The Dei estate lies at the end of a tiny Tuscan road, sequestered from the commercial hoopla that lately surrounds many other Tuscan wineries. To enter the world of Dei is to step back in time. However, that step is not a retreat to the vagaries of yesteryear as the winery is modern and technologically up to date and the vineyards impeccably maintained. However, the house, the manicured gardens, and the glowing atmosphere are straight out of the 1920's. From its surroundings, Dei recalls the ambiance, comfort and confidence of a bygone era. More importantly, the estate's Vino Nobile reflects the overt charm, grace, and conviviality of its owners.
Dei was founded in 1964 when Alibrando Dei bought a parcel of land called Bossona and planted a vineyard of Prugnolo Gentile, the special clone of Sangiovese that is unique to Vino Nobile. Over the next several decades the family developed the vineyard and sold off the juice in bulk. However, in 1985 Alibrando's son, Galileo, decided to rent a cellar and, with no technical assistance, produced the first family named commercial vintage. The bottling was such a success that plans were laid to build a new modern cellar and construction began in 1989.
Today, the estate continues to blossom under the guidance of third generation, Maria Caterina Dei and oenologist Nicolò d'Aflitto. Caterina gave up her career as a professionally trained singer and actress to embrace the family business and is passionately dedicated to producing high quality Vino Nobile that highlights Vino Nobile's outstanding terroir. The current estate's 38 hectares (84 acres) of vineyard are all located in the historic Vino Nobile di Montepulciano zone and are split between four vineyards: Bossona, Martiena, La Ciarliana and La Piaggia. The original Bossona vineyard is located at about 300 meters in an idyllic amphitheatre. It is responsible for Dei's Riserva bottling, while Martiena houses both the cellar and family villa. Production is focused on the local varietals, especially Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile,) Cannaiolo and Mammolo.
Dei produces only about 60,000 bottles of Nobile di Montepulciano, 20,000 bottles of Nobile Riserva (only in the best years), 40,000 bottles of Rosso di Montepulciano and an extremely limited quantity of the highly acclaimed "Super Tuscan" blend Sancta Catherina from Prugnolo Gentile, Syrah, Cabernet, and Petite Verdot.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Even when legions of wine thirsty tourists descend upon the Tuscan hill town of Montepulciano, it manages to retain its charm and characteristic medieval feel. In fact, this bustling town is a strollers' paradise, replete with flower bedecked alleyways and steep steps in place of streets. And thanks to a ban on vehicles in much of the old town, one comes to quickly understand how Montepulciano emerged a pearl of the "16th Century." Set on a steep hill between the Val di Chiana and the Val d'Orcia, Montepulciano is the center of the thriving DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of the greatest and oldest names in Italian wine.
The "noble wine" of Montepulciano has enjoyed its renowned reputation ever since the year 790. Even in the early medieval period, the "Vino Nobile" of Montepulciano was highly sought after, even outside of Montepulciano and the surrounding area. In 1549, Sante Lancerio, maître de chaîne to Pope Paul III, called the Nobile of Montepulciano the "Vino perfettissimo da Signori" or the Preferred Wine of the Nobility. It was, however, the 17th century doctor and poet Francesco Redi, who established the reputation of the Nobile of Montepulciano as "The King of all Wine". The name "Nobile" dates from the era when higher quality wines were exclusively reserved for noble families.
Even today, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is universally recognized as a special wine. Vino Nobile's primary grape variety is the local Prugnolo Gentile, a unique clone of Tuscan Sangiovese that must comprise a minimum 70% of any wine that bears the title of Vino Nobile. Many point to Prugnolo Gentile as the determining factor in the quality quotient of Vino Nobile. And with the supreme polish and depth of flavor that one sees in the finest Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, it would be hard to refute the claim. Since 1980 the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has enjoyed the distinction of DOCG status, one of the first wines in Italy to be so named
In order to be called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a wine must, also, be matured in wooden casks for at least two years, starting from the 1st of January following the harvest. After maturing for three years, Vino Nobile is entitled to be called "Riserva". Prugnolo Gentile must always be the primary grape variety, but other traditional Tuscan varieties such as Malvasia Nero, Canaiolo Nero, Colorino, and Mammolo are also permitted. Small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet are now legal in Vino Nobile as well.