Having minored in French at West Point, when it came to “Old World” wines (wines originating from historically traditional wine production regions, ie France, Italy, Spain, mostly European countries), I used to lean towards French wines. I felt like I had slightly more familiarity regarding French wine production regions than any other foreign country simply due to college requirements to know about the country. This didn’t mean I liked French wines – my husband and I traveled to Bordeaux for an anniversary only to learn that we didn’t like Bordeaux’s – but I knew how to pronounce the regions and knew their general locations, so that somehow made French wines more approachable. Of the other Old World regions, Italy and Spain seemed intimidating as the labels were harder to interpret and the grape varietals weren’t recognizable compared to traditional California grapes.
As I’ve discussed wines with participants of the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program, I have observed that Italian varietals, in particular, are either extremely well-known or very unfamiliar, all depending on whether the trainee has traveled to Italy. For this reason, I’ve recently gone out of my way to include Italian varietals in the training plan. Those who know Italian wines are excited to see a familiar grape on the schedule while trainees who are unfamiliar with Italy’s traditional varietals are offered an opportunity for exposure. The other benefit to learning about Italian varietals is that I have found them to be more frequently available on menus and in wine shops.
After we had an incredibly successful week tasting Sangiovese, a particular 52 Weeks of Wine Trainee e-mailed me and said, “What about Montepulciano??” I immediately scoured my wine distributors site to determine availability in the affordable price range and sure enough, an award-winning Montepulciano for $12.99 a bottle!
This Montepulciano is medium to full-bodied and a beautiful purplish red color. The aromas are of dark berries, plum and tobacco. The taste is fruit-forward but not fruit-forward like a California Cab – it’s much softer. The berries, cherries and plum transition to currants and licorice in the finish. This is truly a beautiful red wine and though on the fuller-bodied end of the spectrum, lacks the strong, jammy tendencies of more common full-bodied reds.
This wine retails from $13-15 and is truly a luxurious wine at an affordable price point. I gave this wine a 4 out of 5 cork rating.