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Fenaroli, Montepulciano d’AbruzzoAbruzzo, Italy 2018 (750mL)

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Fenaroli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Abruzzo, Italy 2018 (750mL)

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So far, 2021 has been a banner year for delicious, affordable, classic Italian reds. If we were opening a trattoria, we’d already have the wine list half-written with Daily Offers from this month alone—a list headlined by today’s juicy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Fenaroli. 


Those of you who love Italian food and know Italian geography know that the region of Abruzzo is a special place, a collision of mountains and sea that produces some of the greatest culinary specialties on the peninsula. It is also the ultimate one-two punch of remarkably consistent and reliably inexpensive wines: whites from the Trebbiano grape and reds from Montepulciano. Yes, there is also a town called Montepulciano, in Tuscany, but forget about that for now. What we’re talking about here is Montepulciano grape that grows mostly in Abruzzo and neighboring Marche. We’re talking about a grape with the same adaptability and shape-shifting deliciousness as Merlot. And we’re talking about a region that can deliver quality and consistent excellence at scale: Abruzzo is home to Italy’s greatest pastifici (pasta factories), while long-established cooperative wineries—like Casal Thaulero, maker of Fenaroli—enjoy access to vast networks of independent growers. Abruzzo is a place of incredible natural gifts, one of which is this bargain bottle of uncomplicated, unbridled joy.



For those of you already hip to the charms of Montepulciano, let me put a finer point on the style of this 2018 from Fenaroli. It occupies the fresher, nervier end of the spectrum, performing more like a Cru Beaujolais than a Pomerol. As you taste your way through an assortment of modern Abruzzo wines, you’ll encounter ones like this—loaded with fruit but with energy and lift as well—and others that are richer, showier. New York Times wine critic had the following to say about the latter:


“In the recent era, when wine critics worshiped at the altar of power and density, many Montepulciano producers tried to prove their thoroughbred bona fides with opulent richness and an overreliance on new oak barrels. It was a disastrous equation that resulted in jammy, oaky, tannic wines that for me, at least, were not worth seeking out.”


I’d have to agree. Even the region’s two most sought-after “cult” Montepulcianos—those of Edoardo Valentini and Emidio Pepe—are not massive, oak-drenched wines. In that respect, Fenaroli’s is really the perfect size: It is bold and juicy but also crisp, lively, and only modestly oaked (it spent just six months aging in large Slavonian oak casks, then six in bottle, before release). The Casal Thaulero winery, headquartered in Ortona, Abruzzo, named this line of wines after a local composer from nearby Chieti, Fedele Fenaroli, for whom a local theater is also named. 


Is this 2018 a dramatic, operatic red wine? No. But it is as charming as all get out, grown in clay/marl soils at elevations topping 600 meters, in the shadow of the Gran Sasso—the highest peak in the Apennine Mountain chain. In the glass, it has a deep ruby core moving to magenta/pink at the rim. The aromas start with a blast of ripe red, black, and even a few purple fruits, including cherries, blackberries, pomegranates, and plums. There are also hints of licorice, violet, warm spice, and dried herbs carrying over to the medium-bodied palate. It is ready to drink now and might as well come co-packed with a bag of pasta: Serve this on the cool side, 55-60 degrees, as you might a fruity style of Cru Beaujolais and pair with with lasagna, eggplant alla parmigiana, or the attached recipe, one of the most authentic Abruzzese dishes of them all. Want to drink like the Italians do? This is vino da tavola at its finest!




Fenaroli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Abruzzo, Italy 2018 - SommSelect

  • CountryItaly
  • RegionAbruzzo
  • Sub-RegionChieti
  • SoilClay & Marl
  • BlendMontepulciano
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakLarge Slavonian Casks

  • CountryItaly
  • RegionAbruzzo
  • Sub-RegionChieti
  • SoilClay & Marl
  • BlendMontepulciano
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakLarge Slavonian Casks
  • Temp.Serve at 55-60° F
  • GlasswareAll-Purpose Stems
  • DrinkingNow
  • DecantingOptional
  • PairingSpaghetti alla Chitarra