Neil Duarte's Vino e Cucina d'Italia

Cantina del Redi – Great Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

When many people think of the best of Tuscany's red wines (all DOCGs), they consider Brunello di Montelcino or perhaps Chianti Classico. However, there is another great red wine from Tuscany called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Like the Brunello and Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile is made from all or for the most part sangiovese grapes, though the producers of Vino Nobile's grapes call their sangiovese grape "Prugnolo."

Vino Nobile is produced from grapes grown on the gentle rolling slopes surrounding the most picturesque hill town of Montepulciano, itself worth a visit if you are in the area. Before continuing, let me clarify that Vino Nobile has nothing to do with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, an improving wine made from the Montepulciano grape grown on the Adriatic side of Italy. Vino Nobile is generally less tannic than its neighbor, Brunello, and somewhat more fruity.

The commercial production of Vino Nobile began in the 1920s and some of these original producers, like Cantucci, still exist. Though the law was amended in 1999 to allow for 100 percent Prugnolo, it only requires a minimum of 80 percent. The balance can be canaiolo or any other red grape and even 10 percent white grapes. Many quality producers continue to use blends of red grapes to make their Vino Nobile.

Though Luigi Veronelli, the Robert Parker of Italian wines, in his 2004 ratings gave the highest marks for Vino Nobile to Avignonesi, Fattoria del Cerro, Boscarelli and Poliziano and I rarely disagree with him, I believe that he undervalued the wines from several producers, especially Cantucci and my favorite, Cantina del Redi.

Cantina del Redi, named after the 17th Century poet Franceso Redi who immortalized the wines of Montepulciano in his work "Bacchus in Tuscany", has been owned since 1988 by the Cooperative Veccia Cantina whose headquarters are located in Montepulciano in the Ricci Palace, an impressive structure completed in 1562. All of the grapes used in Redi's wines are sourced from eight partner growers in the area. Redi's massive cellars, cut deeply in the rock under the town in the end of the 17th Century, help assure a consistent cool temperature for aging. Cantina del Redi produces 180,000 bottles per year in total, including small amounts of a 50 percent Chardonnay/ 50 percent Viogner blend named Riccio, vin santo and the Italian "grow hair where it was never meant to be": grappa.

Now let's go to my favorites, the red wines. Redi produces five red wines though three are very similar. New since my last visit in 2004 is Chianti Colli Senesi a DOCG chianti produced under the rules of the Colle Sinesi sub area which surrounds the city of Siena. It is a 100 percent Sangiovese (not Prugnolo Gentile) even though under current DOCG rules a maximum of 10 percent may be from non-Sangiovase red grapes. Redi produces 15,000 bottles per year. I look forward to tasting this on my next visit.

wine label
Another red is Orbaio, a blend of 34 percent Sangiovase, 33 percent Merlot and 33 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. I don't know how I missed this one; it's been produced since 2001. As I normally like this type of blend, I look forward to trying it as well.

Just as with Brunell di Montelcino and in Piedmont Barolo, there is a wine using the excess grapes not chosen for the best wines. Rosso Di Montepulciano is such a wine in Montepulciano. Made from 90 percent Prugnolo Gentile and 10 percent Canaiolo just as its higher end brothers, this is a very good wine. Ruby in color with a nose of slight berry fruit, it is a full bodied, tannic wine. It is aged for three months in Slovakian oak barrels followed by 6 months in the bottle. Redi produces 80,000 bottles per year. Rosso Di Montepulciano can be found for approximately $15-$18/bottle in the U. S.

A level higher is Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. Also consisting of 90 percent Prugnolo Gentile and 10 percent Canaiolo, Vino Nobile is aged in large Slovakian oak barrels (a small percentage is aged in French oak barriques) for 24 months followed by 6 months in the bottles. This wine is deep ruby in color with berry and spice bouquet. It has a longer, tannic finish and is excellent. Redi produces 50,000 bottles per year. Redi's Vino Nobile can be found for between $22-$25/bottle. This is an excellent wine and I recommend it.

The star of the winery is Briaro. Another wine made from 90 percent Prugnolo Gentile and 10 percent Canaiolo, it is aged for 12 months in French oak barriques, followed by 12 months in larger French oak barrels and then left in the bottle for 6 additional months. This wine is deep ruby in color with a nose of berries and spice. It is full, intense and very smooth with a pleasant long finish. Though Redi recommends that their Rosso and Vino Nobile be served at 16-18°C (approximately 60-65°F), Briaro can be served slightly warmer at 16-22°C (approximately 60-72°F). It is an excellent wine with all types of red meats and heavy cheeses and one of my very favorites in Italy. I give Briaro a 92 rating. Only 15,000 bottles are produced each year. Briaro can usually be found for $25-30/bottle.

There are many truly excellent wines found in Tuscany. I rank Vino Nobile high among them and Briaro as one of the better. Cantina del Redi is represented in the U. S. by Orvino Imports (, WJ Deutsh & Sons ( and Vinum Wine Importing & Distribution (

November 2010

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