Posted by: tomciocco | May 24, 2013

ROSSO CONERO: THE (BETTER?) MONTEPULCIANO FROM FURTHER NORTH

First things first. There are two oenological “Montepulcianos” – one is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in which the name Montepulciano denotes a town in southern Tuscany which is the source of a wine that is Chianti’s closest relative. Its predominate grape is Sangiovese. Then there’s Montepulciano (d’Abruzzo). In this case Montepulciano is the name of a grape variety, and the “d’Abruzzo” part is a geographical reference to the central Italian region of the same name. Onward…

All too often, the Montepulciano grape is not given its due, and unfortunately, too much of that is attributable to a combination of the market, a large subset of the producers in Abruzzo, and the nature of the grape itself. The Montepulciano variety is deep, easy-going, but still very characterful, and if properly handled it can make very good if not great wine. HOWEVER, the ease with which Montepulciano can be grown in combination with the market’s insatiable desire for quaffable jug wine leads too many producers in Abruzzo to take the easy and profitable road to make the conscious decision to make wine that is just “good enough”. That said, there are some very fine producers in Abruzzo that make world-class wine from the variety. Would that there were more…

Well, in the Marche region just to the north of Abruzzo, the Montepulciano vine also covers lots of square hectares of earth, but because none of its appellations’ names include the word “Montepulciano”, growing regions like Rosso Conero (pronounced ROH-so COH-ner-oh) which is typically made from 100% Montepulciano, can’t capitalize on the fame of grape’s name, but it also is not limited by its somewhat middling reputation either, so if you generally like what Montepulciano is selling, and you know that Rosso Conero is made from this grape (and if you didn’t before, you do now), all things being equal, you’re far more likely to pull the cork on a higher quality bottle of wine than if the label had the name Abruzzo somewhere on the label.

The word “Conero” in this wine’s name refers to the appellation’s proximity to Marche’s coastal city of Ancona. As you likely have already noticed, I typically pair the wines I write about with dishes from the same region. Tonight, this tendency applies in spades with my choice to whip up a skillet of baccala` all’ anconetana (Ancona-style salt cod stewed with veggies, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, milk(!) and wine) for the main course, and a first course of a traditional Marchigiano soup of rice, spinach, and prosciutto dressed with grated pecorino cheese and olive oil just before serving.

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Villa Malacari Rosso Conero 2008

Saturated blackish purple color. Big and expressive nose of wood-smokey black cherry and dried cranberry fruit wonderfully supported by clear notes of melted dark chocolate, black licorice, damp earth, dried herbs, gingerbread, motor oil, and lilac powder. In the mouth the wine is full-bodied with a chewy texture, smooth tannins, and a great balance overall that effortlessly reveals sweet and sour black raspberry and currant fruit and notes of espresso coffee and new leather. Long, rustically elegant finish. A really nice example of Montepulciano.

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Responses

  1. Wonderful wine review. Thanks for the efforts recommending Montepulciano.


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