I don't expect much when I open a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. These wines are are usually decent, but in my mind they are underachievers. The rich history of the vineyards around the town of Montepulciano and the wine's lofty position in the hierarchy of Tuscan reds--it is part of the classic triumvirate that includes Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico--causes me to want more from the wines than what they usually deliver. But this particular Vino Nobile does not disappoint.
The brilliance of the 2001 Lodola Nuova is that--apart from being a delicious, very well-made wine from a great vintage--it illustrates what Vino Nobile is all about. It speaks of harmony, silkiness, gentleness, and just the right amount of weight. Not power, not internationally-styled fruitiness or freshness. Something lighter than Brunello and more graceful than most of today's Chianti Classicos. To taste this wine is to appreciate why Vino Nobile has the stature that it does.
The main grape variety here is Sangiovese, under the local name of Prugnolo Gentile; Merlot makes up the remaining ten percent of the wine. It is medium-bodied and fully dry, with a supple but not dense texture and a slight grip of tannin on the rear palate. Aromas and flavors of herbs (a gentle whiff of rosemary), fruit (cherries, red berries and baked plums) and earth (smoky, fallen-leaf character) are all moderately intense and very persistent on the palate. High acidity gives the wine depth and supports the persistence of flavor.
Rather than being aged in barriques--small, 60-gallon barrels of French oak--this wine aged in large French oak casks that are at least 15 times larger than barriques. As a result, the wine tastes very traditional, lacking the vanilla scent or toasty aromas of oak, as well as the aggressive tannins that oak can contribute to a wine.
This wine is a delight on the table. It is very easy to drink, the kind of wine that you reach for again and again until...surprise!--the bottle is empty. The press release about the wine suggests gnocchi with sage, and sipping the wine now, I crave those gnocchi. It's also terrific with portobella mushrooms, classic risotto, quail, or a paillard of chicken or veal. It is a true, classic Italian red and it shines with food.
Although this wine is from the excellent 2001 vintage and could possibly take some aging, I would drink it now and over the next three years. It is too satisfying now to postpone drinking.