In the wine world of Italy, Montepulciano is a big name: Montepulciano gives its name to the wine from a small town in Tuscany and to a grape variety.
One of Italy’s best-known wines is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo originates from the Abruzzo region and must consist of at least 85 percent Montepulciano grapes.
Along with Sangiovese, Montepulciano is the most important red wine variety in central Italy: wines made from grapes of the Montepulciano grape variety are intensely colored, rich in flavor and have little acidity.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
There may easily be some confusion when it comes to Montepulciano wines: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has nothing to do with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a product of Abruzzo, whereas Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a Tuscan product.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano may only be produced in the Tuscan town of Montepulciano and contains at least 70 percent Sangiovese grapes. The Montepulciano grape variety is not used in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
In addition, there is also Rosso di Montepulciano, which is pressed similarly to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, but is usually less expensive.
The attribute “Vino Nobile” (engl.: “noble wine”) was given to the wine because for a long time it was mainly reserved for noble families to produce the wine. In addition, the wine was reserved for the Vatican for a long time. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is classified as a DOCG wine – which puts it in the highest category of Italian red wines.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ages for at least two years in a chestnut or oak barrel. The addition Riserva is given to a wine that has been aged for three years (six months thereof in the bottle). Along with Chianti Classico, Montalcino and Super Tuscan, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is one of the most important wines from Tuscany.
From the nearby municipality of Montalcino comes Brunello di Montalcino, considered one of the most sought-after wines in Italy. Brunello di Montalcino, like Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, is made from a clone of the Sangiovese grape variety.
The grape variety Montepulciano
Montepulciano is an old grape variety. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is not the only wine for which the grapes of the variety are pressed: Montepulciano is a component of numerous DOC and DOCG wines from Italy. Among them are Controguerra Rosso, Rosso Conero and Biferno.
The town of Montepulciano, which is most likely the reason why the grape variety is named that way, is considered a cradle of the Renaissance: numerous buildings in Montepulciano’s old town are built in the Renaissance style.
The aroma of Montepulciano grapes is spicy: one can taste berries, cherries or plums. Often, there is also a vanilla aroma in Montepulciano wines.
Because of its spiciness, the Montepulciano grape is a component of numerous cuvees.
Montepulciano vine: cultivation and origin
In 2016, Montepulciano vines were grown on more than 30,000 hectares worldwide: Italy is home to the vast majority of Montepulciano vines. In addition, there are vineyards in Argentina and California, but they are nowhere near the Italian stock. When people speak of Montepulciano wines, they almost always refer to wines from Italy.
The climate in Abruzzo is ideal for growing Montepulciano grapes: the vine ripens late and needs a lot of sun. The Mediterranean climate of Abruzzo is ideal for growing the Montepulciano grape variety. In Abruzzo, Montepulciano vines grow on limestone, gravel, sandy, and clay soils.
The exact origin of the Montepulciano grape is unknown to this day: some sources claim that the grape variety was brought to Abruzzo from Tuscany. Considering the similarity of the name with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano, this seems conceivable.
Others suggest that the origin of the Montepulciano vine is in Abruzzo, more precisely in the province of Pescara on the Italian Adriatic.
Two appreciated red wines
A Montepulciano d’Abruzzo harmonizes particularly well with the roasted flavors of grilled meats: thus it tastes especially good with grilled steaks. In addition, the wine goes well with all Mediterranean dishes.
The wine world surrounding Montepulciano is diverse: although Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo sound similar, they are fundamentally different wines.
The Montepulciano grape variety is appreciated worldwide for its spiciness and typical Italian characteristics: these include a deep red color, a juicy character and a subtle acidity.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is closely intertwined with the Tuscan town of the same name and is one of the most famous Sangiovese wines.
Cover picture: A glass of red wine, © Simon von Ludwig