The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

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Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a magnificent vine, much appreciated in ancient times as well as undervalued in contemporary times, although in recent years it is finally getting the right recognition of its value.

In Abruzzo, the origins of the Montepulciano vine date back more than two thousand years, and many positive remarks have come down to us, between history and legend. How can we forget Hannibal, who for years seemed to hold his breath against the Romans, keeping up the morale of his men with Abruzzi wine, or those of the poet Ovid, who in ‘The Metamorphoses’ made reference to the fertility of the Abruzzi soil due to the presence of excellent grapes, as well as to the fact that it yielded such a good wine that it was dutifully destined for the Roman emperors.

The exact area where this vine originated is considered to be the Peligna valley, in the Maiella area, where it still seems to grow in better soil and climate conditions than any other.

In 2003, the ‘Colline Teramane’ sub-zone was granted DOCG status and in 2019, DOCG ‘Tullum’ in the province of Chieti.

In recent years, in 2013 to be precise, it was involved in the legal dispute between Abruzzo and Tuscan winegrowers over the name ‘Montepulciano’, which was resolved in 2018 with a ruling that the Abruzzese could continue to call it that way because the reference was to the type of grape, unlike the Sienese who instead referred to the Tuscan municipality of the same name.

It is considered a high altitude vine, a mountain vine, late in ripening, so much so that the harvest takes place between the first and second ten days of October and it is not even certain that the grapes have reached the right phenolic maturity by that time.

The result is wines with a beautiful ruby red colour with reflections that vary from violet to garnet, sometimes even orange, depending on the state of development.

They generally have a good degree of alcohol and an interesting performing softness and, especially when young, enjoy a freshness and a nice mineral nuance that guarantee them good longevity. Warmth and acidity, in fact, if well dosed, are the foundations that allow them to age superbly.

The result is a clean, pulpy, fresh, mineral taste, with tannins that are very present but never sharp or intrusive, with hints of withered roses, jasmine, ripe blackberry, plum, sour cherries, black cherry, morello cherry, wild berries and aromatic herbs, undergrowth, and if the wine is matured in wooden barrels, sweet spices, liquorice, cocoa, tobacco and chocolate can be found in a delicately almondy context. The finish is often savoury, mineral, with perceptions of black cherry.

It is a grape variety that generates wines that need time to “open up” and manifest every nuance of their character, so it is always advisable to open the bottle a little before serving and to use a good, wide glass.

The serving temperature of Montepulciano Rosso should be between 16 and 20 degrees, depending on the wine’s evolution, and it is appropriate to pair it with well-structured and tasty dishes that are able to hold their own: rich and tasty first courses, roasted or grilled meat as well as fragrant mature cheeses.

With this vine, thanks to a short maceration of the grapes, it is possible to obtain an extraordinary Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, a very good and elegant rosé that has similar characteristics, but less vigorous than its older brother.

An intense and crystalline cherry pink with organoleptic characteristics that give particular satisfaction; the colour is most often intense and lively and the aroma and taste are particularly generous with flowers, fruit and spices: geranium, carnation, cherry, raspberry, pomegranate and with extraordinarily balanced freshness and softness.

It should be enjoyed chilled, at a maximum of 8-10 degrees, and like all rosé wines, it will satisfy many undecided palates and can be paired with an incredible variety of foods.

It is a great grape variety, born in a region that can only be envied from a morphological and viticultural point of view, even if the regulations provide for a somewhat too wide overall area for Montepulciano, which in the future will have to include a distinction between at least the four provinces of Abruzzo, given the obvious differences in this variety in the various areas.

I believe, however, that it will have an interesting future, with variations in the regulations that can enhance it soon; there has also been talk for some time of a ‘superior’ Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, even if the bureaucracy is biblical, but we enthusiasts can only be confident and wait.

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