Wine of the Day: Montepulciano dAbruzzo

From the eastern-central part of Italy, not far from Rome, the region of Abruzzo shines as a Mecca for producing luscious, layered wines from the Montepulciano variety with incredible affordability, usually ranging around $10-$20. The wines carry both DOC, as well as two DOCG designations, with the Colline Teramane subzone specifically carrying one of the DOCG designations.

A mountainous part of Italy in the foothills of the Apennines, and heavily influenced by the Adriatic Sea, the hillside vineyards of Abruzzo benefit from high elevations and cool breezes off the sea, capturing freshness, and a long sunshine-filled growing season, ensuring fruity ripeness.

Easy and approachable with balanced tannins and freshness, the wines of Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo are often produced to be consumed young, not long after their vintage, with a somewhat limited barrel or bottle aging. These are perfect wines to enjoy on any given evening, pairing easily with classic Italian favorites like pizza and pasta, or roasted chicken, grilled salmon, or hearty salads.

In 1981 the late Gianni Masciarelli began his winery in Abruzzo believing world-class wines could be produced in the region. Through tremendous vision and endless innovation, Masciarelli became one of the most admired wineries in Italy. Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($15) showcases the variety (that is often confused with Sangiovese, but is indeed it’s own, unique grape) revealing a smoky, spiciness, layering black cherry, blackberry, toasted spice, smoked bacon, and black pepper.

Masciarelli Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva ($30) showcases the quality of wines that the region can easily craft. Like many Montepulciano selections, there is an inherent earthy, Old World, Italian note to the expressive, aromatic wine, as the wine wants to tell you the story of the land not just blanket you with fruit-filled expressions. Leather, tobacco, dried sage, woody thyme, and toasted spice meld with blackberry and black plum. Nicely concentrated, helped by up to 18 months of French oak aging, the wine exhibits both inviting aromas and bold flavors, with a lengthy, luscious finish.

Dedicated to his wife, Serbian and current head of the well-established winery, Marina Cvetic, Gianni Masciarelli created “ISKRA” Marina Cvetic 2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Riserva DOCG to honor her. “ISKRA” means spark in Serbian. Unlike anything else produced in the region, the wine is produced from a single-vineyard Cru of Montepulciano within his sustainably farmed Teramo, Abruzzo estate with elevations of 2400 feet above sea level. Vines are limited in their production, ensuring a high concentration in the wine, and aged 12 months in barrel followed by 2 years in bottle, to round out the textures and reveal an elevated, highly structured wine. Bold, yet balanced with black and blue fruits melding with toasted herbal and cedar notes, with a touch of vanilla. The tannins are a bit more pronounced than some Montepulciano wines, making this ideal for enjoying with grilled steak, game, or braised short ribs.