WHAT: Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Italy ($28-$30)
Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2014, Italy ($27-$29)
WHAT: If you have drunk a few bottles of Italian wine chances are good that at some point you’ve wondered about Montepulciano.
There is some confusion for wine drinkers because you can order a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. So what’s the difference? Both are very nice wines, but there is a great deal of difference. One refers to the region where the grapes are grown, the other is the name of the grape.
The Vino Nobile is named for the region in Tuscany around the walled hill town of Montepulciano. By law it must contain at least 70 percent sangiovese grapes from the region. The Avognonesi wine is made from 100 percent sangiovese, the predominant grape of Tuscany.
The Marina Cvetic wine is made from montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes, which are found mostly along the Adriatic coast of Italy. Up to 15 percent of other red varieties are allowed, but the Marina Cvetic contains only montepulciano.
You need to be careful with the Vino Nobile, because some of them can be thin and tart. Avignonesi, one of the best producers in the region, produces a rich, lively wine. It is brick red in color, with aromas of dried flowers and spice. On the palate it is bursting with tart cherry flavors balanced by a luscious acidity. It is a medium-bodied wine with a long, savory finish.
The wine spent 12 months in French barriques and six months in large Slavonian oak casks, followed by a minimum of six months in the bottle. It was one Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2013.
The Marina Cvetic wine is a bright ruby red in the glass with intense complex fruit and floral aromas. It has luscious tastes of ripe blackberries with some spice and vanilla. The wine was fermented in stainless steel for 15-20 days and macerated for 20-30 days. It spent 12-18 months aging in oak barriques.
WINERY: The Avignonesi winery in southeastern Tuscany opened in 1974, named after a member of the founding family. The founders became pioneers in the effort to make Vino Nobile di Montepulciano a DOCG red wine. It became Italy’s first DOCG red wine in 1984, thanks to the efforts of Avignonesi and a few other quality-driven wineries.
After two years as a silent partner Virginie Saverys bought the winery in 2009. She has worked to convert the property to organic and biodynamic viticulture. Her goal is to craft distinctive, genuine wines that express the characteristics of the Avignonesi terroir. In 2011, Avignonesi applied for organic certification and expects to receive it soon. The process was delayed because of recent purchases in Montepulciano.
Today, Avignonese owns 495 acres of vineyards spread over the Montepulciano and Cortona appellations. All of its wines are 100 percent estate grown, which is rare for an Italian winery producing 750,000 bottles per year.
With eight properties within the Vino Nobile DOCG, the winemakers have a chance to work with selected micro-terroirs to produce complex Sangiovese blends. They also produce a single vineyard 100 percent Sangiovese called Grandi Annate, a wine that was fourth on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines in 2001. They also produce outstanding Vin Santo wines. Those are viscous, sweet dessert wines with intense aromas and flavors of hazelnut and caramel.
Avignonese also is known for Desiderio, a merlot-dominated blend that was first produced in 1988 in the Cortona DOC. They also produce Il Marzocco Chardonnay from Cortona, Rosso di Montepulciano DOC and Grifi Toscana IGT, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the leaders in the Super Tuscan category.
The Masciarelli Tenute Agricole estate was established in San Martino, Chieti Abruzzo in 1978 by Gianni Masciarelli, who began producing quality wines in 1981. The estate has continued to steadily expand to territories in all four provinces of Abruzzo – Chieti, Teramo, Pescara and L’Aquila – reaching 740 acres of vineyards in 14 municipalities.
Among Masciarelli’s specialties are high quality expressions of the local native grape varieties Montepulciano and Trebbiano.
The Masciarelli Winery is headquartered in the small village of San Martino, Chieti. Historically, San Martino is the proud inventor of a secret recipe of gun powder (made from sulfur, nitrate and the remains of vine stocks), which helped the town’s militia resist an assault from Napoleon’s army.
A turning point for Masciarelli occurred when Gianni met Marina Cvetic in 1987. The couple married in 1989, and Marina soon took over marketing duties and oversaw the vineyards.
Today, Marina is in full control of the Masciarelli’s operations. The company features five wine lines: Masciarelli Classico (Montepulciano, Rosato, Trebbiano), Villa Gemma (Montepulciano, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Bianco), Marina Cvetic (Montepulciano, Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), Castello di Semivicoli (Trebbiano, Rosso Terre Aquilane) and Iskra (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo). Total yearly production reaches more than 2.5 million bottles.
GOES WITH: We had these wines with spaghetti sauce and pasta, a perfect match for both wines. I started with basic Paul Newman marinara and added herbs and sliced Italian sausage served over rotini.
My wife, Teri, loved the montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but I think I would give a slight edge to the Vino Nobile. Both were great with the pasta, but I thought the spiciness of the Vino Nobile was a better match. I thought the Marina Cvetic wine would be great with steak or other grilled meat.