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Tuscan taste-off matches Montalcino and Montepulciano

Northside Staff Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Barry Manville, Kelley O’Neill, and Jason Wentworth

While Chianti may be the best known wine growing district of Tuscany, that region is home to several other notable wine producing areas. Two of the best are Montalcino and Montepulciano, both located south of Chianti.

The wines of Montalcino are made from the Brunello clone of the Sangiovese grape. Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy's greatest wines, and is generally quite expensive. Brunello producers offer a less expensive wine called Rosso di Montalcino, which receives less aging and is usually made from an estate's younger grapevines.

As for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ("noble wine of Montepulciano"), it's produced from the Prugnolo Gentile sub variety of Sangiovese. Good Vino Nobile is available in the same price range, $20 - $30 or so, as most Rosso di Montalcino.

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind-tasted 16 wines from these two controlled appellations, and found no dramatic differences between them. The best Montalcino wines were perhaps a bit more nuanced and complex than the wines of Montepulciano. But in the end, one of each type tied for first place.

The 2003 Tenuta Oliveto Rosso di Montalcino ($30)[Sku 9453]* and the 2003 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($31)[Sku 8260]* were both deemed significantly better than the other wines in the tasting.

The Oliveto Rosso is a lovely wine with a stunning bouquet and a fabulous balance of fruit and oak on the palate. Its polish and complexity make it a suitable partner for the very finest roasts or a classic lasagna Bolognese. The more robust character of the Poliziano wine, shot through with sexy black currant fruit, will pair well with grilled meats and robust pasta dishes. Both are wines suitable for a special occasion.

"Top Wine Picks" as seen in The Ithaca Journal 04/16/2007.

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