Montepulciano - Italian: “mon-ta-pull-channo”
What is Montepulciano?
The Montepulciano grape is widely planted throughout central and southern Italy, most notably in Abruzzo, Lazio, Marche, Molise, Umbria and Apulia, and is a permitted variety in denominazione di origine controllata wines produced in 20 of Italy's 95 provinces. Montepulciano is rarely found in northern Italy because the grape tends to ripen late and can be excessively "green" if harvested too early. This makes it a wonderful varietal to be grown in the California Sierra Foothills and especially in El Dorado County.
Where is the grape from?
According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, the Montepulciano grape likely originated in Tuscany and may be related to Sangiovese, with which it is often confused. Oddly enough, despite this possible origin, the Montepulciano grape does not seem to have any tangible connection to the village of that name or to the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Even more confusing, despite being widely planted throughout central Italy, the Montepulciano grape is not grown in the vineyards around the actual village of Montepulciano.
What is it like?
Montepulciano is the 2nd most planted red grape in Italy (after Sangiovese) and has a reputation for being a low-priced, juicy, and pizza-friendly red wine. Fortunately, there are several producers in Abruzzo that have shown the amazing potential of this grape. They have led the way by taking this grape and producing inky, black and darker fruit driven, chocolatey wines enjoyed and aging in wine lovers’ cellars around the world.
What should you pair with it?
It is a medium-bodied red wine and those are chef’s favorites because they generally pair with a wide variety of foods due to natural elevated acidity. Montepulciano, however, often has this robust herbal and tobacco-like flavor with meaningful tannins and can hold its own with richer and more savory foods.
Montepulciano will cut through and compliment some of the meatiest meatballs and pair nicely alongside rich, roasted winter vegetables. If you learn only one tip about pairing with Montepulciano, it is to match it happiness and substance (laughter and fatty food anyone?).