Tuesday, February 5, 2013
A Foggy Day in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Wine Region - Visiting Bindella Winery
Jan. 8, 2013 – Siena was shrouded in fog when we awoke, and though we were hopeful it would dissipate later in the day, it never did. Our first winery was Bindella, which is located in the hills outside the town of Montepulciano. The view of the surrounding countryside and the hilltop town in the distance would have been spectacular except for the very thick white fog that cloaked everything. Our hostess, Francesca, apologized profusely but no one can control the weather, and in some way, the drifting fog through the winter vineyards and tall green cedars made the whole scene even more hauntingly beautiful.
Francesca led us to a colorino vineyard next to the cellars and it was interesting to see they used guyot with cane pruning for this variety, whereas they preferred cordon for sangiovese. They have 74 acres of vineyards, and use IPM farming (Integrated Pest Management) with 8 x 3 spacing. Like many other Italian wine estates, they have multiple crops, including 27 acres of olives, 86 acres of wheat and 50 acres of wood.
Do Not Confuse Vino Nobile with Montepulciano d’Abbruzo
Thomas, the Director of the Consorzio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, was also on hand to welcome us and provided useful brochures describing the regulations of the region. Francesca cautioned us not to confuse the sangiovese grapes from this area, which are called Vino Noble di Montepulciano with the actual “montepulciano” grapes from the Abruzzo region, which have softer tannins and plush dark purple fruit. She admitted that she had to explain this difference constantly to visitors, and I wondered for about the tenth time why they insist on using the same name for both a town and grape when they are completely different.
Part of the explanation is that the town of Montepulciano is quite ancient, and the term “Vino Nobile” means “noble wine from Montepulciano,” dating from 746 A.D. Obviously they do not want to give up this prestigious history, and so they must continue to explain constantly that they are different. I’ve finally just started calling the region “Vino Nobile” and leave off the “Montepulciano” so it doesn’t confuse my students. “Vino Nobile” produces sangiovese (usually the prugnolo clone with its violet scent), and d’Abruzzo produces the montepulciano grape.
Regulations of Vino Nobile “(di Montepulciano)
The grapes must come from the region and be processed into wine there in order to be called Vino Nobile. Regulations are more generous in that only 70% of the wine must be sangiovese, whereas the other 30% can be a variety of grapes including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, colorino, caniolo and others. This results in a wide variety of styles, and therefore sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate a Vino Nobile from Chianti in a blind tasting. I have a tendency to like the ones that blend colorino and merlot, resulting in a deep colored wine from the colorino, with the plush tannins of merlot, but the fresh acidity of the sangiovese. Regular Vino Nobile must be aged at least 2 years before release whereas riserva is 3 years.
The Cellars of Bindella and Tasting Colorino
Giovanni, the winemaker at Bindella, explained the winemaking process for Vino Nobile. He said that the sangiovese grapes grown on clay soil created more powerful wines with stronger tannins so he aged those in smaller oak barrels, whereas the sangiovese from sandy soils with smoother tannins were destined for the 300 liter casks. He said they all age 20 to 22 months in oak and 6 months in bottle. Fermentation temperature for Vino Nobile is 25 to 28C, and they use commercial yeast.
We also spent some time discussing the rare Vin Santo from this region, which is made from 100% sangiovese and called Occhio di Pernice. It is a unique red color the Italians call “Eye of the Partridge.” The grapes are hung in a dry location from September to February and then pressed. They age 7 years in small oak barrels with no racking or topping so the wine is oxidized and usually quite sweet with an alcohol level averaging 16%.
Probably one of the most interesting aspects of this tasting is that Giovanni allowed us to taste tank samples of colorino and sangiovese. The colorino was a dense dark purple with huge grippy tannins and an inky berry taste. It is primarily used as a coloring agent in Vino Nobiles.
We tasted the 2009 Bindella Rosso and Vino Nobile. Both were excellent and made in a more elegant style. The Rosso actually had 10% syrah, whereas the Vino Nobile was 85% sangiovese with the remaining 15% colorino, candiolo and mammolo, another Italian grape that adds a violet flower note to the wine.
Bindella exports 65% of their wine, with Switzerland as the number one export country (the owners of the estate are Swiss). They have 14 employees, produce around 11,600 cases per year and have annual revenues of around 1 million euros.
We found our visit here to be highly hospitable. Both Francesca and Giovanni were ultimate professionals, being very open, friendly, and willing to share information freely about the winery.