Montepulciano d'Abruzzo


Origin: Abruzzo
Grape: Montepulciano (plump, spherical grapes with purple coloring)
Flavors: Red Plum, Oregano, Sour Cherry, Boysenberry, Tobacco
Notable Regions: Abruzzo, Marche, Molise, Puglia
Sweetness: Dry
Body: Medium-Full
Tannins: High
Acidity: High
ABV: 11.5-13.5%

Montepulciano is the main grape behind everyone's favorite Italian Red Wine, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

The History of Montepulciano

Montepulciano originated in central Italy, with the first historic report of the wine dating back to 1793. However, it was not until the late 20th and early 21st century that Montepulciano became Italy’s most widely exported indigenous grape variety, after Sangiovese. Montepulciano is now one of Italy’s most popular red wine grapes, due to its reliably high yields and easy-to-drink wine, making it popular with producers and consumers alike.

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

The most famous Montepulciano wine is known as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which is produced in the Abruzzo region of Eastern Italy. With mountainous terrain in the west and dry breezes and sunlight in the east, high volumes of Montepulciano are grown on the low hills right in between — the perfect recipe for ripe, plump grapes. While all four provinces of Abruzzo produce Montepulciano, the grape is often grown in excessively high volumes, which can lead to the production of some lesser quality wines. The finest examples of Montepulciano come from the northern province of Teramo, due to the area’s less fertile soils, more ferrous clay and limestone, and high elevation. These wines exhibit the grape’s naturally high acidity, tannin, and alcohol. However, Italy is not the only place for Montepulciano, as this wine is also produced in California, New Zealand, and Australia.

It is important to note that Montepulciano is both a grape variety and the name of a village in Tuscany. For this reason, Montepulciano is commonly confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano — but don’t get them mixed up! While Montepulciano is a red wine that is produced with grapes of the same name, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a red wine produced with Sangiovese grapes in Tuscany.

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Wine Infographic

Montepulciano Taste and Flavor

Montepulciano is known for its deep color, powerful tannins, and fairly high amount of acidity. With strong aromas and flavors, the most notable flavors of Montepulciano include hints of oregano, pepper, tobacco, and black fruits. However, the taste of this rustic wine can be dramatically influenced by how it is aged.

Oak-aged Montepulciano

Using oak barrels to ferment wine is a very common practice, dating back to the early days of Roman wine-making. When wine is aged in oak barrels, it develops flavors from the wood. These barrels can also be toasted to varying degrees, adding a smoky or toasty flavor to the wine. For this reason, oak-aged Montepulciano exhibits a taste of chocolate, vanilla, and mocha, in addition to black fruit flavors such as boysenberry, blackberry, and prune. The rich taste of oak-aged Montepulciano makes it a more popular choice abroad.

Neutral-aged Montepulciano

After the first year of use, oak barrels can quickly lose their flavoring ability, turning them into neutral barrels. Neutral barrels allow oxygen to be introduced into the wine more slowly, resulting in a softening effect. However, this fermentation process can take quite a long time. To allow for more drinkability in the wine’s earlier years, some producers of Montepulciano create blends or rosatos by having less contact with the grape skins during fermentation. Because of this, neutral-aged Montepulciano has strong red fruit flavors such as sour cherry, red plum, and cranberry, supported by subtle notes of dried herbs and earthy tones.

Montepulciano Food Pairings

Due to its naturally high acidity and ripe tannins, Montepulciano pairs well with savory foods, including meats, pizzas, and tomato-based pastas. But why?

Acidity is an important component of wine pairing due to the ways that it can heighten certain flavors. While rich foods can coat the mouth, making it hard for other flavors to shine through, wines that are higher in acidity can cut through the richness. Tannin works to the same effect, stripping fat from the tongue and cleansing the palate with each sip.

The Best Montepulciano Food Pairings

Montepulciano is best enjoyed with hearty, savory dishes, such as beef brisket, hamburgers, beef bolognese, tagliatelle, ragu, and high-protein pizzas. It’s also a great option for grill enthusiasts, pairing well with smoked or barbecued meats. For an added bonus, meat that is seasoned with with sage, basil, rosemary, or thyme will compliment the wine’s herbal and earthy tones.

Meat dishes are not the only pairing for Montepulciano. It can stand as a tasty addition to rich, roasted vegetables that are offered during the winter months, including baked potatoes, mushrooms, beetroot, and tomatoes, making it a perfect wine for colder weather. When it comes to cheese, try a glass of Montepulciano with aged cheddar, asiago, or parmesan.

Looking for a great wine to enjoy with Asian food? Pair Montepulciano with savory dishes that are seasoned with garlic, sesame, ginger, or soy sauce for a perfect match. If you like to eat Korean barbeque or Peking duck, this wine is for you.

Food Pairings to Avoid With Montepulciano

Pairing Montepulciano with the wrong foods can result in a combination of ingredients and flavors that overwhelm your palate. When enjoying Montepulciano, it is best to avoid light and simple dishes, like salads and raw fish. Spicy foods do not usually pair well either, as it can make the wine very bitter or increase the taste of alcohol.

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Our Selection of Montepulciano

  • Italy: 2017 Cantus Montepulciano d’Abruzzo - This medal-winner and customer favorite has a beautiful ruby red color and a robust feel, with rustic aromas of tobacco and leather. Sink into a glass like it’s your favorite armchair.
  • Italy: 2017 Cala De’ Poeti Montepulciano D’Abruzzo - Made from 100% Montepulciano grapes grown in a restricted territory on the central Italian hills, it’s no surprise that this wine won a gold medal at the 2019 San Diego International Wine Competition.

Montepulciano in a Nutshell

Overall, Montepulciano is a popular red wine with bold tastes and rustic flavors. With notes of fruit, herbs, and tobacco, it’s no wonder this easy-to-drink wine has made Montepulciano one of Italy’s most widely exported grapes! Widely enjoyed by wine enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike, Montepulciano is a substantial value wine that is both delicious and sophisticated.

Enjoy a glass with your favorite pizzas, pastas, or meat dishes — you simply can’t go wrong with this versatile variety.

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