The rugged Adriatic Italian region of Abruzzo has become renowned for it’s Montepulciano, a splendid but much underrated grape variety that delivers rich and often complex red wines.
Despite producing wines of such quality, Abruzzo still struggles to gain a reputation as one of Italy’s serious wine producing regions. This is not because of any major defects in this indigenous variety, nor is it because of any lack of skilled producers. The main issue is that Montepulciano has a habit of leaving its native Abruzzo in large cooperative tankers and ending up in bottles of Chianti or other blended Italian reds, many of which can be found on the shelves of supermarkets. Abruzzo wine production is dominated by cooperatives with 80% of the regions wine being produced by coops.
Montepulciano is Abruzzo’s major player, the only other variety of any importance in the region is Trebbiano. Abruzzi Trebbiano carries one major flaw which is in consumers eyes Trebbiano is responsible for many low quality, mass produced Tuscan white wines. But Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is not the same thing as its Tuscan Trebbiano, and the wines it produces can be of great quality. Despite Trebbiano d’Abruzzo’s excellent potential for ageing, the majority of wine produced remains simple, never oaked or aged, for early drinking.
There are other varieties worth note that grow on Abruzzi soils. Pecorino (not the cheese), is a high-acid grape that grows and thrives on the regions higher slopes. Other whites such as Passerina and Montonico are native Abruzzi grape varieties, but where previously used to make sparkling wine, but are now often been used to produce dry table wines drunk around the regions hotels and restaurants .
As with the rest of Italy there is a rediscovery of ancient native varieties but Abruzzi’s star player is still Montepulciano. It’s versatility means it can produce many differing stles of wine capable of satisfying many different, yet discerning palates. It can be made in stainless steel to produce a simple wine with freshness and clear fruit flavours. But if managed correctly and produced in low yields, it can be aged in wood to create wines of altogether greater depth, concentration and complexity, many of which would rival the mid to high priced Tuscan wines.