Montepulciano, or Montepulciano di Abruzzo is, in my opinion, a very under-appreciated wine in the United States. While very good Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots are ubiquitous throughout our region, a good Montepulciano is uncommon, if not rare. At Papa Joe’s Wine Cellar, we just began to produce our Montepulciano in 2015, but it has rapidly become one of our favorites, and a favorite of our customers. While we appreciate our more common varietals, we really enjoy producing a great wine that few other wineries in our area offer. As one who believes that great wines are not limited to Bordeaux and Barolo wines, etc. it is rewarding to produce what we believe is a stand-out among common table wines. Many wine connoisseurs believe that the greatest value among wines is to be found among wines in the $15 -$25 range, and we agree.
Montepulciano is an Italian varietal, grown in the central and southern provinces in Italy. It is rarely grown in northern provinces, being a warm weather grape that has a tendency to ripen late, and may not ripen to an optimal degree in cooler climates. After Sangiovese, Montepulciano is the second most common wine grape grown in Italy. The vast majority of Montepulciano is grown in Italy; in the US, the availability of this varietal is extremely limited. We were able to procure enough for 250 liters in 2015, and 500 liters in 2016, but were unable to produce any in 2017. We hope we will be able to again produce Montepulciano in 2018. Currently, our Montepulciano is grown near Lodi, CA in the Central Valley.
Our Montepulciano is a medium bodied wine with low tannins and low acidity with a deep burgundy color. It has earthy and tobacco notes and plum, chocolate, and black fruit flavors. We also expose it to oak aging, enhancing the complexity. It pairs well with the fattier cuts of pork and sausage, as well as ground beef and brisket. Fatty fish, barbecued chicken, lamb, and certainly pasta with tomato sauce also go well with this varietal. Sharp cheeses like Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano, sharp Cheddar, Manchego and Fontina, as well as eggplant, roasted vegetables, pasta carbonara and pizza are also ideally paired with Montepulciano. In our opinion, pairing is very subjective, and the suggestions above are far from exhaustive. Personally, I love it with chicken piccata, although classically a Sauvignon Blanc would be far more popular among connoisseurs.
Those like us who really appreciate the many great common table wines of the world always enjoy a good Montepulciano.