Women In Wine: Susanna Crociani From Crociani Winery in Montepulciano

I have been meaning to write about Susanna Crociani since we first met at Vinitaly 2007. In the interest of transparency, I want to point out that I have spent considerable amounts of time with her and we are good friends. In fact, Susanna was just staying with me for the past week during Vino 2010 and we were speaking together on a panel regarding Social Media on Wednesday together with Alder Yarrow of Vinography, Doug Cook, Head of search at Twitter and founder of Able Grape, Steve Raye of Brand Action and Anthony Dias Blue.

Susanna spoke at length about her experiences writing her wine blog which she began in 2006. To view the panel, please click here.

I have been tasting and drinking Susanna’s wines for about three years now and think they are terrific. My favorite is her Vin Santo. We just opened a bottle of the 1999 at dinner on Friday. It didn’t disappoint and was filled with dried nuts, honey and caramel. I am in the mood for Susanna’s Vin Santo at the end of a meal. Many people tasted her wine during the Grand Tasting on Friday so I think that someone else can give more extensive tasting notes on her wines. Instead, I wanted to share a conversation that we had about Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Wine has been made in Montepulciano for 2500 years starting with the Etruscan King Porsenna. Throughout the centuries it has been a favorite of illustrious men including two American statesmen, Thomas Jefferson and Vian Buren.

The Consorzio for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was created in 1965 and it became a DOCG wine or Denominazione d’orgine controllata e garantita in 1980, long before many other famous wines. Most of the vineyards are located at between 250 and 600 meters above sea level. Vino Nobile spends at least one year aging in wood and another in the bottle before it is released into the market. Many producers put it into oak barrels for a longer period of time. In order to have the denomination, Riserva on the label, the wine must spend three years aging with at least six months in the bottle.

“Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has a marketing problem because it is squeezed between Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico,” Susanna said in our chat. “We are also making the wrong choices.”

“Look at the new legislation. Now you are allowed to add 30% of any grape to the blend while 70% must be Sangiovese Grosso. This is a huge problem because the wines aren’t comparable if everyone uses different grapes and you are taking away our tradition. What we have is a strong tradition and that is what we should be promoting,” She added.

Previously the wine was supposed to have 70% Prugnolo Gentile, at most 20% Canaiolo Nero or 20% other grapes with only 10% white grapes allowed.

Alessandro Baricco, a noted Italian writer coined the phrase Hollywood wines for wines that try to hide their identity or use lots of make up. According to Susanna, Vino Nobile doesn’t need make-up but needs more attention.

When I asked about collaboration between producers, Susanna said that there was a considerable amount of fragmentation and not as much collaboration as she would like. However, she sounded a note of optimism stating that there seems to be some movement towards working together.

This is also the case and is necessary because Tuscany doesn’t have the same appeal as it once did. “We all have to work towards relaunching Tuscany as a region, its wines and its food. I have noticed happily that the Italian Trade Commission is working hard to help facilitate this as are the local authorities such as the Camera di Commercio di Siena and the PromoSiena,” Susanna added.

“There have been many initiatives both in the province of Siena and abroad. The Camera di Commercio helped sponsor numerous producers which enabled them to come to the event in NYC, otherwise it would have been very difficult. They also sponsored the innovative panel on Social Media at the VINO2010 event which seemed to be a success,” she added.

Reflecting on her 2007 Vino Nobile, Susanna noted that is was an excellent year and the wine was fuller bodied and more intense than in 2006 and 2008 with a deeper color. “This wine can age 10 to 15 years easily,” She added. The 2007 bottling was her first without her dear brother Giorgio who passed away in May 2007 at the too young age of 50. Susanna has dedicated a wine to Giorgio called Il Segreto di Giorgio. She refuses to say what’s in the wine and smiles enigmatically when I press her.

She also has a wine dedicated to her father, Arnaldo, which isn’t sold in the United States, at least not yet. I love that wine and drink it happily everytime I visit her at her Agritourism farm called Le Cantastorie look forward to going back soon, maybe after Vinitaly 2010, if I am lucky.

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8 thoughts on “Women In Wine: Susanna Crociani From Crociani Winery in Montepulciano

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  1. Regarding Vin Santo, I learned this summer that the original or as the folks on the island told me, the “real” Vin Santo has its origins on the Greek island of Santorini (Wine of Santorini…Vin Santo). They are produced similar to Vin Santo of Italy…sun dried to concentrate the flavor and sugars. Similarly-named Schilfwein of Austria, and I presume many other countries are variants.

  2. Steve- Thanks for writing in. I bet the Tuscans would beg to differ about the origins of Vin Santo but no matter, what is important is that they produce the stuff.

    I love dessert wines made from dried grapes, a tradition which is actually followed up and down the Italian peninsula. What I really would like is for there to be more Italian dessert wines on restaurant menus.

  3. Susannah:

    Nice post- sorry I didn’t taste the Crociani wines this past Friday, but too much going on! I’ll remember the next time.

    Some interesting comments from Susanna, especially about the grape varieties being used in Vino Nobile. I do agree that this wine is being squeezed in between Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino, which is a shame, as it’s a lovely, important wine in its own right. But she is correct that the wine must have a separate identity.

  4. Great post, and thanks for posting that conference.
    Nobile definitely flies under the radar in many senses, but that also means there is good QPR there, so this may be their time to shine!

    Steve, in my sommelier course here in Italy they told us that the grapes used for vin santo are/were often harvested on holy friday (?), before easter, and hence the name. Many also say it is because at one time it was the traditional wine drunk at mass. There are probably several stories!

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