Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Wines Offer Much More than Just a Bargain Price

Montepulciano is a native Italian red grape variety of great but oftentimes unrealized potential that flourishes in the mountainous Abruzzo region - hence its name, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It is the primary red grape variety of the Abruzzo region and accounts for nearly all of the region’s DOC/DOCG red wines. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (mon ta pul chee’ ahn no dah broot’ zoh) wines generally have deep colors, soft flavors and gentle tannins.

While the Montepulciano variety originated in Abruzzo, it is a prolific grower and can be found in other regions in central and southern Italy. Since it is a thick-skinned, late-ripening variety it doesn’t fare well in cooler northern climates but flourishes in the Abruzzo region with its abundant sunshine, generous rainfall and beneficial breezes from the Adriatic Sea.

Montepulciano is a dark, plump and generous grape capable of producing intense and long-lived wines. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines must have a minimum of 85 percent Montepulciano with up to 15 percent Sangiovese permitted.

While extremely popular in the Abruzzo region, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines are generally underappreciated and overlooked by wine enthusiasts elsewhere. However, a new generation of inspired winemakers is raising the profile of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines. They are producing rich, flavorful, complex and extremely food-friendly wines that compare favorably with wines made from more popular Nebbiolo and Sangiovese varietals.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines generally provide real value at any price point. While the majority is priced under $25 some Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines from marquee producers carry price tags approaching triple digits. But regardless of price, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines seldom disappoint and generally provide real value across the price spectrum. My choices for November’s “wines of the month” illustrate this point.

Wine for november – under $20

Farnese Fantini, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2012 (about $12)

The Farnese Group is a large and dynamic company that owns a number of wineries throughout southern Italy. With a total annual production of about 13 million bottles it is one of southern Italy’s largest wine exporters.

The Fantini winery in northern Abruzzo is the group’s flagship winery and they are currently in the process of “rebranding” themselves as Farnese Fantini. The winery’s recently renovated plant and equipment now include state-of-the-art vinification and ageing facilities.

Located in the Chieti province in northern Abruzzo, the Fantini vineyards are situated on the slopes of a mountain range with elevations ranging from sea level to almost 10,000 feet. The good southern exposure, abundant sunshine and curative breezes from the Adriatic provide a positive microclimate for the vineyards and the grapes thrive in this locale.

2012 Farnesi Fantini Montepulciano d'AbruzzoThe 2012 Farnese Fantini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is made entirely of Montepulciano from the estate’s vineyards. The grapes are softly pressed then macerated and fermented in stainless steel at controlled temperatures for almost 2 weeks. The wine does not undergo any oak ageing but spends about 2 months ageing in the bottle prior to release.

Bright ruby red in color, this Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has an intense fruity bouquet of raspberries and red cherries. It has a medium-bodied, slightly tannic frame and delivers a surprisingly rich mouthful of smooth dark fruit flavors with some earthy, rustic notes that give the wine an interesting and engaging texture.

This is a quality wine that is sure to please at a very modest price. Pair it with mushroom risotto, eggplant lasagna or pasta with veal, sausage or porcini ragu.

Wine for november – $20 and over

La Valentina, “Spelt” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2011 (about $21)

Sabatino DiProperzio established the La Valentina winery in 1990 near Spoltore in the hills west of Pescara in the Abruzzo region. Along with consulting enologist Luca D’Attoma they have within a very short period established a reputation for producing quality wines that reflect the unique and distinctive terroir of the Abruzzo region. DiProperzio takes a very traditional approach to farming based on organic and biodynamic farming methods with the objective of helping the vines grow naturally and healthy so as to enable the wines to exhibit their best. But he is also not averse to utilizing modern techniques and technology when appropriate to enhance the quality of the wines.

La Valentina’s “Spelt” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva is made 2011 La Valentina "Spelt" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riservaentirely of hand-harvested Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes from several of the estate’s prime, south-facing vineyards. The grapes undergo maceration and fermentation for three weeks followed by ageing part of the wine in large (25 hl) oak barrels and part in barriques. After a careful barrel by barrel selection the wines are blended and aged further in large oak barrels. After 18 months the wines are bottled unfiltered and aged for an additional year prior to release for sale.

After a gentle swishing the wine comes together beautifully in the glass. The bouquet has depth and breadth yielding scents of red currants and cherries and kitchen spice notes. It is full-bodied with a core of fruit-driven flavors framed by good acidity and soft tannins. It is a well-made, elegant wine with nothing over-ripe or accentuated, just an exceptional balance of fruit, acidity and tannins and a very long stylish finish. This is not an over-the-top wine, rather one that seduces and captivates and its youthful profile holds even greater promise for the future.

La Valentina’s “Spelt” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva is a great companion for meals where grilled or roasted lamb is on the menu. There’s nothing like an elegant and complex Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva with grilled marinated leg of lamb.


©Richard Marcis
November 8, 2015

To view other wine of the month selections, see Monthly Wine Reviews

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