A Case for Montepulciano

Always a top value, this line-up of superb values really had some gems!


We tend to spend an awful lot of our time running around looking for things. We look for the greatest wines, within our budgets of course, and we look for the perfect wine for ribs, greek salad, or whatever it is we like to eat, and we seek out the greatest value wines on a regular basis. 

That last search can a get a little silly. Often we’re looking in the wrong place; searching for values where value don’t lay. You gotta kiss a lot of $12 Napa Cabernet frogs in order to find one that might turn into a prince. And even then what you have is more than likely some blend of rejecto juice that has been blended and tarted up to taste decently for a little while.
Why bother? Why not just resign yourself to the fact that values abound, if you’re looking in the right place. In Italy for example value Barolo begins roughly at about $30 a bottle, and it’s generally passable, with a few noteworthy exceptions. If you want real value check out wines like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. We’re talking $10 bottles that rock!
So what are we talking about when we’re talking about Montepulciano d’Abruzzo? For starters not a lot of oak, it’s just too expensive and the grape doesn’t work that well with obvious new wood flavors. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a wine with tons of black fruit, some earthy mineral notes, and a lovely edge of underlying bitterness that serves to balance out that fruit. 
Structurally it tends to be a touch low in acid, perfect for the modern palate, with modest tannins and surprising richness on the palate. In the past that richness was a bit of a problem as the wines had a tendency to be almost porty. Not surprising considering the wines come from Abruzzo, a rather warm province on the Adriatic sea in Southern Italy. 
Modern Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has lost much of that warm climate character, though the wines still seem a bit rustic, a trait that is inherent to the grape. I found that most of the wines tasted for this article retained fresh fruit and were made in an easy to drink style that is perfect for casual fare. Maybe not the best wine for pizza, due to it’s low acidity, but certainly good with rustic, meaty pasta dishes, burgers, and, somewhat surprisingly mexican mole dishes! Yeah, weird, not exactly if it grows together it goes together but the deep earthy flavors of Mole brings out the fruit in these wines. Don’t ask how I know, let’s just say  there was a time in my life that included lots of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Mole. 
Today I drink Montepulciano d’Abruzzo by choice. There are few really impressive examples out there that cost big bucks, and some, like the $20 Fattoria la Valentina Montepulciano Spelt that have high aspirations. I’ve got a few bottles of the Spelt lined up for tasting later this year to check in on them and see how this oak aged example of a mini-super Montepulciano is doing. And still, I sometimes just want the ease and easy drinking of a classic bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. At the prices these wines fetch it’s easy to buy a couple and have a taste off over dinner one night.  
Pick a date and add a taste-off to your schedule this summer or fall. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is one of the world’s greatest value reds. If you enjoy a good value now and again you owe it to yourself to start searching in the right places. And while I'm at it, allow me to suggest the Goat Mole Rojo. Seriously. You can use any meat, turkey and chicken being the most obvious, but goat or lamb will make your Montepulciano rock!That’s what I’m talking about. 

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7 Top Montepulciano d’Abruzzo tasted in 7/2014

Nicodemi Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (2012)
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Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (2011)
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Italo Pietrantonj Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (2010)
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Cora Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (2011)
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Quattro Mani Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (2012)
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Renato Romagnoli Il Rosso di Casa Romagnoli Marche IGT Rosso (2011)
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Arboreto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (2012)
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