Italians really don’t make it easy to understand their wines. Montepulciano is a town in Tuscany and a grape grown in Abruzzi (which is to Tuscany what Alabama is to Arkansas—nearby, but different). The M town doesn’t grow the M grape. Its wines are called “Vino Nobile di Montepulciano” and made from the prugnolo grape (a sister to sangiovese). The wine made in Abruzzi is from the montepulciano grape and that wine is called “Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.” The wine from the M grape is bright, fruity, inexpensive, and very popular of late because it’s so affordable. Drink it young. The wine from the M place is big, robust, complex, and not as affordable, often three or four times its sibling’s price. And it tends to need a lot more aging. Confused yet?
This month’s selections are available at France 44 Wine and Spirits, 4351 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-3252
Citra Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2005 (Abruzzi, Italy), $6.99
100% montepulciano. Bright, light, and fruity—it smells like a grape Jolly Rancher. It’s pleasant, soft, and offers lots of strawberry fruit. It’s well made and fits every budget. Have a glass when you get home from work or sip it while munching on popcorn during movie night. 2005 vintage depleted, 2006 available.
Quattro Mani Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2005 (Abruzzi), $11.99
100% montepulciano. It is twice the price of the Citra, but has more structure and body and is fruity with a full-flavored dark cherry character that really stands out. Some tart acid balances out the soft finish. Great on its own or with salmon—you will be pleasantly surprised.
Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2004 (Abruzzi), $18.99
100% montepulciano. This wine is the big hitter of the category. It has the typical bright fruit, but holds on longer at the finish. More age (one year) probably helps it. The whole time I was drinking it, I wished I was eating the margherita pizza from California Cafe.
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2004 (Montepulciano), $26.99
90% prugnolo, 5% canailol, 5% mammolino. Garnet red with an intense nose of plum and cedar. This wine is as different from the Abruzzi Montepulciano as cabernet is from pinot noir. It’s a spicy, full-bodied red that needs food—heavy cheese or venison would be my choice. 2004 vintage depleted, 2005 available.
Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1999 Riserva (Montepulciano), $36.99
100% prugnolo. Deep purple in color and lush on the palate, it has a lot going on. Silky and smooth. Age has helped this wine. It offers blackberry fruit with spice, tannins, and a hint of earth that balance it all out. The finish lasts and lasts. I would pair it with a favorite steak or lamb stew.
Bill Coy runs Vintage U, which organizes winetastings, classes, and events for corporate groups, wine enthusiasts, and the general public. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.