Montepulciano is a red wine grape variety grown widely in central Italy, most notably its eastern Abruzzo, Marche and Molise regions. The variety was named after the Tuscan parish of Montepulciano, but, confusingly, is not used in the famous wines produced there (see Vino Nobile di Montepulciano).
Globally appreciated for their soft flavors, strong color and gentle tannins, Montepulciano wines are typically best consumed in their youth and with food. The deep purple juice of Montepulciano grapes is used in varying proportions to produce wines under roughly 50 of Italy's DOC and DOCG titles. Although sometimes used on its own, it also responds well to blending with other varieties, most successfully Sangiovese – its close relative and Italy's most widely planted grape variety.
At the turn of the new century, Montepulciano was Italy’s second most planted red wine variety, just behind Sangiovese and marginally ahead of Barbera. Its popularity is to both the approachable style of the wines it produces, and because the variety gives reliably high yields.
The most famous Montepulciano wines come from the east coast of Italy, specifically the Abruzzo region. Here, vast volumes of Montepulciano are produced on the low hills and flatlands around the Adriatic coast, and marketed under the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC title. Abruzzo's finest examples of Montepulciano come from the region's north, in the Colline Teramane foothills. Although slightly more expensive because of their DOCG status, these nonetheless represent excellent value for money.
Two other star-performing central Italian wines made from Montepulciano grapes are Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno, both from the Marche region. Despite the fact that these wines are often of higher quality than their mass-produced d'Abruzzo counterparts, they are markedly less famous. This is probably because their names communicate nothing about the grape variety they're made from – something of a marketing disadvantage in the modern, varietal-focused global wine market.
While some grapes (Chardonnay, Muscat and the various Pinot varieties spring to mind) are extremely versatile, and can be used to produce wines of various styles (still, sparkling, dry, sweet), Montepulciano has so far developed a reputation only for its dry red table wines. And while this reputation is largely accurate, a notable exception can be found in the brighter, lighter, cherry-colored Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo.
Synonyms include: Cordisco, Morellone, Primaticcio, Uva Abruzzo, Violone.
Food matches include:
Europe: Spinach-stuffed roasted veal (arrosto di vitello ripieno di spinaci); orecchiette pasta with tomato, basil and hard ricotta (rosé)
Asia: Beef satay (satai sapi); curried eggplant
Americas: Deep-dish pizza; pork-stuffed potato pancakes (milcao relleno con chicharrones)
Australasia/Oceania: Beetroot, apple and watercress salad (rosé); confit duck with roasted almond crisps