Don’t confuse this grape with the village of Montepulciano where the high-end sangiovese clone, brunello, thrives. Here the region is Abruzzi on the Adriatic coast, and the grape itself is called montepulciano. Conditions in Abruzzi are favorable for wine growing, and the region proves there is potential in innovation and investments, but the area is rural and definitely less economically inclined than regions just north of it. The wine focus has been more on quantity not quality. Let’s hope that changes. The regional cuisine is vivid and interesting enough that needs a good wine pairing to go with it. The montepulciano d’Abruzzo red wine stands out in the region as a great value and delicious decision. The Cantina Zaccagnini il vino “del tralcetto” comes off at first as robust and a little rustic, but surprises with its generous fruit and tannic structure, giving the wine body and presence. Elegant, also, in the way of subdued fruit and easy acidity that make for a velvety texture without a sharp edge. Medium-bodied and dark garnet, this wine has loads of black fruit–berries and cherry that come off a whiff of smokiness. Those were my first impressions. Opened on a Monday evening, and not finished until Friday night, this wine was still awesome five days later! I don’t expect anyone to wait that long to finish a bottle of wine, but sometimes it ends up that way. Days later the fruit had softened to dried cherry leather and fig and currant jam. The acidity had integrated itself more into the fruit profile, making it less evident and more lovely. And the tannic structure allowed the wine to hold up after five days, but had relaxed enough to exude vanilla and interesting baking spices like clove and cinnamon stick. A great value and a great wine. Try this next time with pizza loaded with red sauce and mushrooms, spaghetti and meatballs, risotto with mushrooms, and wild game, maybe with a mushroom demi-glace. I just think this would go great with mushrooms. I chilled the wine for about 15 minutes before serving. My wine expert friend advises that for these regional wines, you shouldn’t spend more than $20 retail for a good bottle of montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I had ordered a $25 wholesale bottle, and he changed my order. “Save your money to buy Brunello,” he says. Drink this on a Monday night with take-out pizza and your best friends while you watch the Sopranos. Sounds pretty good to me.