Rudi Bindella, the third generation of a family of historic importers of Italian wines into Switzerland (but also a restaurateur and passionate art collector), came to Montepulciano in 1983 to be bewitched by it and to crown his dream of becoming a winemaker. He founded Tenuta Vallocaia, with just two and a half hectares of vines, but with an idea in his head, which was to remain his mission and his decision-making beacon: to honour the beauty of the landscape that welcomed him, to live up to it.
The growth in size of the company coincided with its consequent fame, which soon crossed regional and national borders thanks to a range of wines that has demonstrated its ability to combine irreproachable formal care with an "up-to-date" stylistic design, made specifically to be well digested by the world's markets.
In the meantime, a solid work team has coagulated around the flair and interpretative sensitivity of the technical director and oenologist Giovanni Capuano, who has been with the company since 1999, consolidating objectives and pushing ever further towards a precise search for elegance and balanced presentation in the wines.
And it is precisely in the course of an increasingly convinced ferry towards the shores of typicality that the famous Vallocaia label, since 2010, has changed its skin to become a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, A label rewritten in the almost exclusive sign of Sangiovese (if we exclude a small balance of Valdarno Colorino) and elected to be the spokesperson for the Argiano area, the place where the grapes come from and where the story of Bindella began, where the company's fulcrum is located and where the new, amazing winery was recently built.
It has thus flanked, or rather supplemented, the range of territorial wines under the "noble" appellation, which, in addition to the Nobile "annata", since 2000 has included the I Quadri selection, a pure Sangiovese from the Santa Maria di Sanguineto vineyard, another highly vocational enclave in the well-structured Bindella galaxy, which can now count on 54 hectares of vines distributed over 5 prestigious sub-zones in the Poliziano area: In addition to Sanguineto and Argiano, there are Paterno, with the vineyards for Rosso di Montepulciano Fossolupaio, Cervognano, with the Camperone vineyards, and finally Le Casalte, the most recent acquisition.
The double vertical in which I had the honour of participating, dedicated to I Quadri and Vallocaia, revealed the cards of the last decade, highlighting the considerable progress made in terms of the "clarification" of the design and the extent of extraction, opening the way to an expressive transparency capable of recounting with greater capacity for detail the peculiarities of the sites of origin, and foreshadowing further landmarks of beauty.
Coming from the Pleistocene sands of Argiano, the Nobile Vallocaia has an elegant physiognomy and is very open to dialogue; the dynamics of the sip are broad, horizontal, diffuse, with a cordial embrace of fruit and flowers, supported by a nuanced and rarefied tannic quality.
The calcareous clays of Sanguineto, on the other hand, together with the altitude and exposure, which are also from the north, give Nobile I Quadri a more evident acidic freshness, directing the drink towards turgidity, verticality and an (elegantly) austere bearing, against a more contrasted and straightforward dynamic compared to Vallocaia, which therefore seems to prefer a little more time and maturation to allow it to be purely harmonious.
But what fully emerges from this double vertical tasting is the progressive purging of frills and superstructures. And if the personal curiosity to try these wines if they were matured in large wood instead of small wood remains, to see what effect it has, the road taken, beyond the classicism or otherwise of the method, allows a defined and unmistakable physiognomy to shine through for each wine, without useless overlapping, without insidious clichés, and all this implies measured gestures, attention, respect, and that is what counts most.
I'll end this long (but necessary) introduction by talking about the side dish, which is not a side dish at all, because over time I've realised that during a visit to a winery, visiting the winery proper is almost out of date. I have noticed this, it is a fact. The experienced taster, the know-it-all and the wine journalist much prefer to 'walk the vineyards' and to perform the ritual of confrontation there, during which, to the sound of rehashed phrases and 'actorly' conscious grimaces, they try to compete with the real competence of the winemaker, except then to land directly on the glasses and give free rein to their differences, finding support - if necessary - in the highest systems.
Mind you, this is understandable.
But avoiding a visit to a winery also implies a potentially snooty unspoken: I focus only on what really matters, what is out there, or at most inside the glasses. The rest, you know....
Mind you, this is understandable.
To the point that even the producers themselves, now understood to be the refrain, in their bland request tend to negativise the question, so as to make it easier: " you don't want to visit the winery, do you? They're always the same anyway.
And again, there has been a marked increase in the number of cases where they don't even ask you anymore: they make you look at the glasses arranged in a row, which is like a siren's song, and you don't even think about the cellar (properly speaking) anymore.
Mind you, this is understandable.
But the gesture of missing a visit to the new wine cellar (properly speaking) built at Tenuta Vallocaia by Rudi Bindella, I would equate with the incomprehensible.
NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO I QUADRI
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano I Quadri 2010
This is the wine that shows the most signs of ageing, and which associates an aromatic landscape with an autumnal matrix (earth, undergrowth, foliage) with a sparse trait, marked by ethereal puffs and a certain tactile and tannic roughness.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano I Quadri 2013
There is a change in register, or rather, in behaviour. If compactness, jammy red fruits and concentration of matter on the one hand contribute to a certain aromatic compression, on the other hand they certify the integrity and liveliness of this bottle. A few (forgivable) sweet oak rivulets accompany a taste that is in any case fresh, or rather very fresh, with a savoury finish that is only slightly dry.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano I Quadri 2015
Looser than the 2013, both in texture and colour, it possesses a seductive floral bouquet and a fine measure of spread, thanks to a supple development that combines formal aesthetics with a proclaimed propensity for flavour nuances. The tannins are sweet and integrated, and this is quite an achievement. Even more so if referred to the vintage.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano I Quadri 2016
Ripe red berries and violets in a compendium of proposals on the nose, albeit compressed. The accompanying sweet wood, elegant fundamentals and excellent quality tannins make this a version that is the legitimate offspring of the vintage, which means the right degree of contrast, a nice acidic tone and an evolutionary perspective. The long, creamy closure tells us of a Quadri of elegant austerity.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano I Quadri 2018
Probably due to a vintage that is conducive to dialogue and enjoyment, our wine achieves a degree of definition and detail that cannot be avoided. It is profiled, graceful, charmingly unadorned, and even if it suffers from some vacuity in the middle of the mouth and a somewhat "dry" tendency in the development, it does not at all lose its sense of balance, a providential guarantor of a lengthy plot free of redundancy.
NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO RESERVE VALLOCAIA
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Vallocaia 2010
Two bottles with contrasting results, from which we obviously take as our reference point the one that is more positive, which tells us of a wine that is still airy, vital, with some reminiscences of oak along the way but capable of unfolding its textures on a carpet of comforting smoothness, giving the right amount of space to elegance.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Vallocaia 2013
Nice light here, nice dimension of fruit, nice suppleness: with a prelude like this I would not have expected that coarse-grained tannic framework and peremptory finish. This is a wine that is only half as good.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Vallocaia 2015
Like the Quadri of the same vintage, Vallocaia stands out for the quality of its design, its balance and measured tones, without (mis)falling into the easy traps brought about by a generous and 'great' vintage: it is elegant, full-bodied, savoury, diffuse, slightly wrinkled on the finish, but today as always fully enjoyable and expressive.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Vallocaia 2016
In this case the compactness, the underlying richness, the pulpiness of the fruit and the silkiness of the tactile grain all contribute decisively to the sensuality. You can sense that the wine is pawing, that it is still behind in its development, but you also feel that it has excellent potential, with the wood still making its mark and giving a toasty allure to the finish. It can only aspire to the best.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Vallocaia 2018
The design becomes even clearer, there is grace and finesse, and modulation in the tones, and a clear floral ascendancy. The tannic architecture, sweet and integrated, gives a special elegance to the taste texture. It is like a road that lights up, foreshadowing a future that is up to scratch. No less than seductive.
Photographic contributions by the author and Alessandro Moggi