From a region about 45 minutes east of Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is Brunello’s younger sibling, softer, more playful, with a mischievous spring in its step.
Montepulciano: How to get there
- Fly into Florence or Pisa airports.
- Drive from Florence to Montepulciano in about two hours; Pisa to Montepulciano takes about half an hour longer. The nearest city is Siena, which is an hour’s drive.
Montepulciano wineries to visit
The way to Avignonesi is along an avenue of cypress trees leading to Le Capezzine, the heart of the 200-hectare estate comprising vineyards across Montepulciano and Cortona.
A beautiful brick facade beckons you into the Cellar Door, a stylishly modern yet respectfully rustic loft conversion where you can taste wines by the glass – try the Grandi Annate, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2012, all wild roses and plums, and silky soft in the mouth.
Take the wine lover’s tour to explore the organic vines, maturation cellars and Avignonesi’s famous Vinsantaia – where its vin santos are aged in 50-litre caratelli oak casks – before sitting down to a four-course, wine-paired meal.
Do not even consider leaving without having meditated over the legendary vin santo, a hymn to the heavens.
January – Febraury: closed, March – April: Monday-Friday 10am-6pm, May: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12pm–6pm, June – September: Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm, Sunday 12pm–6pm, October: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 12pm–6pm, November – December: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm.
Half an hour away on the other side of Montepulciano is an historic winery named after the town’s most illustrious Renaissance poet. Poliziano has been producing sleek Vino Nobile since 1961, a trait matched in the design-led Angelo Ambrogini tasting lounge, which has a marble bar, parquet floors and wavy wood wine shelving. Never a winery to sit back, this spring Poliziano opened a stylish enoteca in the old centre of Montepulciano, in the palazzo where the great poet once lived.
But the Montepulciano Stazione cellar tour still remains a firm favourite.
Open year-round, it’s a chance to see the ecological maturation cellar, whose temperature is controlled by solar power, as well as the old bottle archive showcasing Poliziano’s most prestigious vintages and wines – the likes of Sangiovese selezione Asinone and IGT Le Stanze, a classy Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend.
Winery tours arranged by appointment.
La Dogana enoteca/ Palazzo Vecchio
A along the Via Lauretana Nord brings you to La Dogana enoteca, the wine bar of cantina Palazzo Vecchio (pictured top). It’s a striking building, whose central window frames the Val di Chiana plain as far as the eye can see.
The Sbernadori family serves up zero-mile valley specialities such as pici all’aglione, fat spaghetti scented with the mildest of garlic. Watch the sunset at Valiano with delicious nibbles and Palazzo Vecchio’s own Vino Nobile.
Contact for winery visits.
Montepulcino: When to visit
The crowds flock to Montepulciano town on the last Sunday in August for the annual Bravìo delle Botti, a gruelling spectacle in which muscular men attempt to push heavy wine barrels up the cobblestone streets.
Those in the know often prefer to head for the more placid Festa di San Lorenzo in nearby Valiano in early to mid-August for flower displays and food.
But the picturesque Montepulciano area, dotted with its 75-plus wineries, is a joy to visit at any time, from spring to autumn.
Go to the next page to see Helen’s Montepulciano restaurant recommendations