Here’s to the house red: four fine examples of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Italian restaurants know what they’re doing: these easy-drinking, lightly fruity wines go with a wide variety of dishes

The chances are if you eat in your local Italian restaurant, the house red will be a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is generally an easy-drinking, lightly fruity wine that goes with a wide variety of dishes, including lighter pasta dishes and pizza.

Montepulciano is the grape (not to be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in Tuscany, which is made from Sangiovese), and Abruzzo is the region. It is a very large area in central Italy that runs from the Adriatic coastline up into the Apennine mountains that form the spine of Italy. An hour or so east of Rome, it has a rugged beauty with several large nature reserves, medieval hilltop villages and castles.

Inexpensive Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is uncomplicated and lightly fruity. Most supermarkets offer at least one. However, the region is home to a number of exciting estates that produce some seriously good, age-worthy wines. In between the two there is a host of mid-priced wines that are definitely worth a few euro more. At the very top of the tree are several extraordinary producers, including the Emidio Pepe featured here.

The best wines tend to come from higher altitude vineyards, while the less expensive wines, often produced by large co-ops, are produced in the flat coastal plains. As well as montepulciano, a producer can add up to 15 per cent of another grape variety, in practice usually sangiovese. Many also make a rosé called Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, some of which can be very good.


Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2021, Emotivo

12%, €10

Light, easy blackcurrant and red cherry fruits. Enjoy with tomato-based pasta dishes, meatballs or pizza.

From: SuperValu, Dunnes Stores

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Le Salare 2021

12.5%, €16-€17

A favourite in the Wilson household, this light wine has delicious refreshing plump plum fruits with a savoury note and a rounded finish. Perfect with pizza and lighter pasta dishes.

From: Sheridans, Siyps, Fallon & , Eleven Deli, Lilith, Lennox Street, Greenman Wines, Nellys, Cornrue Bakery, The Store Next Door, Opera Wicklow

2021 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Malandrino, Cataldi Madonna

14%, €26

Floral, medium- to full-bodied with intense svelte black cherry and dark fruits. Smooth tannins and a long finish. Try it with spaghetti alla chitarra and ragù, or spicy sausage with lentils.

From: Avoca; Blackrock Cellar; Deveney’s, D14; Drink Store, D7; McHugh’s, D5; Redmonds, D6; Sweeney’s, D3; The Corkscrew, D2; Thomas’s, Foxrock

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018, Emidio Pepe

13.5%, €100

Balsamic plum fruits, with tobacco leaf and earthy notes. Complex and quite wonderful. Try it with a plain roast of lamb.

From: Sheridans Cheesemongers;; 64 Wines, Glasthule; Green Man, D6; Strandfield House, Dundalk