The easy answer is, off course it is, but do you really find any evidence of it? That can be more difficult to answer. For the last seven years or so I have attended the Anteprime de Toscana with a yearly visit to Montepulciano, the region that makes the famous Vino Nobile the Montepulciano. During the 30 hours or so that the tastings and programme in Montepulciano lasts, I taste some hundred to hundred and thirty wines or thereabouts, depending on the vintage. So, it gives an insight, even if maybe not a proper in depth look at the latest vintage.
But I have been missing one thing. And that goes out to all the regions of Toscany actually. I want to understand the terroir more, I have almost been longing for a tasting of terroir. I know Tuscany isn’t Burgundy with everyone making several wines from small parcels all over the place. And even Chianti Classico’s new Gran Selezione is sometimes single vineyard wines and other times the blend of the best parts of the estate but can come from whatever grapes the winemaker found to be best. Meaning that for us consumers, we don’t really get to grasp with terroir as such. You need in depth knowledge of each wine you taste to know if it is from a single vineyard or a blend of different vineyards.
So the last two years I have snuck out after the tasting is finished in Montepulciano, much to the anger of the consorzio organising the event. But I want to learn. I have had some great visits organized by the consorzio as well, seeing vineyards of Boscarelli with a follow up tasting after of their lovely wines. It was indeed great, and they are not the only ones. But after lunch, and before these organized events, I normally have 3 to 4 hours to kill. And instead of sitting around in the fortress were this event is held, I want to see vineyards. Anteprime de Toscana should show more wineries. And more vineyards.
I am a quick taster, so I appreciate that some journalists might need the entire day at the fortress, but why should that keep me from working? Exploring? Investigate? Learning? Last year I managed to sneak out to see Salcheto and experienced their new ecofriendly winery that was a great way to learn a bit more about this region. All the care that one winery does to manage their part of reducing their carbon footprint. To help cool the wine cellar as an example, they grow a wall of hillside perennials on the outside. The plants and thin layer of soil gives enough shadow apparently, so you do not need the air conditioner running that much. Or at all. Most of us hear cars are the worst, or airplanes, but air conditioning is one of the worst carbon dioxide emissions there is. I never heard about just this one detail at the fortress. And I have never seen it anywhere else either. So, I would say a few hours well spent.
This year I decided to organize something as well, this year I contacted Avignonesi. And the consorzio went mad... Took pictures of me and a fellow wine writer as we left, as if we were criminals. But we just want to learn more about this part of the world. I am only there for about 30 hours a year. Why spend 4 of those staring at a stone wall? And I learned more about terroir in Montepulciano during those few hours spent at Avignonesi, than during the last seven or eight years tasting in the fortezza in the town.
Because Avignonesi make wine proofing terroir ideas. I did not even know they did. They make single vineyard wines, as they do in Burgundy. Not one special vineyard. Or maybe two. No, I got to taste five, some years they make six or even seven. Some are further apart; others are just across a narrow road from each other. Just like Burgundy! And I wish a tasting like this had been organized by the consorzio, this is what grips us as wine critics, this is what we learn from. I think this is what fascinates consumers as well. At least those geeky enough to read about wine. And for the future, I hope other wineries all over Tuscany can do similar tastings. Maybe not because they actually make the wine and bottle it, but to understand what different terroir can give in the final blend.
Here is La Badelle soil and how Avignonesi describe it.
Soil of marine origin from the Pliocene (3-5 million years ago) rich in clay and silt, with the presence of deep, blue sodic clay. Rich in limestone, the soil is alkaline and does not present much organic matter.
This vineyard was planted in 2000. The vines are cordon-trained at an altitude of 375 meters a.s.l. / 1,230 feet a.s.l. and grow at a density of 5,882 plants / hectare (2,351 plants / acre) with a East, South-East row orientation.
I found it floral, bright and red fruity, giving an unusually bright expression and unusually elegant Vino Nobile. It showed a refinement that sometimes is rare in Sangiovese that can be very structured and firm. It seems to be a variety were balancing finesse and details is very difficult without losing weight. This balances both.
La Banditella in the words of Avignonesi.
Soil of marine origin from the Pliocene (3-5 million years ago). Rather deep, alternating calcosol and brunisol, brown in colour. The texture goes from clayey to sandy and the presence of limestone, in the form of calcium-carbonate aggregates, varies based on the type of soil. Moreover, there is a good presence of pebbles of fluvial origin.
This vineyard was planted in 2002. The vines are cordon-trained at an altitude of 300- 320 meters a.s.l. / 984-1050 feet a.s.l. and grow at a density of 4,464 plants / hectare (1,785 plants / acre) with a North row orientation.
For me Banditella was tighter, firmer and more structured, gave less floral and scented notes, but you could feel them behind, so maybe they will turn up more with age.
Poggetto di Sopra in Avignonesi’s words:
A sedimentation from the Pliocene (3-5 million years ago) of marine origin, the Poggetti di sopra vineyard is permeated by a vein of deep, blue sodic clay. Rich in silt and limestone, but with little or no stones in the underground, the soil is alkaline and does not present much organic matter.
Selection of the best Sangiovese grapes planted in our historic Poggetto di Sopra estate at 300 meters a.s.l.
In 2016 the grapes come mainly from the 38-year-old vineyard called Caprile which is guyot-trained with a density of 2,564 vines / hectare. (1,025 plants / acre).
This is almost a blend of the former two, has more on the nose than Banditella at this stage, with more structure than La Badelle, but showing more details and nuances already.
I have been longing for a Sangiovese tasting like this for years, and we even had two more single vineyards, Oceano and La Stella. Tastings where the same team makes wines from different soils in Tuscany. This is amongst the most fascinating tastings I have done in Tuscany and I did not even know these wines exist. With around 4000 bottles only, they won’t be easy to find, but if you get a chance to taste two or more of these side by side, it is one of the rare opportunities to really taste terroir, not only in Montepulciano, but in Tuscany. There are a few more that do this, but I do not know anyone doing up to seven single vineyards!
In the end, it would be for the best for Vino Nobile de Montepulciano as a region if the internal issues riding the Consorzio and some of the producers stop, they are stronger together than apart.
2015 is the first vintage of these single vineyards from Avignonesi, and trust me, they are worth seeking out. But they are rare, so probably difficult to find.
2017 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano
Bright ruby. Scented, red berries, some floral notes nose. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, anise, red fruits, juicy, some spices, liquorice, lighter bodied, good length. 87
2016 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano
Bright ruby. Cherries, raspberries, some spices, floral nose. Scented. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, bright, fresh and detailed, elegant. 88
2017 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano Oceano
Ca 4000 bottles made. Bright ruby. Scented, raspberries, anise, floral notes, nuanced and detailed nose. Almost peppery. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, anise, spices, red fruits, almost a citrus note to it, long. 93
2017 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano La Stella
4000 bottles made. Bright ruby. Scented, red fruits, tighter, bright and nuanced yet somehow dense nose. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, cherries, red fruits and a touch of blackberries, some spices, firmer and structured, long. 93
2017 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano Banditella
Ca 4000 bottles made. Bright ruby. Scented, red berries, floral, nuanced, tighter nose. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, anise, some structure going on here, cherries and red fruits finish, long. 92
2017 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano Le Badelle
Ca 4000 bottles made. Bright ruby. Scented, raspberries, anise, bright and detailed, nuanced nose. Floral. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, cherries, anise, bright red fruity, elegant if structured, long. 92
2017 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano Pogetto di Sopra
Ca 4000 bottles made. Bright ruby. Scented, red berries, floral, nuanced, cherries, detailed nose. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, fresh, fruity, anise, spices, bright, but a little bit flat on the tasting curve here and there, long. 92
2016 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano Pogetto di Sopra
Bright ruby. Scented, red berries, floral, strawberries, nuanced nose, detailed. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, red fruits, anise, juicy, elegant texture, nuanced, long. 94
2015 Avignonesi Nobile de Montepulciano Pogetto di Sopra
Bright ruby. Scented, red berries, floral, nuanced, ripe fruits, strawberry jam nose. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, red fruits, anise, spices, bright, elegant and long. 93