Whether you’re a polished expert in wine or you have simply helped to polish off a bottle of the good stuff in your time, it’s likely you’ve heard of a little region in central Italy called Tuscany. Its capital, Florence draws tens of millions of visitors, each year. But, it’s the small hilltop towns to the south, enveloped by verdant valleys of vines that will win over wine lovers. While there are many captivating towns in Tuscany, Montepulciano has become our favourite; for its food, rich history and of course, its Vino Nobile. Montepulciano wine tasting options are varied: from booking a dedicated wine tour or day trip from Florence; visiting the Montepulciano cellar doors in person; sitting for tastings as you wander through the town, or savouring a glass over lunch. Consider this snapshot a taste of what awaits in Montepulciano.
Montepulciano Wine Tasting
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is the star in Montepulciano. It is classic red wine with DOCG status from the vines surrounding Montepulciano. The blend must be composed of at least 70 percent of the Nobile Sangiovese grapes, with a few coming on the market made up of 100 percent Sangiovese. Vino Nobile lives up to its name and it feels pretty special to drink. Just like the incredible Brunello, the Sangiovese from nearby Montalcino, the Vino Nobile will leave you wondering what you could possibly drink back home that compares. Thankfully, most cellar doors will send some bottles home for you.
If you go wine tasting in Montepulciano, take the time to visit Salcheto. Cantina Salcheto is an innovator in the wine market with an inspired business ethos. From sulphite free wines (a strong signal of the movement towards organic viticulture in the market), an environmentally efficient model and the lightest and most eco-friendly bottle on the market, it feels good to support this trend leading, 30 year-old winery.
The setting at Salcheto is casual, warm and welcoming. An ideal option for families or groups, long wooden tables fill up a dining room with incredible views out over the vines with a front row seat to Montepulciano, perched on its limestone ridge beyond. There are also more seats out on the terrace where you can enjoy a slow glass of wine while taking in the view.
We arrived late in the day without a reservation and the staff immediately seated us, put together some amazing food from the daily menu and took us through the tastings. We tried the Obvius, Red and Rose, which are all made simply of grapes and are unfiltered (so you’ll have to get used to the cloudy consistency too). The Obvius was divine, as was the food they plated up on short notice.
Avignonesi is both beautiful and a little bit fancy. It is a magical 200-hectare property just outside the village of Valiano, between Montepulciano and Cortona. It is home to an impressive looking showroom, tasting space and shop. We found the service here a little slow and not as warm and friendly as other wineries we visited; which was a shame. It was also the most expensive tasting we did. However, the wine was incredible and as someone not usually drawn to Chardonnay, their QX Chardonnay won me over at first slurp. So, while it is a 25-minute drive from town, you couldn’t have a Montepulciano wine tasting experience without visiting this winery. It was a stand out. Just be sure to book ahead so you are able to join the tours of the facilities (they’ll even give you their cute parasols to use on the walk), something we didn’t do in the heat of the day as we were travelling with a baby.
We visited Gattavecchi on a previous visit. However, our lunch and tasting at this winery is still a fond memory for us and one of the inspirations for returning to Montepulciano, twice more. Still very popular and recommended by locals again on our recent visit, it is also very easy to visit if you are just passing through the town for the day (they have customer parking) or you don’t have a car. It is in the town, so you can simply wander down the hill and clamber back up to your hotel. They also offer cooking classes for those spending a few days in Montepulciano.
Related: Where to Eat in Montepulciano
We visited Cantina De Ricci as part of a tour of the wine caves. Built in the early 16th Century, Palazzo Ricci itself is a Renaissance gem and part of the experience of visiting the family’s cellar and tasting rooms. Visitors descend into the grotta or Cathedral, the air thick and damp and walk between the dusty barrels where Slavonian oak holds their precious Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, before climbing the stairs to a small tasting area. When it came to the quality of the wine, this was one of my favourite tastings of the day.
Related: Florence in Two Days
Cantina Ercolani is conveniently located near the town’s lower archway and it’s a good place to stop if you want to do a last minute tasting or you need to pick up some gourmet gifts to take home. This cantina was the final stop on our tour of Montepulciano and it became almost comical. With each tasting, the glasses became larger. By our fifth or sixth wine, I called it a day and my in-laws were giggling in the corner by this point too. A very generous tasting with matching aperitivo bites, it was the perfect way to finish. If you overdo the tasting, never fear, there is a gelateria just a few doors up the hill.
Related: How to Spend Two Days in Rome
The Contucci family is one of the original Montepulciano families and one of the first to make the regions famous Vino Nobile (noble wine), dating back to the 18th century. Although we passed Cantina Contucci at least once a day and it was recommended by locals, we ran out of time and never made it in. The Contucci family has been making Vino Nobile since the late 18th Century. So, for those stopping in for a quick look at Montepulciano or simply dropping by for lunch, this might be a good place to try the local Vino Nobile. It is conveniently located just off Piazza Grande.
Related: What to do in Lucca, Italy
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller. She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health. As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Skye created The Fit Traveller as a beautiful online space and community where people feel inspired to escape the desk to move and explore more.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her insatiable appetite for adventure.