Betty's Wine Musings
The First Montepulciano
The First Montepulciano
The second Montepulciano
The second Montepulciano

Did you know there are three Montepulcianos? First, there’s the beautiful medieval hilltop town in Tuscany, Italy. Second, there’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a Tuscan wine named after the hilltop town and made primarily from Sangiovese grapes. Third, there’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (also known as Montepulciano), a red wine made from the Montepulciano wine grape grown in the Abruzzo region of Italy along the Adriatic coast.

Of the three, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (which I’ll call Montepulciano for the rest of the article) gets the least respect and attention, so it will be the subject of this article.

The third Montepulciano
The third Montepulciano

What to Look for in Montepulciano

Here are several good descriptions of the grape and wine:

  • Wine Folly: Robust herbal and tobacco-like flavors with grippy tannin.
  • Exhibits a slightly softer structure and darker color than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
  • When aged, this wine can be deep and inky with tones of blackberries, spice pepper and moderate acidity.
  • A medium to high vigor red variety that can be made in a range of styles—rosé, lighter-bodied red wine, or full-bodied red wine for aging.

The Good News about This Grape

Montepulciano is the second most planted red grape in Italy (after Sangiovese). While this wine has historically been thought of as a lower class table wine, it’s starting to turn a corner. According to, “This lively, juicy red wine… is evolving and improving, like much of southern Italy, with more and more serious producers taking the lead in seeking higher quality. And these serious producers have raised the bar for everybody.” says that, while this grape is often destined for bulk and value wine production, there is an ever-increasing number of winemakers producing quality versions. Wine Folly goes on to say that “There are several producers in Abruzzo that have shown the amazing potential of this grape by producing inky, black-fruit driven, chocolatey wines best enjoyed after 4 or more years of aging.”

Finding This Wine in California

I was recently At CityPlace, the wonderful wine bar in Sunnyvale, and the sommelier brought up the question of why there is no Montepulciano in California. I asked him whether it was because the vines didn’t make their way to California in the late 1800s, when other Italian vines came over. He said he didn’t think that was the case. I did some research to try to figure out why this wine is so hard to find in California. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any really good information on the topic. I have to assume that the wine is hard to find here because of its bad reputation. Hopefully, the trends I mentioned earlier will help this wine gain a foothold in California.

Food Pairings

Wine Folly says that Montepulciano, like other medium-bodied red wines, pairs well with a wide variety of foods due to natural elevated acidity. However, because of this wine’s characteristics, they recommend richer, fattier foods like beef brisket and lamb. adds to the list tomato-based pastas, grilled meats, fatty fish and truffle-based dishes.

Please also visit my article entitled “Pairing Abruzzo Cuisine and Wine.”

If you’ve tasted Montepulciano from California, or have thoughts about Montepulcianos from Italy, please share your experience with us. What did you think of the wine? What did you pair with it? How does it compare to other Italian-origin wines?


BettyPhotoCircularAs an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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  1. Very interesting article! I was surprised by an incredibly lovely Montepulciano d’Abruzzo a couple of years ago; I had it with pasta at an Italian restaurant in Palo Alto. It was so delicious, that I went looking for it online, only to find it unavailable. I went back to the restaurant, and they were out, too! And the amazing thing was the price – very inexpensive. Now I understand why – the grape is considered “bulk quality”, although my experience proves that it can produce an excellent wine. I have since forgotten the name of that particular bottle, but have been on the lookout for a delicious Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ever since. I’d be happy to indulge in further exploration with you, Betty!

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