I have noticed that a lot of people who travel to Tuscany note that they really like Montepulciano and want to do Montepulciano Wine Tours. Which surprises me because that is a pretty specific wine area and yet when I mention Brunello, they don’t seem to know what that is. Which makes me have a sneaking suspicion that people are thinking of the red wine that is one of the most common table red wines served in Italian restaurants across America: Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. While I hope they are talking about Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, this post is a general explanation of the 2 wines since even when I have been with clients in the Montepulciano wine country, I get this question: Is this wine made with Montepulciano grapes?
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo- The DOC expression which is the focus of this post (there is a DOCG from Colline Teramane, to be specific for all the pedantics out there, but I’d suspect most of the bottles arriving on mainstream menus is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC) is a red wine made with Montepulciano grapes grown in the region of Abruzzo. There are no aging requirements for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, requires a minimum of 85% of Montepulciano grapes and usually the rest is blended with sangiovese and is enjoyable upon release. Although if you see “Riserva” on the label, it has a 2 year minimum aging requirement. This wine is deep and inky with tones of blackberries, spice pepper and moderate acidity. The standard versions of this wine (lest it is a more caliber version from from quality-driven producers like Emidio Pepe) make for a quaffable table wine, friendly to foods at a dinner party or a happy hour wine to go with a variety of snacks (especially cured meats). To me, I do not find the majority of its production as interesting in comparison to wines from Montepulciano which brings me to my next point. This may be my bias for Tuscany speaking, and again for all the pedantics out there- I am fully aware of the hard-working, stellar producers turning the tide of this wine’s reputation.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or Rosso di Montepulciano– These are red wines named after the town Montepulciano in Tuscany and are NOT made with Montepulciano grapes! These wines are made with 70% Sangiovese (Prugnolo to be exact) and the remainder using blending varieties such as Canaiolo, Mammolo and some white varieties too in small percentage (10% max).
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano means “Noble Wine” and this wine was termed because historically, it was only available on tables of nobility. Today this is certainly not the case as the region produces over a quarter of a million cases annually and is considered by some wine critics an overrated premium Tuscan wine. I consider this a smooth, earthy food wine perfect with the Pecorino cheeses that are produced nearby in Pienza. It has a fair weight in body, acidity with a velvety mouthfeel and carries notes of black cherries, chocolate, smooth minerality, a touch of smoke and a touch plummy. In addition to pairing it with the local gastronomic specialties like Pecorino cheeses, I would suggest it with some wild boar ragu’ on some warm, buttery polenta. This “Noble” wine must be aged for a minimum of 2 years (or 3 for riserva), another key difference from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Rosso di Montepulciano is the same juice that goes into Vino Nobile but far shorter minimum aging requirement: 6 months. Thus, creating a wine that is fruitier (affordable) and less intense making it a swell choice for a party wine or drinking wine. Some wines really need food- this one is pretty manageable on its own. Who am I kidding- I don’t think anyone (unless you were a very unfun wine snob) would say “oh no, can’t drink that wine- need some food with it.”
In your wine drinking curiosity,
Want to visit the wine country of Montepulciano and taste at one of the cheese farms in Pienza on the way? Consider this Cheese and Wine Tour in Tuscany: Pienza and Montepulciano