Echoing cellars and streetside spots provide the backdrop for chilled glasses in this drink-loving town, where local volcanic rock is used to keep bottles at the perfect temperature. Here are the best bars in Montepulciano.
You may know Montepulciano as the fruity, robust red wine of the same name, but not for its quaint hill-town home – a neighbour of Siena, in the southern reaches of Tuscany. But this huddle of cottages and churches with rust-red roofs, surrounded by vineyards, is well worth your time when exploring the region. It is a heartland of Renaissance art and architecture, with a handsome, cafe-lined main square and a romantic, faded castle to explore. But, really, you’re here to drink the wine – on alfresco patios and in cooled cellar tasting rooms, poured by locals who really know their grapes.
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In a competitive field, this enoteca (wine shop meets tasting room) is one of the most stylish and informative spots to learn about local wine. As well as plummy, potent bottles of montepulciano, you might try lavender vinegar, pecorino cheese with honey, or bread with olive oil, alongside the reasonably priced wines dispensed from techy temperature-controlled cabinets. Factor in a cool, cavernous stone-clad tasting room, and it’s a chic and modern way to sink a few glasses.
Arty black-and-white photography hangs on ochre stone walls at this generously sized bar, which hosts live jazz nights and oyster tastings, as well as serving wines nightly to a well-heeled, older set of drinkers. It’s part of a palazzo-turned-boutique-hotel, Locanda di San Francesco, but there’s none of the stiff businesslike quality of a traditional hotel bar. Instead, colourfully splashed canvases and a buzzy terrace with views of the piazza give it a bohemian, social-hub feel.
This self-guided, interactive wine tour takes you through a slick, air-conditioned tasting room of glass tables and polished woods, with transparent floors showing you the town’s ancient fortress ruins beneath your feet. Load up a payment card, and select your perfectly cooled wine from the whizzy glass and steel dispensers, dipping into a menu of charcuterie, caprese salads and local consorzio bean soup to pair with your favourites. It’s right on the edge of town, with dazzling views down to the Tuscan countryside.
This swish old dining and drinking spot has the feel of a European grand cafe, with dainty desserts displayed in glass cabinets, silky upholstery, potted palms and elegant crown moulding on the ceiling. But, really, you come here for the terrace: a wrought-iron balcony with an expansive, panoramic view of the broccoli-green forest and patchwork-like farmland. Sit out in the breeze for a coffee, cake, glass of wine or one of the many old-school liqueurs stacked by the counter.
Most nights in rural Italy, all you want is a pavement-side table on a balmy side street, with a bit of atmosphere – and that’s exactly what you get at this chilled wine bar, its patio trimmed with potted shrubs and hand-scribbled blackboards. It’s a popular aperitivo spot for young locals, who summon ice buckets and mini-dishes of crisps from late afternoon onward. For an unusual souvenir, pop into the shop area for one of its boozy jams, made with gin, vodka or bitters.
Founded by two expert sommeliers from local restaurant Osteria del Borgo, this pretty brick-built wine shop and tasting room has a lighthearted, quirky feel. A huge corkscrew sculpture sits above a counter stuffed with chubby cheese wheels, smiley, helpful staff wear matching aprons, and wonky wooden beams and peeling stable doors add a sense of history. Choose from the selection of clear, accessible “flights” to taste a few in one go. Not into wine? You can sample Italian beers here, too.
Looking for more recommendations? Make a weekend of it and book a stay at one of the best hotels in Montepulciano – you can do it right here on Culture Trip. If you’re interested in the best things to do while in town, you can choose between wine tastings, local hikes and more. No trip to Italy would be complete without exploring the local food scene – you can sample some of the best Tuscan cooking at these top restaurants.
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