Montepulciano is a medium-bodied red wine grape that is supposed to have originated in central Italy. Montepulciano wines are commonly confused with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, a regional name for the Sangiovese-based wine in Tuscany.
Montepulciano is the 2nd most planted red grape in Italy (after Sangiovese) and has had a reputation for low-priced juicy “pizza-friendly” red wines. Fortunately, there are several producers in Abruzzo that have shown the amazing potential of this grape by producing inky, black-fruit driven, chocolatey wines best enjoyed after 4 or more years of aging.
Pairing Food with Montepulciano Wine
Medium-bodied red wines like Montepulciano generally pair with a wide variety of foods due to natural elevated acidity. However, with Montepulciano, the robust herbal and tobacco-like flavors with grippy tannin often call for richer and more savory foods.
Montepulciano will cut through some of the meatiest meats (like beef brisket) and pair nicely alongside rich, roasted winter vegetables. If you learn only one tip about pairing with Montepulciano, it is to match it with something with substance (fat).
Meat: Roasted Pork Shoulder, Beef Burgers with Mushrooms, Beef Bolognese, Barbecued Beef Brisket, Beef Tacos, Braised Goat, Meatloaf;
Cheese: Aged Cheddar, Parmesan, Pecorino, Hardkäse;
Herb/Spice: Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Coriander, Black Pepper, Cumin, Balsamic;
Vegetable: Stuffed Baked Potato, Black Bean Burgers, Roasted Mushrooms, Wild Rice, Winter Beets.
Regional Montepulciano Wines of Italy
Italian wines are often labeled by region, so here is a guide to the regionally-named wines that are primarily made with the Montepulciano grape:
- Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (85% minimum)
- Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG (90% minimum)
- Controguerra Rosso DOC (60% minimum)
- Rosso Conero DOC (85% minimum)
- Rosso Piceno DOC (30–70%)
- Offida Rosso DOCG (85% minimum)
- Biferno DOC (60–70%)
- San Severo Rosso DOC (70% minimum)
Two Profiles of Montepulciano Wine
Producers of Montepulciano wine in Italy generally follow one of 2 winemaking ideologies: those who use new oak to age their wines and those who don’t.
Oak-aged Montepulciano wines have, by far, garnered the most enthusiastic following abroad due to their richness. These wines exhibit deep black-fruit flavors such as blackberry and prune, licorice, and oaky flavors of cocoa, vanilla, and mocha. The wines are inky and sometimes have grippy tannin so look for one with about 4 or so years of age.
Because Montepulciano has a lot of anthocyanin (color) in the skins, some producers make a lighter style or even a rosato (rosé) by having less contact with the skins during fermentation. The wines come out bursting with red fruit flavors of sour cherry, red plum, cranberry and raspberry jam, and are supported with subtle notes of violet, dried herbs, and often an ash-like earthiness.
Want to know more about this wonderful grape? Try our Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOCG "Luì" from Tenuta Terraviva: it' the perfect wine for your next BBQ!
Image credits: Terry Vlisidis