by MADDALENA MAZZESCHI, 10 November 2021
Since 1983, when he bought the first vineyard in Montepulciano and started producing Vino Nobile, Rudi Bindella has represented a style in step with the times for this appellation, which at the time had a very limited number of quality producers.
A Swiss national, heir to a top-level wine import company (still one of the most sought-after by Italian producers) and owner of a top Italian restaurant in Zurich, he immediately showed that he had clear ideas about his new adventure in Montepulciano.
Invited, in the brand new cellar, to a vertical tasting from 2010 to 2018 of "I Quadri" and "Vallocaia", at lunch we also tasted his Nobile 1985, the first year of production, which after 36 years tells the story of quality undertaken from the beginning.
But let's come, precisely, to the vertical. The same five vintages 2018-2016-2015-2013-2010 for the two wines, a Nobile 100% Sangiovese I Quadri and a Nobile Riserva of 90-95% Sangiovese and 5-10% Colorino il Vallocaia. The winery's agronomist and oenologist Giovanni Capuano explains that the style of vinification is almost the same and therefore what makes the difference between the two wines, apart from the difference in the blend, is only the age of the vineyards (around 20 for I Quadri and 23 to 30 for Vallocaia) and above all the type of soil and its position.
The Santa Maria vineyard where I Quadri is produced is located in the Sanguineto area, the soils are clayey-loamy, while the soils of Vallocaia in the Argiano area are sandy of medium texture. Their great difference, even though they are only a short distance apart as the crow flies, is clearly visible in the two photos below.
The organoleptic difference is also impressive, yet both are very much related to the territory of Montepulciano and this I believe is the great strength of the company.
But it is the style of Vallocaia that I like best. It is a Nobile-Nobile, excuse the repetition, that is, the wine I expect from Montepulciano: not only Sangiovese but with a touch of Colorino that makes it less brownish. Although I Quadri is also, as I said before, traceable to the Montepulciano area, Vallocaia leaves no doubt as to where it comes from, thanks to its elegance, roundness and management of the tannins that in this area are likely to dominate for a lot of years and for this reason it is more enjoyable right now. Perhaps I Quadri will have a longer life, but Vallocaia, given the same vintage, is already enjoyable, if not with the 2018, which in fact has another year in the bottle before being released, at least with the 2016 and obviously even more so with the older vintages.
The top of the tasting for me was the 2010 Vallocaia, which I gave four and a half stars. It is a wine with a still very, very young nose and incredibly fruity (ripe red fruit, but not yet too developed), with a round, rich and very drinkable mouthfeel. In the I Quadri series, the 2015 with its four stars was my favourite wine.
At the end of the tasting there were many questions from those present because the idea of tasting the same vintage from two such different soils was very stimulating. However, I would like to quote a courageous response from Capuano, very much out of the chorus, which I agree with 100% (or 110% given the period...) and which concerns the old vineyards.
The general idea is that very old vineyards produce better grapes. Capuano, on the other hand, said that a distinction has to be made: there is one thing about 20-30 year-old vineyards with clones, planting distances, training systems and more or less articulated zoning, and another thing about old-generation vineyards where there are now a maximum of 1,500 to 2,000 plants left (of the original 2,400) per hectare where you don't even know what was planted. Apart from the care that the latter require from highly experienced and knowledgeable workers, at harvest time Capuano said that he had to go through the vineyard four times: first for thinning out as these are often very productive vines, then the white grapes (which the company uses for Vin Santo), then the earlier red varieties and then the Sangiovese. Leaving aside the question of costs (which in any case cannot be overlooked) the problem is above all the skilled labour capable of selecting the grapes. So if you have a hectare and the family members or permanent collaborators of the company are able to do this work, maybe the grapes are actually better, but in most cases this is not the case. In short, the poetry of the old vineyard is all very well, but technique also plays a role.
The brand new tasting room, with a full glass wall opening onto a spectacular view of Montepulciano, was also the venue for the lunch that followed to show guests the quality of the food that can be enjoyed at Rudi Bindella's winery.
These are the companies that have what it takes to make the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano appellation great again.
photo credits Alessandro Moggi