Montepulciano is familiar yet unfamiliar to many. Despite its seemingly long and complex name, Montepulciano wine is commonly found on supermarket shelves worldwide. It’s synonymous with pizza wine. However, the name itself can lead to some confusion.

Montepulciano wine is a great pizza wine (Photo:The Nix Company/ Unsplash.com)

There are two renowned Italian wines associated with the word “Montepulciano”: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, made from the Montepulciano grape in the Abruzzo region on the Adriatic coast of central Italy, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, made from the Sangiovese grape in the village of Montepulciano, near Florence in the Tuscany region. Despite sharing the name, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the village of Montepulciano, where Vino Nobile is produced, are not connected.

In supermarkets or your favorite Italian trattoria, the Montepulciano wine you’re most likely to encounter is made from the Montepulciano grape. Most of these wines originate from Abruzzo, with some coming from neighboring regions like Marche, or even from New World countries such as Australia.

Good Value for Money Wine

Montepulciano boasts a classic red wine flavor profile that many expect from a bold and rich Italian red. It typically features a dark color with ripe cherry, dark berries, plum, and licorice flavors, often complemented by oaky chocolate or vanilla notes. The wine has moderate acidity and ample tannins that are rarely harsh. Unlike many other Italian wines with high acidity, Montepulciano is more approachable and beginner-friendly. This accessibility likely contributes to its widespread popularity.

Known as a pizza wine, Montepulciano pairs well with various Italian dishes, from sausage pizza to pasta with hearty sauces. But what truly makes Montepulciano stand out is its exceptional value. For under $20, you can find many good Montepulciano wines, and even some decent ones around $10—a rare find in many other wine regions.

A Popular Wine with A Bad Reputation?

Despite being down-to-earth and popular, Montepulciano often carries the label of being an entry-level, inexpensive wine. Indeed, most Montepulciano wines on the market are simple and straightforward, decent enough but lacking in complexity and depth. In the wine community, when thinking of great Italian wines, Montepulciano usually doesn’t make the list. So, does this mean there’s no premium Montepulciano wine?

One challenge for Montepulciano’s potential is that the grape inherently lacks acidity, which is crucial for the overall balance of the wine, especially when it is rich and bold. Without a good acidity, the wine can become flabby and lack the potential to evolve.

Abruzzo is the home of the Montepulciano grape, with a very diverse terroir. Most Montepulciano plantings are found in the south of the region, in the province of Chieti,which enjoys abundant sunshine and heat along with relatively flat terrain. This area is the powerhouse of Montepulciano production, housing many commercial brands and large cooperatives.

In contrast, the northern part of Abruzzo offers a different story. Vineyards situated between the Gran Sasso mountains and the Adriatic coast enjoy optimal growing conditions. This is where most artisanal and boutique producers of Montepulciano wine are located. The best examples of Montepulciano wine come from this area. The high elevation and mountain influence cool the temperature, allowing the acidity to develop. The growing season is longer, and the yields in these mountainous vineyards are much lower than in mass-produced regions. The grapes develop a more profound flavor profile, with better acidity, depth, and complexity.

The mountainous, northern part of the Abruzzo region (Photo: Patrick/ unsplash.com)

The finest Montepulciano d’Abruzzo rank among Italy’s best wines, rivaling more famous wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, or Amarone, and can age gracefully for decades.

Cerasuolo, the Summer Version of Montepulciano

Montepulciano’s versatility is not only evident in its adaptability to different terroirs but also in the various styles it produces. Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is an unfamiliar name to many, and most people probably don’t know it’s made from the Montepulciano grape.

Cerasuolo, from the Abruzzo dialect for “cherry,” refers to its cherry flavor. It’s a dark rosé with explosive fruity flavors. You can expect a juicy mouthfeel with vibrant acidity, and notes of cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate. It’s nothing like some plain-flavored summer rosés, rather, it’s a gourmet wine that is also delightful on its own. It’s the perfect Montepulciano wine for summer. Be aware that some proud locals dislike calling it a rosé, so if you travel to Abruzzo, make sure you learn the term Cerasuolo.

A bottle of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (Photo: Sylvia Ba)

Dear VinoVossers, are you ready to explore the world of Montepulciano wine? We have curated a list of different Montepulciano wines for you to taste, from the popular, value formoney pizza wine to the age-worthy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and of course, we didn’t forget the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Cheers!

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Sylvia Ba

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