My visit to the Crociani Cellar happens in a peculiar time of the year for Montepulciano, those days of august between the Bruscello and the Bravìo delle Botti, two main events of the town. The streets are crowded with tourists eager to taste the famous Vino Nobile and to discover the amazing beauty of the “Renaissance Pearl”. Despite this time of the year is the busiest one, the crowd doesn’t interfere at all with my tour of the cellar.
Both for its placement and for its personality, the Crociani Cellar can be considered like an entrance door to Montepulciano: not just wine, but also music, art, tradition and culture. Everything the city has to offer to its citizen and to its visitors can be found in a single, sixty years old tiny cellar high in the town center.
Susanna, the owner, welcomes me: wonderful storyteller of the history and peculiarities of her cellar, with her attitude can make everyone feel at ease. She’s good with words, and loves to tell about her wine not only with words, but also with her blog and through the social networks: in fact, she was one of the first winemakers to use the modern communication tools to help promote her wine. She started her blog in 2004 and made an intensive use of Twitter since 2010; she was able to understand how to use such tools to find importers, to chat with a community of wine lovers and to spread the name of Montepulciano around the world.
“Nowadays I have a lot of work to do and I don’t have much time to take care of them anymore – she says to me – but a few years ago I was called to join some important conferences, I was considered a case history for the social media in the wine industry”.
This year, the Crociani Cellar celebrates its first sixty years of activity. It was founded by Susanna’s father Arnaldo, who used to work for local winemakers, and who had always dreamed to open his own cellar. Since he was a boy he had been making wine and vinsanto in a rended cellar; then, in 1985, the wine became true and the passion turned into a proper job, from cellarman to winemaker.
Susanna turned her life upside down in 1999, when her father Arnaldo died: as a person who didn’t drink alcohol, she had to start taking care of the Vino Nobile. For many years she had worked for the Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte di Montepulciano, becoming its director, and for a few years she was in Rome arranging tours for musical acts. But she ended up running her father’s cellar, something she had never imagined. “In life you should never day never. I always told him ‘dad, you’ll never see me in the cellar’. And now, here I am.”
The transition from the universe of music and culture to that of wine isn’t that unusual, in Montepulciano. Since the beginning, the Crociani family cared a lot about their visitors, aiming to become more than just wine producers; they wanted their cellar to be a welcoming place, a place to promote Montepulciano. The Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte, the Bravìo delle Botti and even the Bruscello, for which Arnaldo had been storyteller for fifty years: the great love for the territory and for the main events of Montepulciano are clear at first sight when you enter the cellar.
“We want to tell a story from two thousand years ago, the times of King Porsena: it’s not just the Vino Nobile, but also the town that makes it. You can’t make wine in Montepulciano if you don’t respect the town and you can’t integrate with it. Maybe you could still make a good wine, but if you cover the label you won’t recognize it. Here we have the tables in the middle of the cellar, just as you’re coming to dinner at my place and I offer you a glass of wine.”
The bond between the Crociani Cellar and the music and art of Montepulciano are also made evident by the peculiar relationship with the Palazzo Ricci academy, to which they dedicate some labels. Since fifteen year ago they’ve been also taking care of the wine tastings with the students of the Kennesaw State University, who came this year to settle inside the restored Fortress. They try to make a system: promote the local specialties all around the world, not just the wine; promoting what makes Montepulciano unique among all the other realities, its own features:
“This is a place where dreams and passion mingle with the grapes and turn into wine. – says Susanna – When you enter the cellar you should be nurtured and respected, thrilled by our stories. It doesn’t matter if you buy a bottle of my wine: what matters is that, when you leave, you bring a piece of Montepulciano with you. If it gets into your heart, you’ll come back!”.
The love for the peculiarities of Montepulciano doesn’t put the main product of the Crociani Cellar in the background: the Vino Nobile, that is produced in roughly fifty thousand bottles per year. Other than the Nobile and the Rosso, the Crociani Cellar produces a great vinsanto thanks to over a hundred caratelli (kegs), and a grappa of Nobile. And two very important IGTs: “Rosso d’Arnaldo”, a recipe of Susanna’s dad, born from his long experience as cellarman and minstrel, that maintains the old way to make Vino Nobile with a 5% of white grapes; and “Segreto di Giorgio”, dedicated to her brother and to the secret recipe he was preparing before his departure.
Thanks to a constant effort toward internationalization, the Crociani Vino Nobile is mainly distributed in the United States, UK, Denmark, Germany, Austria and Japan. An effort to promote Montepulciano in the world, not only its wine, but also its culture, art, music and history and everything that makes this wonderful tuscan town unique.
“All the cellars need to tour all around the world, you can’t just sit and expect it to comes to you. There’s a great competition and you need to commit yourself to show what makes Montepulciano different from other realities. Here you don’t just breathe the scent of the wine as a consequence of the vine cultivation, but of the vine culture.”