Montepulciano wine, known for its delicious black fruit flavors, rich tannins, and unmistakable inky color, is understandably one of Italy’s most prized wines.
In this guide, we’re taking a deep dive into Montepulciano wine, its growing regions, tasting notes, serving recommendations, and of course, plenty of food pairings.
Characteristics of Montepulciano Wine
Montepulciano is an Italian red wine made from the Montepulciano grape. It grows primarily in the Abruzzo region of southern Italy along the Adriatic coast, where it is commonly known as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Montepulciano’s success in Abruzzo is due to the region’s exceptional growing conditions. With plenty of sunshine, cooling coastal breezes, and high altitude, Abruzzo is one of the most ideal winemaking regions. Wines made here are high-yielding and deeply concentrated.
In addition to Abruzzo, Montepulciano wine can also be made in a handful of other regions, including Marche, Molise, and Puglia. In these other regions, Montepulciano is typically added as a blending wine to add color, dark fruit flavor, and age-ability.
Unfortunately, due to Montepulciano’s high yield and easy drinkability, the quality of this wine ranges from exceptional to cheap and mass-produced. Price is generally the best way to gauge quality.
Montepulciano Wine Tasting Notes
Montepulciano wine is medium to full in body, tannins, and acidity. It is typically low to medium in alcohol, usually around 12% ABV.
Flavor profiles vary widely depending on the winemaker’s style. The biggest differences between Montepulciano wines come down to whether the wine is made as a traditional red wine or separated from the skins. The latter leads to a delicate light red or rosé wine.
In general, you can expect Montepulciano wine to have complex flavors of dark black and blue fruit, dried fruit, and delicate oak flavors of spices, espresso, and chocolate.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Versus Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Just in case you didn’t think reading wine labels could get more complicated, there are two Montepulciano’s in Italy, each making two very different wines.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a wine made in Abruzzo with the Montepulciano grape. It is not to be confused with the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is made in the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany and is made of the Sangiovese grape.
Different Styles of Montepulciano
Thanks to the high yield and reliability of Montepulciano, winemakers can take some liberties and present this delicious wine in a spectrum of styles.
The most prized and commonly found examples of Montepulciano are as an aged red wine. These wines possess bold dark fruit flavors of blackberry, boysenberry, prune, and chocolate.
Over time, oak aging will soften the wine’s grippy tannins. This makes for a smooth and well-rounded wine with added oak flavors of baking spices and toasted espresso beans.
Ideally, a bottle of Montepulciano should be aged anywhere from 3-7 years, as this will help further soften the wine’s tannins and bring out more earthy and dried herb flavors.
The most exceptional examples of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo obtain the label of Riserva. These wines age for a minimum of 3 years, with at least 6 months aging in oak. Up to 15% of Sangiovese is permitted to be added.
Chillable Red and Rosé Montepulciano
Lighter rosé styles of Montepulciano, called Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, are made by quickly harvesting the grapes and pressing them, separating the skins from the juice, and keeping the color and flavor light.
These wines are typically low in alcohol and exude fresh red fruit flavors (eg, sour cherry, strawberry, and cranberry). They are best drunk young and chilled to heighten the wine’s lovely summertime fruit flavor.
How to Serve Montepulciano Wine
Montepulciano is best served in a standard red wine glass at room temperature (60- 68F). Light and rosé versions are best served slightly chilled, around 62- 68F.
Most Montepulciano wines benefit from decanting for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Since the minimum requirement for aging Montepulciano is 21 months, decanting can help wake up slumbering flavors and revise those plush berry notes.
Notable Regions for Montepulciano
A handful of subregions within Abruzzo are known for making excellent Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Look for their names listed under the appellation, such as Alto Tirino, Casauria, Teate, and Terre des Vestini.
In addition, regions beyond Abruzzo can make good quality Montepulciano wines, though they’re usually blended with Sangiovese and other native grape varietals. These regions include Marche, Molise, and Puglia.
Montepulciano Wine and Food Pairings
Montepulciano is a wonderfully versatile wine that’s wide flavor profile makes it perfect for pairing with a host of dishes.
When made in the richly flavored, tannic style of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, it is best paired with equally rich flavored dishes. This would include hearty red meat dishes such as roasts, burgers, or smoked meats. Be sure to try it with Smoked Leg of Lamb or our favorite Christmas dinner, a perfect Standing Rib Roast.
Avoid lightly seasoned or delicate dishes like seafood, as these will make the wine taste bitter and metallic in comparison.
As for the light, easy-drinking, and tart Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, you’ll definitely want to stick with lighter fare. A charcuterie board, pasta, lean proteins such as chicken or tuna, or dishes with equally bright flavors like salads and seafood are great. Try pairing it with our Lemon Garlic Pasta with Shrimp and Scallops or this quick and easy Weeknight Chicken Milanese with Fennel Salad.
Skip the steak and bolognese, as these will overpower the wine and make it taste flat and less fruity when paired together.
Whether you’re pairing it with food or sipping on its own, we think you’ll love exploring Montepulciano wine. Be sure to shout out below any favorite food pairings or specific Montepulciano wines you’ve tried and loved!