The average British consumer sees Montepulciano as a grape that makes simple and quaffable wine. Often light to medium bodied, fruit driven, low in tannins and acidity and best to drink young. This description, however, doesn't do justice to the current state of affairs, especially when it comes to Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC, the grape's most prestigious appellation.
Quality has been improving since the early 2000s and the wines available on the market now are clearly showing great results. The array of styles is impressive, from long-lived interpretations made with a judicious use of oak, to fresher, more floral expressions that only see stainless steel.
Given this shift, Imbibe decided it's high time to scan what's out there and pick a diverse selection of five wines definitely worthy of your wine list.
Valori, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2015
Luigi Valori founded his small winery in 1996 and now works with 26ha of vines in the north east of the Abruzzo region. His approach to winegrowing focuses on sustainability and respect for the land.
Despite its relative age, his Montepulciano still bears an appealingly fresh and delicate aromatic profile, with elderflower, blueberry, a hint of orange peel and some spices. The palate shows well-developed signs of age, with concentrated orange and red-fruit jam, round tannins and a bit of honey.
£11.30, Prestige Food & Wine
Pasetti, Testarossa Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2014
The Pasetti winery, located in the heart of the national park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga, is today run by fourth-generation vintner Mimmo and his wife Laura. The Pasettis work only with the local Montepulciano, Pecorino, Passerina and Trebbiano grapes, plus Moscatello di Castiglione, an ancient, nearly extinct vine variety that they use to make sweet wine.
Their flagship Montepulciano is the Testarossa, named after ‘the superb beauty of the Pasetti’s red-haired women', according to the producer. It spends 18 months in stainless steel, 18 months in used barriques, then one year in bottle. It’s ripe, with plenty of red and black fruit, complemented by cardamon, tar, liquorice and a certain balsamic touch.
Not imported yet
Masciarelli, Villa Gemma Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva 2014
Gianni Masciarelli is widely known as one of the pioneers of the Abruzzo renaissance, having brought quality Trebbiano and Montepulciano to a global audience.
The Villa Gemma is the oakiest Montepulciano within this selection, though by no means is this an unbalanced wine. It ages for up to two years in barrique, then spends between two and three years in the bottle. Beautifully poised yet amazingly complex, with notes of cigar box, black plums, coffee, winter spices, bramble and coffee, plus hints of tar, cocoa and liquorice on the palate.
£38.75, Les Caves de Pyrene
Cantina Frentana, Panarda Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva 2013
Cantina Frentana is one of those cooperatives that confirms it’s possible to make good wine while dealing with some 430 different growers. The Cantina champions organic agriculture and biodiversity, working with grapes such the indigenous, yet nearly forgotten, Cococciola, which it even makes a single-varietal version from.
The Panarda Montepulciano is one of its top wines, and spends 18 months in a mix of new and used barriques. It’s rich and spicy, with preeminent notes of chocolate, coffee, bramble, vanilla and leather. It’s savoury on the palate, displaying smooth tannins, sour black cherries, blackberry jam and a hint of meatiness.
POA, Les Caves de Pyrene
Tenuta Arabona, Manus Plere Bio Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2014
A small, family-owned winery located roughly halfway through the coast and the mountains. Domenico and Maria Antonietta own just 20ha, planted to Montepulciano, Trebbiano, Passerina and Pecorino. Most wines see only stainless steel.
This is the case for the Manus Plere, which matures in tank for about three years. It’s then refined for 18 months in the bottle. Elegantly perfumed, it’s a fine, floral interpretation of Montepulciano. Violet, lilac, fresh minerality and crunchy red berries on the nose are followed by a firmly tannic palate. It needs food, and is a pure expression of the grape.
Not imported yet