Montepulciano: Is it a Grape or a Town?

Montepulciano: Is it a Grape or a Town?

It’s easy to look to Italy for a great barbeque wine because most of their wines work so well with food.  Italian reds generally have the tannins and acidity needed for all that grilled meat.  But sometimes the Italian names, rules and designations can all get confusing.

Like the name Montepulciano.  Does it refer to a grape or a town? It actually refers to both. We know.  It’s a bit confusing. But suffice to say it’s a great place to visit and even better wines to drink, especially with your next barbecue so its worth understanding the difference.

The Grape

The Montepulciano grape is grown all over Italy but notably in Abruzzo, a region east of Rome. But the grape was actually named after a Tuscan parish in the town of Montepulciano.  See, confusing.

The wine made from the Montepulciano grape was once considered a table wine, light and fruity, but producers have really upped their game. The well-made wines now have body and ageability.  They have tons of black fruit, and generally should age a few years before they really taste fabulous.

It’s the second most planted red grape in Italy after the Sangiovese grape, which we’ll talk about in a second.

But pour this wine with your burger, anything with barbeque sauce or that beef brisket you’re dying to make and you won’t be disappointed.

The Town

As we just mentioned, Montepulciano is also the name of a town in Southern Tuscany.  But the main grape there is Sangiovese.

The “noble wine” of Montepulciano, the Vino Nobile, is made from at least 70% Sangiovese grapes (no, not the Montepulciano grape).

These wines generally have much more bright red fruit, like strawberry and cherry and savory spice. They tend to be medium to full-bodied, still with great tannins and tons of acidity.  And the good ones should age about 10 years. Some can last over 20.

And while many say it’s a cross between a Brunello di Montalcino and a Chianti Classico, Vino Nobiles certainly don’t carry the same hefty price tag as a Brunello.

These wines will work great with your grilled steak or sausages.

So do your own taste test at your next barbeque. Try these two wines below (which coincidently are both made by women) and tell us what you think.

Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2010, $30
Blackberries and bitter chocolate.

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2011, $30
Black cherry, plum. One of our weekly wine picks!

Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip. 

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