Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the Abruzzo wine flagship and one of the most grown grapes in
Italy. It comes originally from Greece and was mentioned for the first time by the greek
writer Polibio (206 a.c.- 124 a.c.) who praised it as a good therapy for men to recover from
injuries. There are few other writers that, during the Roman Empire, referred to this wine but
the first facts about it date back to the Rinascimental time in Tuscany.
In the XVI century, the Medici family acquired some of the Piccolomini family’s estate in
Abruzzo and planted the first vines that, later, resulted to be Montepulciano. The Medici
family, along with the grapes, has brought in Abruzzo the first viticulture techniques and it
marked the beginning of the Tuscan contamination lasted until the XVIII century.
In the XVIII century, the planting of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grew consistently in
particular in the “Valle Peligna” as is written in the script of Michele Troia, a history writer
of that period. Unfortunately the advent of Phyllossera ,at the end of the XIX century,
delayed the spread of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which definitely developed during the XX
century. In fact the planting of this variety doubled in size from 12.000 hectares in 1929 to
25.000 in 1970.
In 1968 was established the appellation “Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC” that requires at
least 85% of the main grape in the wine and a minimum abv of 12%. Moreover, the vineyards
have to be placed not more than 500 meters above the sea level and the production is allowed
only in the districts of Chieti, L’Aquila, Pescara and Teramo. To be labelled as “Riserva” the
wine has to age at least 2 years which 9 months must be in oak.
After the DOC designation came up several sub-appellations that are distinguished by zone,
percentage of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, alcohol content and oak ageing. In 2003 was
created the prestigious appellation “Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Terramane DOCG”
that is dedicated only to few communes into the Teramo district. In order to get the DOCG,
the production has to be maximum 9.5 tonnes per hectares and the wine has to include as a
minimum 90% of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo within maximum 10% of Sangiovese. The wine
has to be aged at least for 2 years (3 years for Riserva) which 1 year must be in oak.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a late ripening and very resistant grape which performs very
well into the poor hilly soil of Abruzzo and benefit from the cooling effect of the close
Adriatic Sea. The results are full bodied wines, with medium to high alcohol, ripe tannins and
crisp acidity. On the nose stand out notes of blackberries and forest floor whereas on the
palate are evident flavours of plum along with a touch of tobacco. Therefore Montepulciano
d’Abruzzo can be paired with juicy lamb chops roasted in the oven as the saltiness of the
meet turns down the tannins and the intense texture of the wine meets nicely the powerful
taste of lamb.
The consideration of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has been quite controversial because it was
not seen immediately as a quality grape. Due to the high content of sugar and anthocyanins,
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was used to make easy drinking fruity wines for large productions
or in blends to add colour and alcohol.
However, thanks to the hard work of local producers, the correct introduction of large oak
vessels and the limitations introduced within the DOC, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo expressed
all its quality. The high level of tannins and alcohol make this wine suitable for oak ageing
resulting in full bodied bold wines that find full appreciation around the world. In 2017 has
been registered an increase of 13% in export leading the yearly production up to 100 million
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is an example of how a small regional reality became not only one
of the most important DOC’s in Italy but rather a wonderful wine able to compete among the
best ones in the world.
Author: Riccardo Pepi