The grape is widely planted throughout central and southern Italy, most notably in Abruzzo, Lazio, Marche, Molise, Umbria and Apulia, and is a permitted variety in DOC wines produced in 20 of Italy's 95 provinces. Montepulciano is rarely found in northern Italy because the grape has a tendency to ripen late and can be excessively "green" if harvested too early.
Origins and confusion with other Montepulciano wines
According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, the Montepulciano grape likely originated in Tuscany and may be related to the Sangiovese, with which it is often confused. Despite this possible origin, the Montepulciano grape still does not seem to have any tangible connection to the town of that name or to the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, beyond what Robinson describes as "linguistics". Furthermore, despite being widely planted throughout central Italy, the Montepulciano grape is not grown in the vineyards around the actual town of Montepulciano.
After Sangiovese, Montepulciano is Italy's second most widely dispersed indigenous grape variety. It is a recommended planting in 20 of Italy's 95 provinces and is a permitted or required grape in the red wines of DOCs in Apulia, Molise, Lazio, Umbria, Marche, Emilia-Romagna, Abruzzi and Tuscany. Among the DOCs that are most noted for Montepulciano are Montepulciano d'Abruzzo in Abruzzi, Offida Rosso DOCG, Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno in Marche. Though it is a secondary variety to Uva di Troia in the Castel Del Monte DOC, according to wine expert Jancis Robinson the character that Montepulciano contributes to the blend as perhaps "its finest incarnation".
DOCs and DOCGs
The following is a list of DOCs and DOCGs that include Montepulciano as a permitted grape variety, along with other grapes that may be included in the blend under varying percentages that are regulated under the DOC/G label. The wines of which Montepulciano must account for a majority of the blend are in bold.
Rosso di Cerignola DOC – (Apulia) can be blended with Uva di Troia, Negroamaro, Sangiovese, Barbera, Malbec and Trebbiano
Rosso Conero DOC – (Marche) at least 85–100% of the wine with Sangiovese making up the other component
Rosso Orvietano DOC – (Umbria) can be blended with Aleatico, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Merlot, Pinot noir, Sangiovese, Barbera, Cesanese, Colorino and Dolcetto. Can be a varietal with 85% of the blend but that is rarely seen.
Rosso Piceno DOC – (Marche) can be blended with Sangiovese, Trebbiano and Passerino
San Severo DOC – (Apulia) at least 70–100% of the blend with Sangiovese making up the other component
Tarquinia DOC – (Lazio) either/or with Sangiovese to make up a minimum 60% of the wine. Can be blended with Cesanese
Torgiano DOC – (Umbria) can be blended with Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Ciliegiolo
Montepulciano ripens late and has a tendency to favor producing large yields. The grapes can be plump with a low skin to juice ratio. However, the skin has a fair amount of pigmented tannins and color producing phenols that with maceration can produce either a deep ruby colored wine or a pink Cerasuolo wine. Compared to most Italian varieties, Montepulciano has moderately low acidity and more mild (i.e. softer) than bitter edged tannins. Wine expert Oz Clarke describes Montepulciano as producing a "round, plummy and weighty red with ripe tannins, good acidity and a low price tag." Jancis Robinson evaluates Montepulciano as a "promising variety" that produces smooth, drinkable wines that can improve for three or four years after vintage.
Various synonyms have been used to describe Montepulciano and its wines, including Cordicso, Cordiscio, Cordisco, Cordisio, Monte Pulciano, Montepulciano Cordesco, Montepulciano di Torre de Passeri, Montepulciano Primatico, Morellone, Premutico, Primaticcio, Primutico, Sangiovese Cardisco, Sangiovese Cordisco, Sangiovetto, Torre dei Passeri, Uva Abruzzese and Uva Abruzzi.
Montepulciano is also grown in Turkey (Kemalpasa), Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States (California, North Carolina, and Texas).