The Elegance of Montepulciano

Posted in Uncategorized by EVWG on the November 2nd, 2006

zanna.jpgMontepulciano is an interesting grape. When handled well it is a beautiful, deep, dark, fruit and spice forward, medium to full bodied wine with a pleasantly thick mouth feel that is almost meant for a rack of lamb or porchetta. When not taken care of or mass-produced it unfortunately results in a watered down version of what I just described. Offering not much more than a wine feel. For me wine feel is when you sip a wine and that is all you taste: the wine. No character to speak of other than the fact that you know you are drinking a wine. Usually the nose is always nice but on the palate of the vino just slips down your throat and you don’t really miss it. This is a generalized statement. I have tasted a lot of Montepulciano and I love the varietal. This is just what I have experienced.
The there is another category: elegance. This category is not often associated with southern Italian wines. But there is one producer that I love that has achieved this. Illuminati. Just so you know these wines can be a bit costly but they are in the category of if you are willing to splurge a little bit than go for it. This producer has a healthy line of Montepulciano from entry level to the highest end. And right smack dab in the middle is this beauty they call Zanna. It is a one hundred percent Montepulciano aged for two years sometimes a little bit more depending on the vintage in Slovenian oak. I was invited recently to an informal tasting of seven vintages of this wine from 1979 to 2001 in celebration of the most recent vintage receiving an honorary award. We all gathered at an amazing restaurant in the east Village called Il Buco tucked away on the cobble stoned bond street. It is a beautiful place with a homey rustic feel of an Italian market.
As we ate lunch and paired all the vintages with amazing courses of salumi, chucks of parmeggiano drizzled with a balsamic reduction, polenta and porchetta I was just taken aback to the consistency of elegance in this particular wine. The 1983 was almost a light wine that may have gone past its peak but I could taste the balance nonetheless. The 1985 was just out of this world with notes of coffee and chocolate on the nose and a well-aged palate that was smooth yet deep with just a hint of vanillin to cut through the fruit. We continued through the years and enjoyed them all. The vintages that stuck out for me though were the 1985 and the 1991. These years showcased for me the reason this tasting was arranged. Elegance. You can feel the rustic characteristics of fruit and spice in the wine but within those characteristics are the fine nuances of the chocolate and coffee I just mentioned that bring a velvet quality to the balance. They are deep and dark and full of flavor just waiting to be married with a country style Italian meal.
This wine geek was in heaven. I must say this was a high end tasting and my mission to talk about approachable prices has been swayed but only fort a day. I just had to pipe in and talk about how amazed I was that this rustic style wine could achieve such elegant heights. I believe if you look around you can find the most recent vintage of Zanna for about thirty bucks. So if you are having a special dinner on a cold night with some good friends or if you are really into southern Italian wines and want to find one you can age this is a nice choice. Thank you, Andrea for the opportunity to sample some great vintages and share lunch with a group of very nice, wine loving people.

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