Tuscany. The name alone paints a masterpiece of landscape in your head. Rolling hills, lush vineyards, renaissance artwork, small and rustic towns, cobble stone streets, twisting roads, Cyprus trees standing alone, sunflower fields stretching for miles and an infinite amount of the world’s best wines. The Tuscan region is large on general scale, spanning to about 9,000 squared miles. There is a lot to see and a lot of wine to be had throughout Tuscany, but Montepulciano is one of the best places to do it all.
For the Wine
One of the oldest companies of wine makers in Tuscany, and the World, is located right in the heart of Montepulciano. Its impossible to miss Contucci as it is only a few steps away from the town’s main square. The sweet and pungent smell of aging wine fills the air from the very second you walk though the doors. Before tasting their wine, you can take a walk through some of the cellars to view the massive barrels.
Contucci excels in their different kinds of Vino Nobile di Montepulicano, an exceptionally excellent red wine found only in this region. Contucci sells multiple Nobiles, each different based on their length of time aged and the process in which they go through. All exquisite in flavor that is very hard to find elsewhere. The Rosso di Montepulciano is extremely smooth and perfect to drink as a casual wine. Cashing in at only 9 euros, the Rosso may be the best wine on the market as it is much cheaper than most commercial brands.
You can choose two wines for a free tasting upon entry before paying an extra 8 euros to sample the rest. The extra cash is worth it, especially if you’re planning on buying something. Start with the Rosso and work your way up on the Nobiles based on their price. Each has a unique flavor that is best differentiated through a tasting. The tasting finishes off with a reserve Vin Santo, a famous dessert wine found throughout the hills of Tuscany and is often accompanied by a biscotti around lunch time or after dinner. Good luck leaving here without purchasing anything, the cellars have been around hundreds of years for good reason.
For the Atmosphere
While driving during my first visit to Montepulciano, I saw a funny and interesting logo of a giant face barring the words, “Vino. Olive Oil. Cheese. Meat”. There was no way I could pass that up as I immediately pulled over to check out the market. The rest is history. Pulcino and its extremely welcoming and friendly staff is what truly made me fall in love with Montepulciano and the rest of Tuscany. Yes, the wine among these gorgeous hills is in my opinion the best in the world, but the authentic, family atmosphere from Pulcino is what gets me every time.
Make sure to visit any of their locations with an empty stomach as they will want you to try everything, and this is not an exaggeration. There have been times when I visited the market, trying 7 different kinds of wine, 6 different cheeses, 4 different meats, bread with olive oil and a limoncello to wash it all down. Another time while eating in the restaurant, they knew I had been there before and wanted me to have a taste of wine. What I thought would only be a little taste was a glass filled to the rim accompanied by a smile and hug. Even when you try to stop stuffing your face, you turn around to see more cheese is being cut up as the sound of a cork pops while another bottle is opened. How can you turn any of that down…? Never say no to happy and kind Italians offering food.
Their samples are always free, but it’s impossible to leave this place empty handed. They have some of the best pecorino cheese around and it goes perfect with their wine. Everything here is worth buying as it is all excellent and the logo is worth showing off to your friends back home. The Solarius Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is my favorite as the Chianti Riserva comes in at a close second. The Rosso di Montepulicano is very smooth while the Bianco is perfect for a hot summer’s day. Make sure to sample all of the wines so you can choose which one you like the best.
They have a few different locations to visit as all are unique and beautiful in their own style. Their main location and restaurant is located just a mile away from the center of Montepulciano @ Strada per Chianciano 146, 37, 53045 Montepulciano SI, Italy. Large in size, there is plenty of space for a delicious, authentic and homemade Italian dinner with a beautiful view of vineyards and the hills surrounding Montepulciano. After eating and drinking some wine, ask to check out the wine cellars in the basement. The building has been around for a few centuries and is nothing short of beautiful. The Pulcino logo hangs on the wall, looking over its’ delicious wines waiting to be bottled.
One of the markets sits right next to the restaurant while the other is located on the streets of Montepulciano @ Via di Gracciano nel Corso, 94-96, 53045 Montepulciano SI, Italy. You can find all of Pulcino’s different wines at both markets as well as a large selection of meats, cheeses and some other various products. There is a shop in the main building/restaurant as well, but the markets are great for tastings and samples. If you’re looking for that true, authentic Italian family atmosphere, this is the place to find it.
For the View
There are probably two main reasons that people travel to Tuscany, the wine and the views. Put them together at the same time and you have a perfect day. Salcheto is not only popular for its delicious wines, it has one of the best views around. Surrounded by vineyards, the wine house lies at the bottom of a hill, looking up at the rustic and beautiful buildings of Montepulciano. All year round, this is a great spot to have a tasting while taking in the scenery.
The tasting includes three different types of their wine and is only 10 euros. They also serve great cheese and meat boards to go along with a tasting. However, the kitchen isn’t open all day, so if you want some food you need to plan a visit during lunch hours. Don’t leave without trying their best seller, “Salco”. This wine is aged 2 years in wood before resting in the cellar. It is their specialty wine and it follows every sense of the word, “special”. Unsurprisingly, the view makes the wine taste even better.
For the “Home Grown” Experience
Many wineries in Tuscany have been around for hundreds of years and are seen as “famous”. It is not always easy to find new vineyards and wineries excelling like the historical places. However, nearby to Montepulciano sits “Capitoni Marco”, a relatively young winery with exceptional taste. They only produce 3 different wines using Sangiovese grapes from the vineyards surrounding their house. A small batch always enhances flavor.
What is very unique about “Capitoni Marco” is the event of a tasting. Unlike other tastings inside of market places, restaurants and wine shops, the one here is done within their own home. The very welcoming family is happy to provide a short tour of the cellar, vineyards and process, followed by a tasting of each wine. I was lucky enough to be alone with the family so I could really spend time talking with them about their wine and the history of their vineyards. A lot of tastings are quick while this one is much more personal and interesting.
It is important to schedule ahead of time as they do not have a lot of space and are still a smaller winery compared to others. However, word on the street is growing fast that they are producing some of the best wine around. The wines steal the show as they are easy for drinking with a fresh and fruity finish. This is yet another visit that is hard to leave empty handed. But don’t worry, they have shipping.
For the Food Pairing
If you’re looking for one place to eat around the Montepulciano area, it is “Ristorante Daria” located in the tiny hilltop town of Montichiello. The food is phenomenal, with each dish serving authentic Italian with a little bit of a twist. If the food doesn’t get you, the atmosphere will. Each guest is served a glass of Prosecco upon entry, followed by some delicious bread, olive oil and a complementary snack from the kitchen which changes daily. The interior is gorgeous and very comforting for sitting all night while embarking on a foodie adventure.
As the food is wonderful in every sense of the word, so is the wine list as it is extensive. You can find any of the wines mentioned above, plus hundreds more. Daria, the owner of the restaurant, has done an incredible job with her wine list, serving an abundant amount of different wines from all around the area. They are all reasonably priced as you can get an excellent bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano anywhere from 18-100 Euros.
While the list is mesmerizing and a bit overwhelming, it is very difficult to pass up on Daria’s own house wine. I admit, it is the best house wine I have ever had. I am a sucker for house wines through out Italy, but I have never had one like this. It is so easy to drink that you have to be careful to not start chugging it like water. If she shipped out her house wine, I would buy it by the barrel.
If you’re uncertain about which wine to go with, ask Daria for some help. She will help you pair any wine to whatever you are eating. She is not only an artist of food, but a scholar of wine. Do not miss out on “Ristorante Daria” for one of the best overall dining experiences in Italy, let alone Tuscany.
Wherever you choose to visit in Montepulciano, or Tuscany in general, it is sure to be a great time. This countryside offers a place of pure tranquility and relaxation that goes best with an elegant glass of wine. During your next vacation out to the famous rolling hills of this landscape, don’t pass up on these 5 places. Cheers to your next adventure in Tuscany!
Have you ever been to Montepulciano or elsewhere in Tuscany…? We would love to hear some more suggestions or recommendations of places to visit. Comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to EGTrotters and follow us on Instagram @egtrotters