Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is one of Italy's most famous wines, and can be found on wine store shelves all around the world. This classic, well-rounded, plum-scented Italian red is made from Montepulciano grapes grown in the Abruzzo region, on Italy's Adriatic coast. It is quite distinct from Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is a Sangiovese-based wine from Tuscany.
The Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC title was created in 1968, and covers a vast area of eastern Abruzzo. It spans all 75 miles (120km) of Abruzzo's coastline (right up to the border with Molise in the south and Marche in the north) and spreads inland for roughly 20 miles (32km). Much of western Abruzzo is too mountainous for effective viticulture, so most Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines come from the low hills, plains and coastal areas. The finest examples come from the hills of the Teramo province; these have been granted their own DOCG title Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane.
© Frances Reeve
Montepulciano, one of Italy's most popular red wine grapes, has thrived in Abruzzo since the middle of the 18th century. A plump grape, which gives good yields of easy-drinking wine, it is popular with producers and consumers alike. The variety typically provides deeply colored juice (which varies from ruby to purple depending on vintage and the particular winemaking techniques used) with low acidity and soft, unobtrusive tannins.
The Montepulciano grape variety is almost entirely unconnected with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano with which it shares its name. The grape was named after the town, and was once widely used there.
To earn the right to be called Riserva a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wine must spend at least three years ageing (at least six months of which must be in oak) before being released to market. These wines have the ability to age exceptionally well if the right winemaking know-how is put into practice.
There are five viticultural sub-zones which have been identified as producing Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines of particular quality, and their names may well be found on labels, written as part of the appellation title. These are: Alto Tirino, Casauria, Teate, Terre dei Peligni and Terre dei Vestini.