New York Times
Lively and Refreshing Wines at the Right Price

Several little-known red grapes of Italy have achieved some small measure of renown beyond their home territories in the last 15 years, but montepulciano has not been among them.

Unlike aglianico, nerello mascalese and frappato, montepulciano did not burst on to the scene, leaving behind a frenzied Instagram trail of fervent sommeliers and impassioned wine merchants. While those grapes have all deservedly had their moments, montepulciano has largely been ignored.

I don’t argue that it should have been otherwise. The other grapes, at least, have their champions, star winemakers whose successes demonstrated great potential and carved plausible paths for others to follow.

The two most esteemed Montepulciano d’Abruzzo producers, Valentini and Emidio Pepe, are beloved more for their rare and gloriously idiosyncratic wines than for presenting benchmark Abruzzo wines that could be imitated on a wider scale.

Beyond the wines from those two producers, montepulciano is thought to be “generally a workhorse grape,” as Ian D’Agata put it in his excellent “Native Wine Grapes of Italy,” though he also suggested it had “thoroughbred potential.”

Montepulciano is popular enough to be the fourth-most-planted grape in Italy, after sangiovese; trebbiano, a white found all over Italy; and catarratto, a white found solely in Sicily. Most of the montepulciano is found along the Adriatic Coast, largely in Abruzzo but also in Marche to the north and Puglia to the south.

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