The hallmark red grape of Abruzzo in Central Italy, Montepulciano produces a range of styles. Within the red wine category alone, it can yield soft, fruit reds great for everyday enjoyment, idiosyncratic terroir driven wines from unique sites and even dense, ageworthy expressions that deserve extended bottle age to show their best.
A range of aging vessels can be employed, ranging from neutral containers like stainless steel, concrete and amphora; as well as used toasted oak barrels of different sizes and toast levels. All yield varied results that are delicious in their own right but complement the rich cherry fruit inherent in the grape well.
Below are 12 Montepulcianos that span price points and styles, letting you discover which expressions you like the most.
Masciarelli 2015 Villa Gemma Riserva (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo); $90, 94 points. This top-of-the-line Montepulciano impresses in rich aromas of cocoa, cigar box, dill and anise that meld into a deep well of brandy-soaked black cherry and dark plum. It’s full and enveloping on the palate yet foursquare in nature, built by small-grained, polished tannins and integrated acidity that frame densely packed dark fruit. Spiced plums linger on the long finish, indicating that this will hold well in the cellar. Drink 2022–2030 at least. Vintus LLC. Cellar Selection. —Alexander Peartree
Amorotti 2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; $44, 93 points. Dense aromas of black plum and blackberry are lifted by accents of crushed herbs and chopped mint in this Montepulciano that sees 23 months in large, untoasted Slavonian casks. There’s polish to the plump fruit on the palate, with a seamless feel to the integrated tannins and bright acidity. Not a hair is out of place in this poised red. Drink now–2026. Jan D’Amore Wines. —A.P.
Francesco Cirelli 2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; $22, 93 points. Freshly pressed blackberries, cherries and cranberries take on earthy elements of crushed herbs and gravel in this amphora-aged Montepulciano. There’s a polished, supple feel to the berry fruit on the medium-bodied palate, with streaks of crushed mineral and earthy spice lending depth. The finish lingers long on a bright cherry-skin note. Zev Rovine Selections. Editors’ Choice. —A.P.
Cantina Tollo 2015 Cagiòlo Riserva (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo); $25, 92 points. Densely packed aromas of brandy-soaked plums and blackberries meld with seamless accents of allspice and tobacco in this brooding red. Rich in feel on the palate, a luscious black plum flavor is wrapped in a blanket of polished tannins and propped up by unwavering acidity. There’s sheen and depth to this red that needs some time to unravel. Drink 2022 2028. Vino Veritas. Cellar Selection. —A.P.
Terra d’Aligi 2016 Tatone (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo); $17, 91 points. Dense aromas of brandy-dipped cherries and blackberries meld with firm doses of tobacco, anise and cardamom in this sultry red. The full-bodied palate is rounded and supple in feel, with concentrated dark berry and plum flavors that are lifted by a mix of sweet and savory spices. A firm webbing of tannins holds it all together, never detracting from the fruit. Drink now. Enotec Imports, Inc. —A.P.
Torre Zambra 2016 Villamagna; $29, 91 points. Made entirely from Montepulciano, this red starts off with a bright nose of tobacco, crushed herbs and black pepper. The palate is silky smooth and succulent in a firm red-cherry flavor, with plenty of acidity and gripping tannins holding it all in check. Crushed stone and more herbs add interest to the lingering finish. Tri-Vin Imports. —A.P.
Contesa 2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; $18, 90 points. Dense aromas of brandy-soaked red cherry and plum meet a firm blend of sweet spice and crushed herbs on the nose. It’s rounded in feel on the medium-bodied palate, showing a juicy mix of fresh cherry and plum fruit peppered with more sweet spices. Vinifera Imports. —A.P.
La Valentina 2016 Spelt Riserva (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo); $22, 90 points. Bright red cherry melds with crushed granite and herbs on the nose of this red. The medium-bodied palate is juicy in a vibrant red-cherry flavor, with a line of crunchy tannins and vibrant acidity propping it up. Dalla Terra Winery Direct. —A.P.
Nicodemi 2017 Notàri (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane); $23, 90 points. There’s enviable concentration on the nose of this wine, delivering plumes of dark cherry, plum, salt and tobacco. There’s power and verve to the thick-skinned berry fruit on the medium-bodied palate, built up by a sturdy frame of tannins and pushed along by a refreshing vein of acidity. Regal Wine Imports Inc. —A.P.
Illuminati 2018 Lumeggio (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo); $18, 89 points. Aromas of brandy-dipped cherries, wet tobacco and warm spices carry the well-concentrated nose. Smooth tannins and fresh acidity lend ample support to the rich cherry fruit on the palate, with warm spices lingering on the close. Montcalm Wine Importers. —A.P.
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Talamonti 2017 Tre Saggi (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo); $19, 89 points. This lavish red is all about rich fruit and warm spices. A dense core of brandy soaked cherry is studded with allspice, cinnamon and clove, framed by a firm, rigid tannic structure that allows all that richness to expand. There’s plenty of driving acidity to lend some balance, but ultimately this remains brooding and grippy, needing a hearty protein as a match. Panebianco. —A.P.
Umani Ronchi 2018 Podere (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo); $13, 88 points. Aromas of crushed, mentholated herbs, blackberry and black pepper are lifted and pure on the nose. This light-bodied Montepulciano offers a succulent core of cherry and blackberry flavors on the palate, all framed by fine yet supportive tannins. It’s a great everyday red that would be a welcome addition to the dinner table. Vineyard Brands. Best Buy. —A.P.