Abruzzo is perhaps an overlooked region, and the same could be said (unfairly) about its wines. We see what the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape has to offer
The standing of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines has become more significant on the international stage over the past decade, but they are still seriously underrated outside Italy. It is a fascinating variety, offering something for everyone: drink it young and enjoy the light, cherry flavours, or savour the dark complexity of the more mature examples. The origins of the Montepulciano grape variety are relatively unknown; the name is the same as the Tuscan town but should not be confused with Vino Nobile and Vino Rosso di Montepulciano, made using the Sangiovese grape variety. This wine has a noble history, though, with accounts of its consumption by the soldiers of Hannibal’s army on their march through Italy.
As well as the younger styles we can now buy from the supermarkets, easy-drinking and light; the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape is capable of greatness, delivering rich, warming reds best laid down for a good two to three years before drinking, as they need time to mellow and mature. This month, we’re sampling wines from both ends of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo spectrum. Turn the page to see how we fared.
Discovery of the month
Montipagano Organic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2017
Made from organically grown Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes, this award-winning wine is bright ruby in the glass, and has a delightfully fruity ‘summer’ bouquet – think strawberries and red plums. On the palate, it’s smooth and medium-bodied with even more fruit, rich with damson and mulberry. Long and satisfying on the mellow finish.
Pair with: Serve with pleasure and slices of rare roasted beef, a hearty venison casserole or slow-cooked lamb
From: Great Western Wine, £10.95
The best of the rest…
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC, La Piuma 2017
This lively Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Waitrose continues to delight with its excellent quality at an affordable price. The bouquet of black cherry and damson makes way for abundant forest fruits with a hint of warming spice aromats on the palate. Definitely one to try, this wine is mellow and medium-bodied with smooth tannins, so you’ll find it eminently drinkable whether you pair it with food or simply serve as your party red wine this season.
Pair with: Pasta with tomato-based sauces or a slice of classic Margherita pizza
From: Waitrose, £7.99
Alta Quota Gran Sasso DOCG 2012
Gran Sasso wines are made by Valentino Sciotti and his team. All their wines have a freshness and vivacity that sets them apart from many in the premium Montepulciano d’Abruzzo production zone of Colline Teramane (the Teramo Hills). This violet-hued wine has an intense nose of dark fruit, spice and a hint of chocolate. Robust and spicy, with plenty more ripe dark fruit, it has a smoky, dark chocolate finish. An elegantly balanced wine with good structure and fine tannins.
Pair with: Grilled pork chops with rosemary or pasta with a beef ragù
From: Liberty Wine, £21.99
Le Vigne di Faraone Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2015
The Faraone family have produced their Montepulciano d’Abruzzo since the 1970s and you can taste their expertise in this well-balanced wine, almost purple in the glass, with heady aromas of blackberry and black cherry. More fruits of the forest with notes of tobacco and liquorice follow on the palate, while silky-smooth tannins and a refreshing acidity ensure a long, pleasing finish. Even better in a few years’ time.
Pair with: Slow-roasted lamb, or a bowl of pasta, tomato sauce and meatballs
From: Berry Bros & Rudd, £18.75
Majestic Loves Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2017
This bright and breezy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is from the ‘Majestic Loves’ entry-level range of wines from the company. With flavours of ripe plum, red cherry, and a subtle herby note on the palate, this straightforward wine is full of fruit and easy to drink. With a lower ABV than some bottles here, you have a light-bodied wine with subtle character and gentle tannins on the satisfying finish. Drink young.
Pair with: From pizza to pan-fried liver or a warming plate of herby salsicce and polenta
From: Majestic Wines, £6.99 (or £5.99 each for a case of six)
Umani Ronchi Montepulciano D’Abruzzo ‘Jorio’ DOC 2015
Umani Ronchi is based in Le Marche, although they do also have vineyards across the border in Abruzzo, where this wine is produced. Made with grapes from a single vineyard, this is a full-bodied wine of distinction. A plum, herb and red cherry bouquet gives way to deeper flavour on the palate with damson and earthy liquorice. With firm, smooth tannins from ageing in oak, you’ll savour the wine’s ample finish.
Pair with: Drink with a good fillet steak, or how about the earthiness of porcini?
From: Great Western Wine, £13.50
For more great Italian wines to try, we’ve got lots of reviews here.