Being Italian and Abruzzese, it was only natural that when I started to explore the subject of wine, I went first with the wines of Abruzzo. I got to know my Montepulciano and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. Talamonti, Masciarelli,Zaccagnini were some of the producers that got me started. To this day, I still remember the sweet flavors of black plums, cherry and the rustic vinosity in those wines. For me, Montepulciano makes honest but delicious wines.
Then back in the early 2000’s when I used to live in Europe, I discovered the wines of Valentini and Emidio Pepe. My family in Loreto Aprutino ( a town in Abruzzo) are friends with both producers so their cellars are full of old vintages from these producers. These were the finest expressions of Montepulciano that I have ever tasted. My uncle Dino called them vini da meditazione. Back then, the only people that knew these wines were the old timers Italian cognoscenti. Nowadays, they are the subject of adulation by the hipster wine drinker. However, that's another history...that does not concern this post.
What's the best food match for Montepulciano?. For me, the best accord is arrosticini. Arrosticini are tender skewers of lamb cooked over an open fire made with coals or wood called arrustelle in the local dialect. Initially, the slender kebabs were made from the meat of castrated sheep, but nowadays they tend to be a mix of lamb and mutton. When I was in Italy, I used to have them all the time with my family, when I used to go for mountain excursions. It is so good with a glass of Montepulciano, the wine bold structure and fleshy tannins absorbing the fat of the meat skewers and making a beautiful contrast with the coal fire spit flavors.
At the latest La Grande Degustation of Montreal 2017, I recently discovered a magnificent producer of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo that was unknown to me. Franco D’Eusanio was a consultant for the wine industry for many years before he founded Chiusa Grande in 1994. The winery makes top Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Trebbianos with an excellent price quality ratio. The wines are available by private import in Quebec through Agence PF. I tasted the wines from this producer in the company of Dino Ciccarelli, the export manager of Chiusa Grande. Here are two of my favorite wines that caught my attention from the winery:
The Roccosecco Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Roccosecco ( $22.80, Case of 12) is a good rendition of what a young Montepulciano should be. A lovely nose bringing to mind black prunes with spiced red cherry and nuances of licorice and sandalwood. On the mouth, fleshy with a good acidity and ripe tannins. This wine is mostly made in stainless steel with a slight touch of new oak. Perfect with arrosticini or pastas with tomato sauce
The Perla Nera 2009 ( $36.75, Case of 6) impressed me with its complex notes of black olives, cacao and fig jam. Exuberant in the palate with muscular tannins, it has pronounced mineral nuances that bring to mind hummus and smoke. Very long with an spectacular finale. Perla Nera is made from old vines Montepulciano and see a passage in barrique for 18 months. Buy a case of this wine and cellar it for a few years.
Wines for Panino and Pizza
Two items that are the par excellence comfort food for us Italians are the Panino and Pizza. You can make a panino almost from anything: cold cuts, marinated vegetables, leftover roasted meats, etc. It is easy to make and perfect if you want to have a late supper. Paninos are excellent as well if you want to receive people over and don't want to spend a fortune in food.
I recently enjoyed the Berselli & Solferino Signature Collection Primitivo Salento 2014 ( SAQ # 13487188, $21.95). A very warm and generous Primitivo with notes of prunes, coffee and pipe tobacco. On the mouth was creamy with a medium acidity and reminding me of fig and black cherry jam with soft undertones. Buy this wine and pair with a roasted pork or beef panino.
We all love pizza and we make it at home or have at a resto where you can bring your own wine. Pizza and wine were born to be together, they are like twins. My favorite pizza is Margherita. It is simple and quite tasty reminding me of all the goodness of tomatoes, basil and Italian cheese. The next time you have a pizza, you should definitely try the Ambo Nero Provincia di Pavia 2016 ( SAQ # 13487161, $14.95).
On the nose aromas of strawberry and raspberry jam with ripe Cranberries. Spices such as cloves and black peppers. Ultra smooth with ripe tannins and a suave finale.