the ascent has finished, you have arrived in Piazza Grande!”) there are views you can’t be indifferent to. But the town’s treasure is not visible to everyone. You need to go down into the cellars of some of the old palazzos that overlook the alleys of the centre, where a dense network of tunnels dug out of the tuff is hidden. The Nobile wine has rested here for centuries.
A wine weekend in Montepulciano. The wineries in the town centre
Contucci was the first winery in Montepulciano: this is shown in a document of 1773 about the Contucci family, who still head the winery today, which says a “wine obtained from noble grapes destined for the tables of the nobles.” The historic wineries, on three levels, are a long pathway through history as well as through wine. Adamo, the trusty cellarhand, welcomes guests with a smile and a quip. Tours and tastings are also possible in another historic winery which extends under the uphill streets of the town: Talosa, where the Nobile wine ages in large oak barrels set in the niches of the brick tunnels that take you about 500 years back in time.
Underground cellars and modern architecture
Outside of the town centre, in the countryside surrounding the town, it’s worth visiting two wineries with innovative architecture and wines somewhere between necessary modernity and the continual search for tradition. At the Salcheto winery, it is better to only visit during the day, before sunset. In fact, Salcheto is a modern cathedral of wine. Here the natural light penetrates 18 metres deep, where the Nobile wine rests for years and completes ageing in silence. A wheel of pipes and stairs, aisles created by rows of barrels and barriques, the gurgle of fermenting must like a whispered prayer. Real sustainability is the keyword of the winery which offers hospitality (tours and food to pair with the wines of the winery) every day, including Sundays, from 10 am to 6 pm. Caterina Dei has passed on her passion for opera and musical harmony to her wines and to the Dei winery, founded by her grandfather and today completely refurbished: a large outdoor amphitheatre in travertine and a structure wedged in the spiral-shaped terrain, recalling the territory where the Dei Nobile wine comes from, which draws its flavours, complexity, elegance and character from the fossil shells in the soil.
Where to eat in Montepulciano
La Briciola (on Facebook): homely environment and traditional cuisine. It is the realm of the “pici alle briciole”, thick spaghetti made by hand with breadcrumbs fried in garlic, oil and chilli pepper. And for the second course? Obvious, a Florentine T-bone steak.
Le logge del Vignola (www.leloggedelvignola.com): elegant furnishings, for anyone looking for intimacy and quiet, but at the same time attracted to the innovative gastronomic curiosities.
Dolcevita Enoteca (www.enotecaladolcevita.it): either for a simple aperitif, or for lunch or dinner, here the selection of local wines, or from all over the world, is vast and sought-after.
La Pentolaccia (www.lapentolaccia.eu) fish or traditional dishes in a quiet, cosy environment.
Where to stay
In the town centre: La terrazza B&B (www.laterrazzadimontepulciano.it)
In the countryside: Agriturismo Cognanello (www.agriturismocognanello.it)
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