Two wines that clear up the confusion on Montepulciano

What’s the difference between Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Montepulciano D’Abruzzo?
The answer is simple: Both are wines made entirely from different grapes grown in different regions.

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepuliciano is enjoyed with a caprese salad.
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepuliciano is enjoyed with a caprese salad.
Vino nobile di Montepulciano is named for the town/region in Tuscany where ancient Etruscans first planted vineyards. The wine is made from a clone of the Sangiovese grape; it is called prugnolo. (The red-skinned Sangiovese also furnishes unique clones to make Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino wines.) According to Karen MacNeil’s excellent book The Wine Bible, the wine was popular among “noblemen, poets and popes” and in the 18th century picked up the name “vino nobile” (noble wine).
On the other hand, the wine Montepulciano D’Abruzzo takes its name from an actual grape that grows throughout central and southern Italy. It is the special grape of Abruzzo, a region stretching from the Adriatic Sea in the east to a western point 80 miles from Rome. Known as the “greenest’ region in all of Europe, Abruzzo hosts three national parks and 38 protected nature reserves where 75 percent of the continent’s living species survive.
So to simplify: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano — or VNM — derives its name from a town/region in Tuscany; Montepulciano d’Abruzzo — or MA — is named for the grape grown in the Abruzzi region. The best way to understand the distinction is to taste the wines. Here are two good examples from yours truly:
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2013, Tuscany, $29 — The Sangiovese grapes come from eight Avignonesi estates in the Montepulciano region. The vines range from 10 years old to 40. Winemakers Ashleigh Seymour and Matteo Giustiniani make vino nobile (noble wine) live up to its name in this stylishly elegant, complex wine. If the rich, sweet cherry and violet aromas don’t win you over, the first sip will: Think of swirling a luscious, tart cherry pie in your
mouth and while the juices flow, savory spices begin to build toward a sustained finish.
Yes, I enjoyed this vino nobile. Avignonesi ages it for 24 months — 12 months in French barriques, six months in Slovakian casks, and six months in bottle before release.
Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC San Martino Rosso, $28 – I previously reviewed this wine with the Mill City Oenophile Tasting Club in a Sept. 15, 2016 column. Here is what I wrote:
Marina Cvetic Montepulciano di Abruzzo.
Marina Cvetic Montepulciano di Abruzzo.
“It’s nice to end the night with a stunner, and this dry, garnet-colored red from Masciarelli Tenute Agricole proved a worthy match with an Italian meal … Full-bodied and velvety smooth, the Marina Cvetic gave little doubt of its refined power and total enjoyment. It’s a wine of nuances and complexity, layering spicy black fruit with toasty vanilla, coffee and bitter chocolate tastes. The high alcohol content (14.5 percent) is barely noticed, as the fruit and acidity harmonize in a sensual flow across the palate. The late Gianni Masciarelli, who founded the pioneering winery in 1978, named this wine after his wife, Marina Cvetic. She’s run all operations since her husband’s 2008 death and continues to produce stellar wines.”