The issue here revolves around the Italian proper noun “Montepulciano”, and like many things about Italian wine, it causes some confusion. So here’s the thing in as few words as possible. When the word Montepulciano is used by itself (“It’s a Montepulciano” or “A Montepulciano blend”), or followed by the qualifier “d’Abruzzo”, it refers to a grape whose home is as the name implies, the Abruzzo region of Central Italy (as well as the regions of Marche, Lazio, Umbria, Molise, and Puglia). But, when the word Montepulciano is prefaced by the qualifier “Vino Nobile di”, or as is the case with the wine tonight, “Rosso di”, the name refers to a place, a little hill town south of Siena in Tuscany to be precise. There are a few stories that attempt to explain the Montepulciano grape/place connection/confusion, but none are terribly convincing, and the answer still eludes any definitive proof.
So sticking to the brevity promise as much as possible, it’s not inaccurate to say that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (and the simpler, un-aged Rosso di Montepulciano) is Chianti’s closest relative. There are some subtle differences in the two regions’ disciplinari (production regulations), but both wines are fundamentally based on Sangiovese (albeit two different sub-varieties), and Canaiolo, as well as the same basic stable of minor grapes, that the difference present in any two wines from the respective regions can be said to be differences of terroir almost exclusively. If Chianti is higher toned and brighter as rule, the appreciably warmer Montepulciano zone turns out fuller, fleshier, “darker” wines that still feature Sangiovese’s sass nonetheless.
Aided by a cool, rainy evening, and a pretty good feel for what the wine might be like, I got right on the (3 mushroom)pizza trail, trying to hook up the zesty side of the wine with tomatoes, and its darker one with the ‘shrooms. And they lived happily ever after. The End.
Fattoria del Cerro Rosso di Montepulciano 2009
Just barely transparent garnet color. Initially a bit closed on both the nose and in the mouth, the wine eventually opens widely into aromas of smoke, black cherry skin, blackberries, toasted fennel seeds, cinnamon, and dried herbs and wildflowers. The palate evolves into a smooth but rustically vivacious medium bodied wine with tidy flavors of cedar, mineral salts, a touch of liver pate`, wild strawberries, cranberries, and dutch cocoa and dried fruit notes on the sublte but persistent and tart finish.