For journalists, if you spot something new three times, that’s enough to make a trend.
At Borders last week, I started leafing through Pour Girl Gourmet and spotted Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in her excellent chapter on value wines. On Friday at the movies, they downed copious amounts of the wine in George Clooney’s new thriller The American. Then, this week, the Dallas Morning News called Montepulciano their Wine of the Week!
Disclaimer: This is my absolute, bar none, favorite wine.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to write about it, actually. I order Montepulciano d’Abruzzo whenever I see it on a wine list. The vineyard doesn’t especially matter; I’ve only come across maybe one bottle ever that didn’t absolute delight me and my dinner companion of the moment.
Enough to Make Conversation
Smooth, fruity, and rustic? Not a combination you taste often, but that’s because Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines aren’t yet ubiquitous.
With a low price point and wines that can be drunk young without losing complexity or overwhelming you with tannins, this is a wine you should definitely add to your dinner repertoire.
Region: Abruzzo, Italy
Flavor: soft, juicy, rustic
Color: ruby red
How to Serve: room temperature
Well-known Brands: Cantina Zaccagnini, Valle Reale, Emidio Pepe
When to Drink: This wine is built well for aging. Reserve wines must age at least two to three years before release, so you can feel safe holding on to this wine for a while. Some wines can last even 20 or 30 years.
How to Pair: Past one’s college years, I am reluctant to call anything a “sipping” wine, but this wine is great on its own or with a spot of Italian cheese. Otherwise, serve Montepulciano with the food it is eaten with in Italy–pasta in red sauce, pork, or lamb. It even holds up against red chilies.
Like nearly anything in Italy, the Montepulciano grape dates back at least two thousand years. But, like most things in Abruzzo, the background is a bit vague.
Historians in the 18th century pinpointed the grape’s origin to Abruzzi, and it is mentioned in historical documents through the 17th and 18th centuries. However, it didn’t receive its official DOC designation until 1968. But hey, the current Italian Republic only began in 1946.
Fun Party Facts
(1) Montepulciano is both a wine grape and a town, but the grape is not grown in the town of its name. The Vino Nobile from the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany is often confused by American consumers with the Montepulciano wine, which is grown in another part of the country.
(2) Montepulciano is a very juicy grape, and a small harvest can go a long way. The Abruzzo region is historically impoverished, so this bountiful output is important.
(3) East of Rome, stretching from the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic sea, growing space in Abruzzo is practically unlimited due to the sparse population.
The craving for cheap wines may be surging, but merely cheap is no bargain. What’s needed are wines that obey the dictates of the dwindling bank account while satisfying the craving for reliable refreshment and restoration, and even piquing the interest a bit. That’s where montepulciano d’Abruzzo comes in.
Eric Asimov, Wine of the Times, New York Times