Thanks to Abruzzo's singular focus on Montepulciano grapes, it is relatively easy to get a handle on the region's wines. Only four are certified.
Controguerra (DOC) wines can be red or white. The reds are typically dry and tannic; they're blended with small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet grapes. The whites combine Trebbiano, Passerino and occasionally Malvasia grapes for a dry, fruity flavor. Whites also come in frizzante and spumante varieties.
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (DOC) is a dry, light, subtle, acidic white. Though most Trebbiano d'Abruzzo uses Tuscan Trebbiano grapes, a few boutique growers use a "true" Abruzzese Trebbiano grape [source: Made in Italy]. Like virtually all Abruzzo wines, the Trebbiano has excellent fruity flavors.
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (DOC), a red, is a good option for those who want a solid Abruzzo wine, on any budget. The Quattro Mani (a mere $8 a bottle) "shows a sense of place is high in quality" [source: Kinsiees]. A high-end organic Emidio Pepe (more than $200 a bottle) is "like drinking velvet" [source: Newlands]. "The fact of the matter," says reviewer Loren Sonkin, "is I have never tasted a poor Montepulciano d'Abruzzo." The intimidating-looking name is pronounced mohn-teh-pool-CHAH-no.
Wine Review calls the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane (DOCG) "Abruzzo's gem...the best of the best." It is a generous red, with round notes of fresh cherry and plum. Tannin keeps it from being overwhelmingly sweet. Most Colline Teramane is aged in oak, and acquires flavors of spice and smoke. Colline Teramane wines are often described as "earthy," "masculine" or "muscular," and they're best paired with food rather than sipped on their own [source: Franz].
Keep an eye out for "riserva" or "superiore" designations, which mean you're getting 100 percent Montepulciano grapes, with no blending. You'll pay more, but it may be worth it.
If you'd like to experiment with an unclassified Abruzzese wine, try the Moscato, or the dry Angelo Bianco or Angelo Rosso. And don't forget a big wedge of pecorino. Salute!
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