Savoring the Montepulciano spectrum

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Montepulciano grape thrives in Italy’s Abruzzo, second only to Sangiovese in plantings.

By Mary Malik

No matter your level of wine knowledge, picking out a bottle can be overwhelming. For the past several months, Jim Sperk of the Northern Ohio Wine Guild has been educating us on Italian wines of the Tuscany region. He’d like us to consider one more as he wraps up these flavorful red wines.

“The names can get complicated as we wrap up this region,” Jim says. “So, I’d like to try and clear things up and focus on a grape that originated in Tuscany probably near the town of Montepulciano but is not found in Tuscany at all. It is related to Sangiovese but bears the name Montepulciano.”

The Montepulciano wine grape grows in the mountainous east-central region of Italy known as Abruzzo and is the second most planted grape in Italy after Sangiovese.

Jim says there are several different styles of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines and many are aged in stainless steel vats and released at a young age for a relatively low price.

“These wines are typically referred to as ‘pizza wines’ since the low tannin and higher acidity pairs well with pizza, barbecue and fatty meats,” Jim says. “If you’re willing to go a bit higher in price, another style is aged in oak barrels and tends to be highly aromatic and more complex in taste offering flavors of berries, spice, tobacco and possibly herbs. For the highly prized, even further aged wines labeled ‘Riserva,’ the prices are higher still.”

If you’re interested in the d’Abruzzo wines, there’s another variation—the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo, a rosé wine bright red in color, unlike the French rosés.

“This full-bodied rosé reflects the same fruit flavors as the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and can be enjoyed with a wide variety of foods,” Jim says. “The thing to remember when you’re facing the shelves is that a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is all over the board in price, so start low because you can always move up.”

For information on the Northern Ohio Wine Guild, contact Jim Sperk at