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Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Brunello’s Less Expensive Cousin
What’s so noble about Vino Nobile? Its pedigree reaches back to the 8th century, and in 1685 the poet Francesco Redi called it the “king of all wines.”
Wine Barrels Wine barrels in Montepulciano.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was once the favorite drink of the Tuscan nobility, and valued well above Chianti, the region’s other notable wine. In contrast, Brunello di Montalcino, the current reigning monarch of Tuscan wines, wasn’t even created until a century ago.

Although currently dwarfed in reputation by Brunello due to declining quality in the 1960s and 1970s, Vino Nobile has recently undergone a renaissance and is poised to move from its former pauper status back into its rightful station. With the staggering prices of many Brunellos, a rejuvenated Vino Nobile provides a high-quality alternative to its more costly cousin.

The wine’s area of production lies in the southeastern part of the Chianti zone, in the Chianti Colli Senesi district. Its composition includes 70%–100% Prugnolo Gentile (“sweet little plums,” a Sangiovese clone), up to 20% Canaiolo, up to 20% other red varieties and up to 10% white varieties. Although a percentage of white grapes was once required, this stipulation was dropped in 1989 as part of the movement to upgrade Vino Nobile. Aging requirements call for two years in cask for the standard label and three years for riserva. Traditionalists prefer chestnut barrels for aging, while modernists employ small oak barriques. Others use Slavonian oak casks. Total production of the appellation is around 125,000 cases, which is smaller than the production of many single California wineries. Noble wines, like noble ideas, are never found in abundance.

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