Italy in a glass
This may well be one of those wines that is at its best when it doesn’t try too hard. It excels as a medium-priced soft, generous quaffing wine, of the sort you would love to drink, possibly lightly chilled, with a relaxed Italian meal. The really cheap versions can be pretty nasty, herbaceous, earthy and lacking in fruit, but these days the overall standard is pretty good.
My own tasting revealed plenty of really enjoyable fresh, fruit-filled wines with real character, including wines from Tesco and Marks Spencer, both made by the same woman, Gaetane Carron. There were one or two also-rans but very few actively nasty wines. At the upper end, there were some ambitious wines, obviously intended for ageing.
In addition to the red wine, montepulciano is also used to make cerasuolo, a rosé highly rated by some, although I have never really seen the point. There is also Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, otherwise known as ugni blanc, which is, at best, crisp and refreshing. The more ambitious producers have been experimenting with chardonnay and other white grapes. However, it is the red wine that gets the deserved attention.
It is a go-to wine in Italian restaurants as it usually offers decent value and goes with a wide variety of foods, pizza and lighter pasta dishes in particular. The Abruzzo is also known for its pork charcuterie and mountain lamb, both often laced often with chilli- perfect with the low tannin montepulciano.
BOTTLES OF THE WEEK
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010, Vigneto Vigne Nuove, Valle Reale 13% €11.99A nicely aromatic wine with lovely refreshing, bright, brambly, dark cherry fruits, and an attractive tannic nip on the finish. Stockists: Wines on the Green, Dawson Street; McCabe’s Blackrock; Baggot Street Wines; The Gables, Foxrock.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010, Il Bucco 12.5% €11.70Delicious, fragrant wine with medium-bodied fresh, dark cherry fruits and decent length. Lovely purity of fruit and lowish acidity give it instant glugability. Stockists: 1601, Kinsale; No 21, Cork; JJ O’Driscoll, Cork; Matson’s, Bandon; O’Driscoll’s, Cahirciveen; Green’s, Cork; Next Door Off Licences nationwide; Swans on the Green, Naas; Mill Wine Centre, Maynooth; Nolan’s, Clontarf; Callan’s, Dundalk; Ballinteer Off-Licence; Ardkeen, Waterford; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; McHugh’s, Kilbarrack; Mac’s, Limerick; Paul’s, Donegal; Gibney’s, Malahide.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Le Salare 13% €10.95-€11.50Another quite delicious fresh, bouncy wine, with a cocktail of dark fruits, just the right amount of acidity, and a seamless finish. Stockists: Sheridans Cheesemongers (Galway, Dublin, Carnaross, Co Meath); Liston’s, Camden Street; Lettercollum Kitchen Project, Clonakilty; John R’s, Listowel.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010, Valori 14% €14.50-€14.95This is a bit more substantial; a lovely perfumed nose again, but this time with a bit more body, more alcohol, and a greater concentration of dark fruits on the palate. A very good wine at the price, best served with food. Stockists: Corkscrew, Chatham Street; the Hole in the Wall, Dublin 7; Red Island Wines, Skerries; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; Fallon Byrne, Exchequer Street.