Front Runners March 2016: Cellar Notes

Tale of Two Vines

The name Montepulciano conjures images of the picturesque Tuscan town, which draws visitors both to its historic sites and to its many enoteche to sample a famous wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Another storied wine produced in an entirely different region of Italy, however, bears a similar name: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, grown in the Adriatic region of Abruzzo, is actually made using the Montepulciano grape, whereas its Tuscan counterpart is produced from Prugnolo Gentile, a variety of Sangiovese. Though Vino Nobile is more widely known, the Abruzzan red at its best matches its rival’s elegance, as the Binomio 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($50, binomiowine.com) attests. Produced from an old clone called Africa-Binomio, this single-vineyard expression treats the senses to heady hints of ripe blackberry laced with cinnamon, dark-roasted espresso, cardamom, leather, and licorice.  

Tasty Tradition

In 1893, when a 30-year-old farmer from Poggibonsi made the decision to become a professional wine taster, he launched an enduring legacy. From an early age, Luigi Cecchi exhibited a true gift for evaluating the quality of wine, and he parlayed his remarkable palate into a professional career as a consultant to many of Tuscany’s important producers—and later as a producer in his own right. The fourth generation of the family, represented by brothers Cesare and Andrea, links this past with the present through the Cecchi 2011 Coevo Toscana ($106, cecchiusa.com), a superbly delineated Super Tuscan whose black-red color anticipates its fragrances of cherry, blackberry, cocoa, and bay leaf. The wine’s profound structure and fine-grained tannins are softened by a textured, complex finish of black walnut and ripe nectarine.