The Montepulciano grape

Our first article was on the not so widely known grape Aglianico.  Today’s article is about a misunderstood grape varietal, again from Italy.  Montepulciano is often confused with Sangiovese.  There is a town in Italy with the same name, Montepulciano, that is famous for a wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  Well, the wine name translates to the “Nobel Wine of Montepulciano”.  The confusion stems from the fact that the wine is also 100% Sangiovese grape varietal.  The Montepulciano grape does not even grow near the town, but in the Tuscan region of Italy.  Specifically Montepuliciano grows in the Abruzzo region of east central Italy. The story goes that the grape was named by former residents of the town Montepulciano that missed their beloved city where they used to live.

In this article we will discuss one of these newly emerging Italian varietals in Temecula Valley Wine Country. Montepulciano (pronounced "mawn-teh-pool-CHAH-naw") is typically a fruity, dry wine with soft tannins and usually drunk young. In Italy if the wine is aged for more than two years with at least 6 months in wood, the wine may be labeled “Riserva”. In 1995 another DOC, “Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane”, was created in Italy to separate out Riserva wines that were aged for at least three years.

The new found interest in these varietals is partly due to the similar terrior of Temecula Valley to the regions that these vines thrive in Italy. Another reason for the interest in planting these varietals is that they previously were not available in the United States. Recently Montepulciano has been planted in the United States, specifically in Southern California. Montepulciano thrives in dry, sunny climates like that found in Temecula Valley AVA. The grapes are plump with high amounts of juice. The grape also has a deep purple and ruby color to its juice.

As with all of the Italian varietals growing in the Tuscan region, these all grow quite well in the Temecula Wine Country. Montepulicano is currently planted in the new vineyards of Europa Village and also in the more established vineyards at Cougar Vineyard and Winery. In fact, the varietal was not available to plant in the United States until 2002 and was planted by Cougar that year. So Cougar has some of the oldest Montepulciano grapes available in the United States in their Fallbrook Estate vineyard. New varietals, such as Montepulciano, go through a multitude of tests for diseases at UC Davis before becoming readily available through a grape vine nursery.

In Temecula Valley, Montepulciano is only available for wine tasting as a varietal Estate wine (dubbed “The Full Monte”) and also as a dry Rose (Monte’s Blush) at Cougar Vineyard & Winery located at 39870 De Portola Road. This winery resides on the De Portola Wine Trail of Temecula Wine Country. There is a well established vineyard planted by Cougar Vineyard & Winery in Fallbrook in 2002. Cougar Vineyard & Winery also has 3 year old vines planted on the winery property in Temecula Wine Country.

Cougars Monte’s Blush is 100% Montepulciano grapes done as a dry rose similar to rose wines found in Europe. The nose is fresh strawberries with flavors of ripe plums and cranberries ending in a dry smooth finish. Cougar claims that the wine is great with spicy foods and spicy friends. Cougars The Full Monte is also 100% Montepulciano grapes done as a full-bodied red wine. The nose is earthy and musty but the finish is smooth and jammy. Montepulciano pairs well with pork and lamb dishes.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery is planted in entirely Italian varietals with 2,000 of the 8,500 vines being Montepulciano. We will be discussing some of these other varietals being grown by Cougar in upcoming articles about the Italian grape varietals planted in Temecula Wine Country of Southern California.