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Montepulciano Wine Guide

Wine Folly

Montepulciano (“mon-ta-pull-chee-anno”) is a medium-bodied red wine grape that is supposed to have originated in central Italy. Montepulciano wines are commonly confused with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, a regional name for the Sangiovese-based wine in Tuscany.

Montepulciano Wine Grape Variety Information by Wine Folly
For more visual information of Montepulciano see page 118–119 of Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine

Montepulciano is the 2nd most planted red grape in Italy (after Sangiovese) and has had a reputation for low-priced juicy “pizza-friendly” red wines. Fortunately, there are several producers in Abruzzo that have shown the amazing potential of this grape by producing inky, black-fruit driven, chocolatey wines best enjoyed after 4 or more years of aging.

Food Pairing with Montepulciano

beef-brisket-chipotle-pita-insatiable-munch
Beef brisket, chipotle mayo and warm pita paired with Montepulciano is a delight. by insatiablemunch

Medium-bodied red wines like Montepulciano generally pair with a wide variety of foods due to natural elevated acidity. However, with Montepulciano, the robust herbal and tobacco-like flavors with grippy tannin often call for richer and more savory foods. Montepulciano will cut through some of the meatiest meats (like beef brisket) and pair nicely alongside rich, roasted winter vegetables. If you learn only one tip about pairing with Montepulciano, it is to match it with something with substance (fat).

Examples
Meat
Roasted Pork Shoulder, Beef Burgers with Mushrooms, Beef Bolognese, Barbecued Beef Brisket, Beef Tacos, Filipino Beef Adobo, Braised Goat, Shepard’s Pie, Meatloaf, Meat Lover’s Pizza
Cheese
Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Aged Cheddar, Parmesan, Asiago, Pepper Jack
Herb/Spice
Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Coriander, Black Pepper, Cumin, Caraway, Chipotle, Cocoa, Coffee, Balsamic
Vegetable
Stuffed Baked Potato, Southern-style Collard Greens, Black Bean Burgers, Roasted Mushrooms, Pinto Beans, Wild Rice, Winter Beets, Winter Farro, Sunchokes

Regional Montepulciano Wines of Italy

Looking into the vineyards in the Offida Rosso DOC region of Marche
Looking into the vineyards in the Offida region within the Ascoli Piceno province of Marche. by Offida Rosso

Italian wines are often labeled by region, so here is a guide to the regionally-named wines that are primarily made with the Montepulciano grape:

  • Abruzzo
    • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (85% minimum)
    • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG (90% minimum)
    • Controguerra Rosso DOC (60% minimum)
  • Marche
    • Rosso Conero DOC (85% minimum)
    • Rosso Piceno DOC (30–70%)
    • Offida Rosso DOCG (85% minimum)
  • Molise
    • Biferno DOC (60–70%)
  • Puglia
    • San Severo Rosso DOC (70% minimum)

Two Profiles of Montepulciano Wine

Montepulciano Grapes from Offida Rosso DOC in Marche Italy
holding Montepulciano grapes in the Offida Rosso region of Marche. by Offida Rosso

Producers of Montepulciano wine in Italy generally follow one of 2 winemaking ideologies: those who use new oak to age their wines and those who don’t.

Oak-aged Montepulciano

Oak-aged Montepulciano wines have, by far, garnered the most enthusiastic following abroad due to their richness. These wines exhibit deep black-fruit flavors such as boysenberry, blackberry and prune, licorice, and oaky flavors of cocoa, vanilla and mocha. The wines are inky and sometimes have grippy tannin so look for one with about 4 or so years of age. Expect to spend anywhere from $30–$80 for a great one.

Neutral-aged Montepulciano

Because Montepulciano has a lot of anthocyanin (color) in the skins, some producers make a lighter style or even a rosato (rosé) by having less contact with the skins during fermentation. The wines come out bursting with red fruit flavors of sour cherry, red plum, cranberry and raspberry jam, and are supported with subtle notes of violet, dried herbs, and often an ash-like earthiness. Expect to spend about $9–$15 for a great bottle.

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