30 September 2014
Visitors to Montepulciano are being offered rare opportunities to participate in the local grape harvest in a variety of enticing and inventive ways: from learning to cook the traditional harvest lunch all the way to participating in the time-honoured ritual of picking the grapes themselves, alongside farmers eager to reveal what gives Montepulciano wine its exquisite taste, aroma and appearance. The grape harvest is no longer the domain of the favoured few, and in the land of the Vino Nobile more and more wine producers are welcoming guests, often from abroad, to participate in the year's most delightful task. The opportunity attracts wine lovers during the quiet period between the heady days of summer and the winter festivities, and allows visitors to take a relaxing break and appreciate the care and attention that goes into making a quality wine.
Among the seasonal initiatives being promoted by producers there are cookery courses where guests can learn how to make traditional handmade pici pasta and accompanying sauces, including the aglione (garlic) and the briciole (breadcrumbs). Visitors can also get to know the territory by taking part in guided tours of the vineyards, accompanied by experienced enologists who are on hand to explain the differences between grape varieties and the qualities of the "terroir" where the vines are cultivated. Other Montepulciano producers exhibit art in their wine cellars during the grape harvest, or put on concerts at the end of the day, where audiences can taste younger wines and compare them to aged wines, thus learning about the importance of the aging process and how it affects the wine. While the historical wineries demonstrate how the same wine has been produced in the same cellars for centuries, visitors to more modern producers can learn about the differences between ageing in steel tanks and different types of wooden barrels, and so on.
"It's an excellent way for wine lovers from abroad to get to know our world," Andrea Natalini, the president of the Consorzio del Vino Nobile, says. "It's a great time to visit Montepulciano, when there aren't so many tourists, and visitors can get a different perspective on life in and around the city." The Strada del Vino Nobile Association also offers various early autumn packages and special events, in collaboration with over 70 Vino Nobile producers.
Wine tourism plays a crucial role in promoting the territory. Every year more than 200,000 people visit a wine cellar in Montepulciano. The Consorzio del Vino Nobile's Enoteca has established a reputation as one of Italy's most prestigious wine bars, welcoming around five thousand wine lovers every year. Of these, two thousand take part in tastings, and at least 40% make a purchase. By nation, the USA has consolidated its position, making up the greatest percentage of visitors, followed by Germany, Holland and Italy, together with many visitors from France, Belgium and Switzerland. Recent years have also shown a marked increase in visitors to Tuscany from countries such as Portugal, Poland, Denmark, Canada and Japan.
Montepulciano, the land of the Vino Nobile, has established a standard for excellence. From a climate point of view this year's Tuscan DOCG vintage has been characterised by a cool spring and summer with plenty of rainfall. "The quality that distinguishes the Vino Nobile has already been reached," president Natalini says. "Attentive work in the vineyard, matching agricultural practices established over centuries to modern techniques of cultivation, has allowed us to ensure that the grapes have been carefully cultivated and have ripened to perfection. Ultimately, it is only through the careful selection of grapes in the vineyard (2-3 different harvests in the same vineyard) and the skilled work of the experts in the cellar that Vino Nobile producers are able to guarantee that the wine meets the quality parameters worthy of its reputation. Such diligence entails a significant investment in terms of time and resources: the resulting wine is, we think you will agree, well worth the effort."