Valentini, vertical tasting of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo: 1800 - 2006. The long and winding road of perfect style.


 

 

The time of the Valentini family is measured in hundreds of years and their wealth of experience is nourished by a depth that has few comparisons worldwide. Some of the barrels still used by the Valentini household date back to the 18th century and the grape harvest notes that Francesco Paolo refers to on winter afternoons start from the mid 19th century. As a result his reflections on wines are fed by an extraordinary experience and, paradoxically, he has the freedom to change, because change is history's vocation. The tasting which took place on December 18th was a chance for him to share an itinerary that has called into question the way Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is conceived. The 2012 vintage, which did not feature at the tasting, but which I had a preview tasting of in July, is the perfect summary of the new and very elegant itinerary of one of the best and long-lived wines in Italy. I tried dividing the tasting in chapters to highlight the plot of this wonderful itinerary.
 
1880 1890 1896
1957 1958
1960 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
1970 1971 1973 1974 1975 1977 1979
1984 1985
1990 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997
2000 2001 2002 2006
 
Eighteen hundred:
1880, 1890, 1896 vintages
These vintages were kept in 15 litre demijohns sealed with a layer of olive oil, cork and sealing wax and then bottled by Edoardo Valentini in the 1950s. When opened they "breathed", an unmistakable sign that they are alive. The wines are obviously oxidised, but one can still read the key elements of that "mythical" harmony that ties alcohol, essence and acidity and which for years has been the object of reflection by Francesco Paolo Valentini. The wines are beyond tertiarization, but it's still possible to detect the sapidity and the freshness, some incredibly complex aromas (gentian, bee's wax, a citrusy touch, cypress, coffee powder) and an enchanting grace. And it's this extreme elegance and agility that enchants Francesco Paolo Valentini, who has raised these three vintages to style references.
 
The 1950s:
1957 1958
These are vintages the family did not follow directly and Francesco Paolo does not recognize the family style and the setting. The wines are a bit rigid, with vegetable notes that are rare in Valentini wines and with surprisingly Mediterranean notes.
 
The 1960s:
1960 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
It's a not a series that sparkles for fineness and wines with different souls alternate. Generally speaking, a sensitive hand guiding the choices was lacking and  the reference style is not continuous. These are good wines, but Francesco Paolo's style search is seeking a key that does not surface here. Among these wines, the 1965 vintage distinguishes itself, it's mineral and sulphurous (gunflint above all else), original compared to others in the series. In the remaining wines, the tones are earthy, in some cases a smoked hint emerges, there are recalls of cocoa. The bottles of 1969 were slightly emptied and this might have compromised the reading of a vintage with a fierce acidity and a lemon note finish.
 
 
 
 
The 1970s:
1970 1971 1973 1974 1975 1977 1979
A good series where one can fully appreciate Edoardo Valentini's hand. These are elegant wines that from the point of view of style can indicate a possible balance of this wine. The typical marker of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, charcoal fire, surfaces and then a midpalate waterfall of embers, toasting and a sapidity that finishes the palate. In 1979 Edoardo anticipated the harvest so he could be near his father who was passing away  and the wine suffers from green hints and an unresolved plot. Another vintage that features slightly emptied bottles and a harvest that was obviously difficult is the one of 1977. Very good vintages are 1970, elegant and austere, 1971, which features an animal hint and great austerity, and 1973 which is saltish and agile, graceful and typical. The best of the series is maybe the 1975 vintage, with hints of charcoal fire, saltish recalls and an acidity that draws it away every time is risks becoming too heavy. The finish is citrusy and dry.
 
The 1980s:
1984 1985
It's not a long series and maybe quite unlucky, given that 1984 is the result of unhappy harvest choices (picked too early). The 1985 vintage is a bit evolved, too charming.
 
 
 
 
The 1990s:
1990 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997
These are years when Montepulciano achieved success when interpreted on volume and the times mark Valentini's production. Wines of a certain richness, elegant, but structured, quite rightly different according to the vintage, surprising in difficult years like 1992 (rainy) and 1997. The least interesting one in the series perhaps is 1994, with recalls of black olives that block the development of complexity. This vintage, together with 1993, made me think of late harvests.
 
Current times, or almost:
2000 2001 2002 2006
Francesco Paolo's research has found an answer and this small series is an exemplary progression. We start with the 2000 and 2001 couple, wines that distend, but do not find the happiness of developing the complexity and elegance of the vine variety. Maybe austerity is lacking, but the result, despite being excellent, never surprises. The 2002 wine is very elegant, subtle and distended, full of strength and glimpses, with a surprising finish where it gives off without tiring citrusy recalls together with embers and charcoal fire. The 2006 vintage is just reduced, a characteristic that exalts minerality (even tar) and projects it towards a composed palate, tidy, but also unpredictable in a  few passages. It's a wine that has freed itself from a tannic plot that could get in the way of grace, in perfect balance.
 
Vertical tasting of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Azienda Agricola Valentini
Wednesday the 18th of January 2013
Ais Roma
Hotel Cavalieri Hilton
Led by Paolo Lauciani 

Tags: Azienda Agricola Valentini / edoardo valentini / francesco valentini / montepulciano d'abruzzo / giorgio melandri /

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