Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Proposes New “Pieve” Category

By Jack Brostrom
April 7, 2021
Updated May 4, 2022

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.

Note: This news brief describes proposed changes as of 2021, not the current rules for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG.
Top: View from Montepulciano (Alex Pears, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Above: Montepulciano skyline (Walter Giannetti, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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6 comments on “Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Proposes New “Pieve” Category”

  1. It sounds like the proposal for the Pieve category would require grapes from only one pieve. This would rule out using grapes from two pievi, even if both pievi were named on the label and the new aging and 85% content requirements were met. Correct?

    1. Right, like almost everything geographical on an Italian wine label, use of the pieve name would require 100% of the grapes to be from that area. Listing two pievi is unlikely to be an allowed option. This will keep the pieve a mark of specificity in location—unlike Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione, an indication that guarantees only the producer’s management of the vineyards, not the particular part of the denomination where they’re located.

  2. It looks like the Vino Nobile Annata currently requires 2 years aging, and the Riserva currently requires a minimum 3 years. Would the Pieve category require more than 3 years?

    1. No, good catch. The existing aging requirements were misrepresented in the original article (now corrected). Three years is correct for Pieve wines (based on the currently proposed regulations, at least), which is the same as Riserva, while the Annata or basic version requires 2 years of aging.

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