Wine Wednesday: The Montepulcianos of Abruzzo
Did you know that true Montepulciano wines are not from Tuscany, despite the wine sharing a name with the medieval Tuscan town? Sure, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano hails from the Tuscan region, but the wine is named after the town (although the town itself is named after the grapes). Plus the Montepulciano wines of Tuscany are actually made with Sangiovese grapes. So where do wines made with Montepulciano grapes hail from?
For Montepulciano wines made with red grapes of the same name, one must choose a bottle of wine from Tuscany's eastern neighbor, the beautiful area known as Abruzzo. These red grapes are prolific, growing as they do on the hillsides and eastern coastal area of the region. They're also plump and juicy, helping to craft a wine that is low in acidity and ages quite well.
The Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC, which dates back to 1968, actually requires aging the wine at least two years, but don't be surprised to learn on a cooking vacation in Italy that many of these wines are aged for a decade or more! These Abruzzo wines are also required to be made with at least 85% Montepulciano grapes, and some varieties in the five viticultural sub zones do include up to 15% of Sangiovese grapes.
As for food pairings, the wine is incredibly versatile, and can actually be enjoyed with or without food. But as with many wines of Italy, it's best around the table with regional cuisine -- and even better when it's with food you've learned to make during a cooking class. And in Abruzzo that often means, a glass of Montepulciano wine is perfect with pork or lamb dishes, as well as ones that feature peppers as an ingredient.
By Liz Hall