Farnese Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Farnese Montepulciano d’AbruzzoThe next series of wine I am tasting is an Italian varietal called Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  If you know anything about Italy, you’ve probably guessed that this varietal comes from the Abruzzo province along Italy’s Adriatic coast.  And if you know your wine grapes you probably guessed that it’s made from the Montepulciano grape, which is believed to be native to the Abruzzo province.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo tends to be a soft, fruity and approachable wine.  It’s less acidic than additional well loved Italian wines like Chianti and its tannins are bit sweeter.  It is typically a “drink it now” type of wine.  While there are some producers who make pricey bottles, there are plenty of value-priced ones available.
The first wine in this tasting comes from Farnese, a producer that’s been in wine building for over four centuries.  Farnese was founded by Princess Marguerite of Austria, daughter of Emperor Carlo the fifth and wife to Prince Octavio Farnese.  So you can tell yourself that you’re royalty when you drink this wine… that what I did.
This is a very approachable wine.  It’s a small bit ancient world in it’s overall characteristics, but not too much.  It has smoke and cherry on the nose and a touch of vanilla.  The palate is a bit grapey.  It’s soft, yet fascinating with smooth tannins, blackberry, cherry and a hint of black pepper.  It is a excellent example of varietal character at a very excellent fee if you’ve never tried Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.   I picked this bottle up for $6.99 and the rating came in at an 86—pretty excellent, but not extraordinary.
Wine: Farnesse
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2005
Alcohol: 13% 
Rating: 86
Fee Paid: $6.99

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Stella Italia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Stella Italia Montepulciano d’AbruzzoMontepulciano d’Abruzzo is often thought of as a table wine.  Something that is not sophisticated and meant for casual drinking.  Because of that fact it is sometimes not given the attention it deserves in production resulting in a less enjoyable product.
This isn’t the case with all Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  In fact there are some very fascinating and enjoyable bottles out there and I hope to highlight them in this series.  This was not one of those exceptional bottles.
Low alcohol make pleased and overall lack of concentration make this a mild, subtle wine.  The dominant feature on the nose is tobacco.  It’s hard to find anything further than that, except maybe a hint of plum.  The palate is plums and spice.  It has surprising heat for the alcohol level, but it’s an acidic heat.  Too acidic in my opinion.  The end is quick.  I can’t recommend this one and it only got a 69.
Wine: Stella Italia
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2004
Alcohol: 12%
Rating: 69
Fee Paid: $7.99

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Filomusi Guelfi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Filomusi Guelfi Montepulciano d’AbruzzoThe Filomusi-Guelfi family in Abruzzo, Italy are the producers of this Montepulciano.  The family has been in the province since the 16th century where they have a vineyard of over 9.5 hectares.  The majority of the vineyard (78%) is Montepulciano grapes.  There is so much description in the rear the vineyards producing Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that it makes me want to visit the Abruzzo province of Italy.  Abruzzo isn’t a common vacation destination, but with everything from 14th century castles to beaches to mountains and national parks it is my kind of place to visit.  And of course vast vineyards and an abundance of wine attract me as well. 
Perhaps someday I’ll visit Abruzzo.  In the mean time, I’ll try to be satisfied by buying the wine that gets exported.  This bottle, from Filomusi Guelfi, is exported by Marc De Grazia Selections who represents over 90 small Italian producers.
This is one of the more expensive examples of Montepulciano that I have tried, at $15.99.  And while it was excellent, the quality wasn’t any better than some lower priced bottles I have tried.
The nose is very herbal.  I get mostly tea leaf, rhubarb and sour cherry aromas.  The palate has a crisp acidity.  It’s perhaps a bit too acidic but it’s not overwhelming.  The flavors are spicy sour cherry, plum and a hint of caper.  The end is long and dry.  There is also a hint of a metallic aftertaste, although it is very subtle.  Overall, this is a decent example of varietal characteristics for Montepulciano D’Abruzzi but it’s not exceptional and in my opinion is over priced for the quality.
Wine: Filomusi Guelfi
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2003
Alcohol: 13.5% 
Rating: 85
Fee Paid: $15.99

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Fattoria La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Fattoria La Valentina Montepulciano d’AbruzzoLa Valentina is a much younger producer than many of the others I’ve tasted for this series, but they produce a classic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  They were established in 1990 and currently manage over 40 hectares.  They have two vineyards in Abruzzo and the grapes for this mark are from the San Valentino vineyard, about 20km from Maiella mountain (one of the highest peaks in Italy). The vines in this location are 100% Montepulciano planted over 30 years ago.
The thing I like about this wine is that it’s the best of both worlds.  A bit ancient world and a bit new world.  The nose on this is new world leather and dark dried cherries, plus ancient world barnyard, mushrooms and black olives. There’s also a bit of licorice on the nose.  The palate is nice and fruity with plum and dark cherry, but it’s not a fruit bomb—there is just enough frutta.  The fruit is complemented by some black pepper and a hint of mid-palate chocolate.  The end is long and fantastic.  It’s a honestly fruit-filled end with a return of the licorice that was on the nose.
This isn’t going to be the best wine you’ve ever had, but it’s a solid Italian red and it’s a fantastic example of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  And at $13 it’s an affordable way to try this varietal.  Wine Spectator gave this an 87, but my numbers came in a notch higher at 88.  I know there’s not much difference, but that’s how it worked out.
Wine: Fattoria La Valentina
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2005
Alcohol: 13.5% 
Rating: 88
Fee Paid: $12.99

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Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Masciarelli Montepulciano d’AbruzzoAzienda Agricola Masciarelli operates 13 estates across Abruzzo totaling about 300 hectares with lots of Montepulciano vines, plus additional varietals such as Trebbiano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cococciola and one hectare of Falaghina.  They also have olive groves on many of their estates and are well known for their olive oil sold below the Cvetic name.
The estate was founded by Gianni Masciarelli in 1981 and they’ve established quite a presence in Abruzzo in less than 30 years.  With many wine producers in the area having vineyards that were passed down from one generation to the next, this is a relatively young producer.
I found the 2003 vintage on shelves in my area and I was a bit surprised that I wasn’t finding a more recent vintage but I was glad to give this one a shot.  This is another wine that is a nice marriage of ancient and new world styles.  It has a few characteristics that make it a bit dirty and fascinating in an ancient world way, but enough fruit to appeal to fans of new world wines.  It has a slightly smokey and dusty nose with dark berries and leather.  There is very excellent concentration in the palate.  Cherries, blackberries and chocolate all have a strong presence. There is a lot of fruit, but the fruit is a touch young tasting—keeping this wine very dry.  It has a medium length end with smooth tannis and a hint of chocolate.
I found this for $8.99 and it is an brilliant wine for that fee.  I gave it an 87.
Wine: Masciarelli
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2003
Alcohol: 13% 
Rating: 87
Fee Paid: $8.99

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Majolica Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Majolica Montepulciano d’AbruzzoThe next wine in our series on Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is Majolica from producer Podere Castorani.  The Castorani name comes from the family of surgeon Raffaele Castorani who fake the first surgical procedure to treat cataracts and owned the property in the late 18th century.  The property has since gone through different owners and the winemaking traditions on the property were all but lost until a group of four partners banded a few years ago to renew the winemaking traditions on this property. 
An fascinating note is that one of the partners in Podere Castorani is Enzo Trulli, father  of Formula One driver Jarno Trulli.
Podere Castorani in fact produces four additional Montepulciano d’Abruzzo marks and this is the entry-level (i.e. most inexpensive) mark they produce in this varietal.
Overall, this wine has strong ancient world characteristics.  It has decent fruit but if you’re incomplete to new world, fruit-forward wines I would say this isn’t a pick for you.  The nose of Majolica Montepulciano d’Abruzzo features violet, vanilla and a touch of blackberry.  The fruit is really a secondary aroma.  The palate is also more earthy than fruity and has subtle blackberry, earth and smokey tannins.  It’s a small bit more acidic than preferable, which hurt the score slightly.  It’s a decent pizza wine for $10, but not really a top pick for me.
Wine: Podere Castorani Majolica
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2006
Alcohol: 13% 
Rating: 82
Fee Paid: $9.99

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Villa Cerrina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Villa Cerrina Montepulciano d’AbruzzoI’ll keep this one relatively small as there’s not much to get excited about. This review adds feed to my “there’s better places to shop for wine than Trader Joe’s” rant. Yep, it’s another wine from Trader Joe’s that rates less than 80.
The fruit is soft in this one. It has a small leather and currant on the nose, but it lacks intensity. If you’re looking for consistency with that lack of intensity you’re in luck as the palate also lacks concentration. What flavor is there is a bit of blackberry and currant. The tannins are soft and are probably the best aspect to this wine. In general this is also a bit off balance on the acidic side. Did I mention that it’s a very set alight wine?
The excellent news is that it was only $6.00. I may be dramatizing my distaste a bit only because I grow frustrated with all the people I meet who rant about Trader Joe’s as the place to get excellent cheap wine. In my experience, it’s not. This wine rated at a 79, so it’s not disgusting but you can find others that are much better without spending much more. Like Masciarelli, for example.
Wine: Villa Cerrina
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2003
Alcohol: 12%
Rating: 79
Fee Paid: $5.99

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Quattro Mani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Quattro Mani Montepulciano d’AbruzzoQuattro Mani translates to mean “four hands” which supposedly represents four celebrity Italian winemakers who produce wines from indigenous Italian varietals, such as Montepulciano.  I tried to find out who these “celebrities” are but I couldn’t find any info on them. If anyone knows, please post a comment.
I also tried to visit the website of the bottler, Velenosi and that too was unavailable.  I’m having no luck on the research in the rear this bottle.  It was imported by Domaine Select in New York, but all they say is that it’s produced by four celebrated Italian winemakers.  That doesn’t help me either.  Sigh.  All I can give you on this is my tasting notes.
Barley and vanilla aromas with blackberry and cherry cola on the palate. Quattro Mani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a very soft, simple and approachable wine filled with a nice abundance of fruit.  The end is honestly long and it is well balanced.  It’s a decent and enjoyable pizza or pasta wine, but it’s not extraordinarily elegant.
Wine: Quattro Mani
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2010
Alcohol: 13%
Rating: 85
Fee Paid: $8.99

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