MONTEPULCIANO grape in a nutshell
  • Montepulciano is one of the most widely grown red grapes in Central Italy.
  • It gives reds and rosés wines.
  • Its main production region is Abruzzo, followed by Marche and Lazio.
  • Extremely vigorous and late-ripening, it produces a wide variety of different wines and appears in several appellations across Central Italy.
    It appears across around 30 DOCs and DOCGs. However, the appellations outside the Abruzzo region are not allowed to mention the grape in the name.
  • The grape should not be confused with Nobile di Montepulciano, a wine made with the Sangiovese grape in Abruzzo that has nothing to do with it.
MONTEPULCIANO wine in a sip
  • Montepulciano produces wines with aromas of ripe red and black fruits, sweet spice, chocolate, dried flowers, and herbs.
  • The wines are medium to full-bodied, with imposing tannins and medium acidity.
  • Styles range from fresh and easy-drinking to concentrated and complex when undergoing oak aging.

What is Montepulciano?

Montepulciano is a native black grape grown widely across central Italy. It produces super-popular, food-friendly red wines in early-drinking, mature, and rosé styles.

First things first: Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo is not to be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the premium wine from Tuscany made from Sangiovese. While Montepulciano is blended with Sangiovese in some appellations, the only other point they have in common is the name.

What are the origins of Montepulciano?

The lack of documentary evidence makes it difficult to assess the origins of Montepulciano. Roman poet, Pliny the Elder, sung the praises of a red wine made in Abruzzo in the 1st century A.D. but we can’t tell which grape it was made from.

The earliest mentions of the grape date back to the 16th century, and prove that Montepulciano was widely grown amidst the mountainous valleys of the province of L’Aquila at the time.

It then began to spread to coastal areas between the 18th and 19th centuries and is likely to have reached Latium and Marche during the same period.

Synonyms of Montepulciano include Violone and Cordisco.

Where is Montepulciano grown?

Montepulciano grows extensively across central Italy and is one of the country’s most-planted cultivars. It is also grown on smaller surfaces in Argentina, the US, Australia and New Zealand.

However, the name Montepulciano is only shown on the front label by producers from the Abruzzo region, where the lion’s share of total plantings lies.

In the Tuscia subregion of Lazio Montepulciano is known as Violone and produces Tuscia Violone. In the Marche region, Rosso Piceno and Conero Docg are the two key Montepulciano-based wines.

What does Montepulciano wine taste like?

Montepulciano-based red wines are always distinguishable by their purple-ish, impenetrable color. They typically display aromas and flavors of sweet cherry, red plum, animal musk, baking spices, bitter herbs, and tar. Medium to full-bodied and medium to high-acid, the tannins can be a bit clenching in the early going.

Styles range from simple, easy-drinking and a bit rustic when sourced from higher-yielding vineyards and undergoing shorter aging in stainless steel to complex, age-worthy and velvety-smooth when seeing longer maturation in oak or concrete. Oak-aged versions may be obtained from riper or more concentrated grapes, and often clock above 15% alcohol.

A single-variety Montepulciano, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo almost represents a wine category on its own, technically being a rosato but usually displaying a deep ruby color that is reminiscent of a light red. The name Cerasuolo actually derives from the word cerasa (cherry). Although less tannic and higher-acid than red Montepulciano, it still stands out as one of the most complex and structured rosè wines in Italy.

Does Montepulciano age well?

Entry-level Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which accounts for a vast majority of the grape’s output, mainly enjoys success as a gluggable, fruit-forward wine for everyday consumption, and it is best enjoyed within three to five years from release.

Top-shelf expressions of Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva, Rosso Piceno and Conero have a far longer drinking window: the concentrated fruit and powerful tannins allow them to eschew oxidation and remain pristine and flavorful for over fifteen years.

What kind of wine is similar to Montepulciano?

Montepulciano shares an inky color and intense dark-fruited flavors with BarberaAglianico and Sagrantino but it’s neither as high-acid as the former nor as tannic as the latter two. 

International-style versions with noticeable oak imprinting may remind you of Cabernet Sauvignon from the new world – especially Chile or Australia. Conversely, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo often draws parallel to entry-level Pinot Noir or Beaujolais because of its light ruby color and red-fruited palate.

What food does Montepulciano pair well with?

The fruity exuberance and noteworthy tannic heft allow Montepulciano to match a wide variety of foods. Younger versions complement hearty pasta dishes and lamb (especially arrosticini skewers). More complex versions pair, well, instead, with heartier dishes such as T-bone steak, stewed goat meat, and pecora ajo cotturo (sheep meat cooked in a pot and seasoned with herbs and spices).
Last but not least, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is an excellent companion for any recipe featuring tomato sauce as a main ingredient, as well as charcuterie and fish soup.


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