Our tasting impressions
Recently, at a lunch with the Innocenti's, the Guru was reduced to tears of sheer ecstasy, as he drank Vittorio's 1985 Vino Nobile. The 2016 Vino Nobile, though still an infant, may be on a trajectory to surpass that amazing '85. Surprisingly, it's drinking fairly well right now but oh what a future it has. Everything is there: depth, complexity, purity, structure, energy, etc.. I'm salivating from my gustatory memory of this as I write. Trust me friends, buy as much of this as you can!
About this wine
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG is, along with Brunello and Chianti Classico, the epitome of Sangiovese-based wines in Tuscany. At their best, Vino Nobile combine the power of Brunello with the finesse of Chianti.
Innocenti’s Vino Nobile is a very traditional blend of predominantly Sangiovese (technically Prugnolo Gentile, the name for its local sub-variety) with some Canaiolo and Colorino. The vines are about 22 years old in sandy soil at about 350 meters facing southwest.
The harvest is entirely manual. The Sangiovese is destemmed (the tannins are too green) and the others are used whole-cluster. Then, all the grapes are vinified together.
Fermentation is with natural yeasts and maceration on the skins lasts 15 days. They perform délestage (draining the wine off the must and then gently pumping it back over. The caps are punched down. It ages 30 months (only 24 is required) in French and Slavonian oak barrels then passes through a wide-grain filter for bottling. It is released much later than most Vino Nobile.
About the grape blend
Sangiovese is the most planted grape in Italy and is the dominant grape throughout the central part of the country. There are many variants and even different names like Prugnolo Gentile, Brunello, Sangioveto and Morellino.
The grapes are dark and thick-skinned, slow-ripening, acidic and tannic. Like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese is heavily influenced by its terroir and similarly can be quite transparent in its differences from place to place.
Canaiolo and Colorino are traditional blending grapes for Tuscan Sangiovese. Colorino is sparsely used today. Apropos of the name, its deep pigmentation mostly adds color to the blend, but also tannins. Canaiolo balances the other two with softness and imparts graceful herbal flavors.
About the vintage
2016 is a modern day classic vintage in Tuscany. A near perfect growing season that started slowly, warmed up nicely through the summer, and ended with a classic autumn. Ample warm days and cool nights produced a slightly reduced crop of wines that combine the richness of low-yields with the near perfect balance of mature tannins and bright acidity.
On your table
Right now, a meaty lasagna. Down the road, all I want is a simple, basic meal that won't distract from the glories of this wine.
Vittorio Innocenti, a former philosophy teacher, started producing wine from his family's vineyards with the 1978 vintage from his 13th century cellar in Montefollonico. There are 32 hectares of vines in Montepulciano and Montefollonico but only 12 are planted with vineyards of up to 80 years old. The vista views from the back patio are incredible.
Today, Vittorio's son Tommaso and his partner Vincenza (aka Nancy) handle most of the work. But Vittorio is the keeper of the intellectual capital for all seven wines - in particular both versions of Vin Santo.
The Innocentis are a gracious, wonderful family. The Guru has known them longer than any other wine producer. He admires their intense commitment to producing the highest quality wines - taking as much pride in their most modest offering as they do in their top bottling.
VDLT is the only North American source for these extraordinary wines that are released much later than most top estates in the appellation. The Vino Nobile, Riserva and Acerone are capable of long and magnificent aging. In the photo to the right, we enjoyed a 1985, 1988 and 1993 at a recent lunch. Their freshness and vibrancy belied their ages.