The consorzio that oversees Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG has just finalized a new proposal intended to elevate the stature of the area’s best wines. In essence, this is a zonation initiative, dividing the denomination into 12 subareas, whose names will be allowed on wine labels. But it is simultaneously a quality initiative, establishing a new tier above Riserva.
The Pieve tier sounds similar to the Gran Selezione category that was introduced by nearby Chianti Classico in 2014, although the consorzio says the project was being developed before that. In any case, its inclusion of geographic subareas addresses the biggest criticism of Gran Selezione—that it left the door open for mixing grapes from all over the denomination and therefore lacked a strong tie to the land.
Pieve is an old-fashioned term for a parish (the territory assigned to an individual church), of which the Montepulciano area apparently had a dozen. The consorzio is drawing on land records from 1765 to link the area’s venerable wines to these historical parish precincts—whose precise names and boundaries are still being finessed among the consorzio members (one report suggests Argiano, Ascianello, Badia, Cervognano, Gracciano, San Biagio, and Sant’Albino as pievi). To specify a pieve on a Vino Nobile label, the grapes will have to be from vineyards that not only are owned or controlled by the producer (as for Gran Selezione) but also are entirely from within the named pieve. This means the grapes will all be from the same general vicinity, even if the pievi themselves don’t have any definitive viticultural significance. Oh, and the vineyards need to be at least 15 years old, too.
Notable changes to the production standards for the Pieve level include raising the minimum proportion of Sangiovese—or Prugnolo Gentile as it known here—from 70% to 85%, with the remainder coming from a handful of traditional varieties. Pieve wines will need to have at least 3 years of aging before release (same as Riserva currently) and will require the endorsement of an accreditation tasting commission established for this purpose. The Region of Tuscany approved the plan in June 2021, sending it to the Ministry of Agriculture for national-level ratification. The plan was to have the disciplinare change be made retroactive to the 2020 harvest, meaning that the 2020 Vino Nobile Pieve wines could be available on the market by early 2024.